Determination and Passion: A Car that Fulfills the Creative Lifestyle
The first generation Odyssey minivan’s target concept was that of a "personal jet (airplane)," and this theme was reflected in the vehicle’s "PJ" development code name. However, despite their best efforts, the team was at first unable to come up with an appealing design. Odagaki, by then quite frustrated, asked the designers why it was taking so long.
The designers countered with a serious argument about the difficulty of combining function and aesthetics. "The image of a car with three rows of seats is simply too homespun," they said. "It’s impossible to accommodate that kind of structure in a stylish design."
Odagaki could certainly see their point, but his view of the question was decidedly more objective. Therefore, he came up with the idea of a third row of seats that could be folded into a compartment beneath the floor. When the seats were up, the compartment could be used for cargo storage. When the seats were stowed, the center of gravity would become lower, thereby enhancing the vehicle’s performance. Therefore, the key point of discussion became a center aisle that would allow passengers to walk through to the third row of seats.
"The walk-through aisle was the thing that really impressed me with many minivans in the U.S.," stated Odagaki. "When the car is driving through beautiful scenery, passengers could easily change seats to get a better view. It was like taking a bullet train - another means of rapid transportation - since the passengers could freely move to other empty seats. Therefore, we wanted to create a "family bullet train." It was a benefit that no other car could provide, and we were determined to develop such a car."
A Styrofoam mock-up was created in order to determine the interior height required for such a feature, and the team discovered that a minimum height of 1.2 meters was required for the passengers to comfortably move about inside the cabin. Moreover, the lower the floor was above the ground, the easier it would be for passengers to enter and exit the vehicle. But there was an added benefit here, in that it would effectively enhance productivity on the assembly line at the factory. Based on these findings, the car’s overall dimensions were simulated. After that, the problem was to find a plant that could produce such a car.