April Fools' Day brings out auto industry's fun side

Toyota, Honda, MG among companies presenting innovative ideas just for fun

Published: April 1, 2019, 5:30 PM
Updated: November 21, 2021, 2:54 PM

Skoda ProjectaPal selection screen

In case you missed the fun of April Fools’ Day (half day, actually), here are some of the more clever pranks the auto industry came up with.

Toyota Yaris Adventure

On the day Toyota introduced its all-new 2020 Toyota Yaris, the company took the opportunity to also launch a new Yaris bodystyle — a pickup, fitted with a rugged leaf-spring rear suspension that grants 193 mm of ground clearance (“for taking a curb in a mall parking lot or clearing the shrubs when parking in a friend’s front yard.”)

Equipped with all-wheel drive (not the Dynamic Torque Vectoring system from the RAV4, but enough to allow “Yaris owners to carefully bring their vehicles out of their underground garage when it snows in the city.”) but not with navigation (“because anyone smart enough to drive the Yaris Adventure knows exactly where they’re going.”), the Yaris Adventure does come with a 2-speaker sound system but not a warranty, because due to extensive testing, “it would be unthinkable that something goes wrong.”

Honda Pastport

Meanwhile, Honda decided to bring back the nostalgia of the 1990s in a new Pastport trim level for the new Passport SUV. The outside may be all modern Passport, but the interior is a throwback to the simplicity and self expression of the 1990s.

Included in that interior are ’90s’ comfort and convenience features such as automatic windows, plush micro-fiber seats, a cassette player, a mount for a beeper, and ’90s’-style fold-out navigation.

“From TV reboots to fashion, the ’90s are making a huge comeback, and we saw an opportunity at Honda for consumers who want uniqueness and simplicity,” said Zack Tanner, historical innovations manager for Honda. “We think the new Pastport is all that and a bag of chips.”

CarGurus’ Bobo

If used cars are more your thing, then UK automotive shopping site CarGurus has a way to help you sniff out the best deal without all the running around between dealership lots — Bobo, the cocker spaniel.

The 6-year old was actually trained across the Atlantic, in Boston, spending six months working with the tech company’s in-house data scientists and car buying experts to instinctively learn CarGurus’ complex Instant Market Value algorithm (“using industry-leading augmented reality software coupled with a generous handful of dog treats”).

Škoda ProjectaPal

European maker Škoda also had a “man’s best friend” theme to its big announcement, introducing a customizable LED puddle-lamp graphic to help owners of its vehicles personalize their vehicles with images of their cats, dogs, favourite sports stars, or even their spouses, or to simply leave themselves reminders.

“Every week, I forget to put my bins out for recycling,” said Dr Ivor Tüchskreen, Škoda Head of infotainment development. “Before ProjectaPal, I would tape a note on the interior door handle, but it would always fall off.”

MG road-colouring tires

By far the best April Fools’ Day innovation, though, came from British maker MG, which introduced standard road-colouring tires coated with a water-soluble dye that mark the road as the car drives, before fading off shortly afterwards. In keeping with the fun colour theme, car roofs can also be augmented with decals such lollipops, sunbursts or supernovas.

“In this day and age, young people in particular are always looking for new and exciting ways to make a statement and leave their mark on the world,” explained Dr Gull Abel, MG’s Professor of Pigment charged with developing the techy tires. “With these fantastic tires, we’re taking personalisation options to a whole new level and allowing customers to show their true colours. Customers will even be able to change their stripes through our mobile tire fitter fleet, deployed from each of our many dealerships across the country.”