Toyota's iQ may have won over Japan's critics, but now it will have to win over the public all around the world

Toyota's iQ may have won over Japan's critics, but now it will have to win over the public all around the world

Toyota’s new iQ minicar is set to go on sale in Japan and most parts of Europe very soon, but there are now indications from one of the carmaker’s top officials that the diminutive hatch could make its way to the United States.

There has been plenty of speculation that the iQ could be sold in the U.S., including a recent report claiming that it could be badged as a Scion. Then in October, Toyota’s small car projects chief, Soichiro Okudaira, confirmed that a U.S. launch of the iQ was under consideration.

Speaking with the Detroit Free Press, Toyota’s senior vice-president for U.S. operations, Don Esmond, backed up Okudaira’s previous comments, explained that Toyota things there is a suitable “urban market” here. You only have to look at the sales of the Smart ForTwo, which is currently experience demand that is outstripping supply by the thousands.

One of the biggest hurdles is that the car would need to be modified extensively to meet American safety standards. The iQ is fitted with a total of nine air-bags, including the world's first rear-window curtain air-bag, but if it were to be sold in the U.S. it would need better reinforcements at the back. One solution is to remove the back seat and make the car a strict two-seater in the same vein as the Smart ForTwo but Toyota is keen to keep the four-seat layout.

Another reason why the iQ may not make a U.S. launch is because its low price tag and fuel consumption rating could end up luring away customers from the more expensive third-generation Prius, also due for launch next year, as well as the slightly bigger Yaris.

During his interview, Esmond also mentioned that the appointment of Akio Toyoda as Toyota’s new CEO would benefit the carmaker’s U.S. operations. Toyoda has worked at the company’s Fremont