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Toyota unveils customizable compact car at Tokyo Toy Show

Toyota has unveiled a new miniature car that has the appeal of a toy for children but actually runs as a car for adults. NBC's Arata Yamamoto reports.

TOKYO – A car company at Tokyo’s Toy Show? 

More than 200 companies displayed some 35,000 products at a toy industry preview on Thursday, ranging from board games to the latest computer games. And while the classic radio-controlled cars fit right in, there was one unlikely vendor promoting its newest product: Toyota.

The Japanese car company used the Tokyo Toy Show to unveil its Camatte concept vehicle –  a compact car that can be dismantled and customized, just like a toy – and can hold up to three people.

"It’s geared towards families with children with the goal of having fun and making the best car,” said Kenji Tsuji of Toyota's Product Planning Division.

All of the outer body parts are held together with large plastic green knobs that are easily twistable, even for children. 

While the weight of the frames would probably require some serous adult help, with a few dismantling and twist of screws, the Camatte can be transformed from a mini sedan into a classic retro car. 

It also has adjustable seats and pedals so that a child that is at least 4 feet tall can take over the driver's seat and actually drive on go-cart courses, while an adult can sit in the back to assist in the steering and the braking.

"This car is meant to get children interested in cars, and really to understand the sheer joy of cars," said Tsuji. "When the vehicle is dismantled, children can see how the pedals and the steering wheel functions.”

Need to attract young drivers
There's a reason why Tokyo would want to sow the seeds for future drivers.

Japanese automakers have long been trying to woo back Japan's young generation, who are no longer appear as eager to own their own sets of wheels. 

According to Japan's Automobile Manufacturer's Association, in a poll conducted in 2008, car ownership ranked 17th place on university students' wish list – trailing behind music players and computer games. Just 20 years ago, cars ranked number 7 on the wish list.

Moreover, police statistics show that the number of teens between 16 and 19 years old applying for their driver's license dropped 3.2 percent in 2011 from the previous year.

But Toyota is hoping that with some help from parents, and with early exposure to cars, that this trend can be reversed.

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