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CHICAGO – Toyota Motor Corp. is looking at installing its innovative new “Center Stow” seat from its ’08 Highlander cross/utility vehicle in its next-generation Sienna minivan.

“We are planning, but have not yet decided,” Shunsaku Kodama, project coordinator at Toyota’s Calty Design Research Inc. studio in Ann Arbor, MI, tells Ward’s following the unveiling of the new Highlander lineup at the auto show here.

Kodama believes the seating system, developed in conjunction with a Japanese supplier, is exclusive to Toyota.

“I think this is original for Toyota,” he says.

The Center Stow seat in the Highlander is unique because it hides in the front center console when not in use in the vehicle’s second row, which has two captain’s chairs. With the addition of the Center Stow seat, three people can be seated in the second row.

Kodama wouldn’t specify the cost of development for the seating system. He says Toyota went with the innovative approach rather than a fixed seat in the center of the second row to allow easy access to Highlander’s standard third row and to eliminate the need to remove the center second-row seat and store it outside the vehicle when not in use.

The third row seat is standard, but can be “deleted” if a buyer doesn’t want it.

Ward’s data shows the next-generation Sienna minivan is due in the ’10 model year.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com