New Toyota Prez Wants to Revive Sports Car Heritage


A few months ago we were jazzed when we heard that Akio Toyoda might be taking the reins at Toyota, succeeding then-President Katsuaki Watanabe. Why? Because after spending the last 10 years killing off all the sporty coupes and GT cars in its lineup, here was a guy who actually loved donning a helmet and fireproof longjohns to take a Lexus out for a lap or two around the Nürburgring. And they’re actually promoting him to President! Of course, it does help when your last name is on all the buildings.

But see here, in a recent interview in Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport (which JNCer RoadsterViking took the liberty to translate for us — danke!) Toyoda-san was asked about Toyota’s sports cars past and answered: “You’re probably refering to the 2000GT. We have neglected our sportscar heritage for a long while, but we’re going to start cultivating it again.”

Great! There have long bee rumors about an AE86 spiritual successor, the on-again-off-again “Project 086a” though when the economy turned south even the most faithful stopped holding their collective breath. But check it: “For this crisis not to become too long, we must start creating dreams again. This is most easily accomplished through good, emotional products.”

The man loves his cars. He was only a wee 11-year-old tyke in the Toyoda clan when the 2000GT was introduced, but now he’s driving them in vintage rallies and slinging prototype LF-As around the Green Hell. While we wouldn’t advise Toyotaku to resume breath holding, this is still the brightest ray of sunshine we’ve seen in years.

[Image: Toyota]

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25 Responses to New Toyota Prez Wants to Revive Sports Car Heritage

  1. mister k said:

    i wish all you toyoda followers good luck … maybe someday you too can have TWO sports cars at the same time like the FAIRLADY Z and GT-R !!!

  2. BuddyJ said:

    That’ll be nice mister k. But I’d settle for one affordable one over two that aren’t.

  3. Oyaji Gaijin said:

    Well…….
    The last two or three decades of Z cars and the Skyline are not Sports Cars, they are Grand Tourers.
    “Grand tourers differ from standard two-seat sports cars in typically being larger, heavier, and emphasizing comfort over straight-out performance.”

    The same for the Supra and LF-A.
    The Corolla hatchback was a Specialty, the term before Sport Compact was invented.

    The MR2 qualifies as a Sports Car.

  4. Jesse said:

    I agree with Oyaji, there aren’t many sports cars coming out of Japan right now. The last Z car to be a real sport car was the s30, I’d say. Toyota has kept the MR2 alive for quite some time, but it’s not the sort of car I’d go out and buy in a hurry.

    A new, affordable, RWD car with TRD backing would be something to sing about, and there would be very little competition. Affordable really is the key point there. Affordable to purchase, maintain, and use (abuse).

  5. j.a.c.k said:

    i’d settle for a “specialty” if it came in the form of a new gen ae86 ;) keep it simple, keep it inexpensive.

  6. Oyaji Gaijin said:

    The interview seems to say “Once the world recovers from the economic crisis, we will begin working on building cars that appeal to the emotions.” That’s a strategy for survival, not success.

    For success, he should be asking himself “What can we do right now to build a car that appeals to emotion and has a retail price to move in the current economic environment?”
    The Scion line provides afford ability with style. It is successful.
    If there ever was a time for a revival of the Specialty car, in the vane of the Hot Hatches, this would be it.

    But how would a world that wants tall crossovers with 50 cup holders react? You can’t build a small, light weight, affordable car with heated leather seats and all the rest.

  7. mister k said:

    oyaji i won’t play sports car semantics with you, but you are on to something with the scion coupe
    buddyj should look that direction if he’s looking for sportiness on a budget
    gt-r and z are no more expensive in today’s currency than they ever were
    sadly nissan usa doesn’t have the scion coupe equivalent, so one for you toyodas
    but you better believe that if the unlikely toyobaru coupe materializes that nissan will answer in kind
    the gt-r and z are proud products of nissan japan in its effort to wrest control from french renault, who’d love to toyodafy nissan

  8. Lobo said:

    Release another Celica like the 1st generation with a wildly popular motor like the legendary 20R. Make sure TRD has go-fast parts like intake manifolds, exhaust systems, forged pistons, all those great products we dream about, for the consumer to purchase. Take a page from Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger and make the car look like the vintage ones. Let the Celica Dragon logo be on the car somewhere. It would be a gerat way to honor their heritage while looking forward. But please, no Toyobaru. I want a Toyota-powered Celica.

  9. Ben said:

    My interpretation of Toyoda’s statement was that emotional products must be created in order to pull out of the recession. Of course, this is probably translated from Japanese to German to English so what do I know :P

    But I agree that as poorer countries start making cars it will be impossible to compete on price, and everyone is catching up in quality. Emotion is the best way to set your products apart from the rest and build a loyal customer base.

  10. slickwrick said:

    im a toyota fanatic but i think scion should get killed off!!!!
    they should bring back the RWD celicas and corollas instead of wasting money on toasters on wheels and overgrown rollerskates!

    honestly!

    those are words comin from a toyota enthusiast.me!!!
    i mean the corolla is already an affordable car but if it were rwd and affordable like todays fwd corolla. even the most simple model with manual roll down windows and manual locks would be sweet!
    just like back in the day!
    no need for all that extra electronic crap.
    just a simple rwd corolla or celica.

    its really good to hear about the revival of the sports car heritage!

  11. mister k said:

    oops, i meant “toyotafy” not “toyodafy” apologies

  12. Vic said:

    In order to make it original and true to its heritage it also has to be more bare bones. The sports car purists might enjoy it but those who are babied by a car that has almost everything but the kitchen sink wouldnt like it. Want air condition? that would be optional, basic stereo, no power windows, locks seats and such. That would be being true to its heritage.

    Just my $0.02 worth

  13. datsunfreak said:

    This RWD Toybaru Coupe will not be “affordable”. You heard it here first.

    All reports I’ve seen are claiming a $20k target price. That means it will be $22k+ by the time they go on sale. By any account, that isn’t “affordable”. Not cheap enough to race on a budget, not cheap enough to have any money left over for mods.

    I would buy a Genesis Coupe right now if they’d offer one under $26k. But I’d have no money left for mods…

  14. Lobo said:

    I have the feeling as cool as this guy sounds, and as great as his message is, nothing will happen. It will be more boring cars. The chances of Toyota pulling a Ford GT-esque program that honors it’s past and moves them forward are slim to none.

  15. Mr.L.J. Nordvik said:

    Actually,it was translated into Egnlish from the Norwegian version of the originally German magazine,so it’s gone the route through three translation going on the assumption it was originally conducted in Japanese.So for all we know the interview’s been so mauled in translation Toyoda wasn’t talking about sportscars at all,but instead the likelyhood of seeing a sequel to the “Golden Compass” movie,which if it makes you feel better,makes a Toyota sportscar seem very likely indeed by comparison… ;-) Seriously,it should be quite accurate and based on his determintaion to keep the Lexus LF-a alive,i think he can actually achieve what is wants in regards to “emotional products”.

  16. Rob said:

    i have an idea…bring back the blacktop 4AGE (VVT-i, individual throttle bodies and a 7800 rpm redline – all from the factory) from the AE111 Corolla (another FWD failure) and stuff it in the back of a lightweight, affordable Midship Runabout 2 seater.

    Dreams come true.

  17. Sr-FairladyZ said:

    I would truly love to see Toyota get back on they’re sports car feet. I would instantly shower them with respect once again.

  18. toyotageek said:

    I’m a Toyotaku as much as anyone, and I definately want to see Mr. Toyoda’s words come to fruition. But we have to realize, especially those that say “bring back this, bring back that..”, that while it would be a cool factor, it sure isn’t a profit factor, and it is unlikey that Toyota will ever market something for a niche market that will be profitless. If we want the past, we have to save our old cars and continue to enjoy them. We’ll never see like likes of what was, it just won’t happen. Todays technology and automotive laws and regulations have just compounded things (for the better – really). We shouldn’t whine about what was, we should look ahead and appreciate what will be. Toyota will move ahead, and people 30 years from now will be saying the same things we are saying now. Don’t bash Scion… after all it is just a Toyota, and I’m sure will continue to have a following even when it becomes a nostalgic. There will be changes. Let’s wait and see what happens.

  19. Rob said:

    i must respectfully disagree with toyotageek…

    the Scion tC is a nice car. its comfortable easy to drive and has some customability while still being affordable… but as a 23 year old kid, i see my friends making payments on these things and dumping all sorts of money (Superchargers, suspension, wheels brakes) into them for nothing. a Scion tC will not ever be exciting to drive. even Toyota themselves admitted this when they had to convert one to RWD to enter it in a drift competition. they aren’t fooling anyone, they don’t built any sports cars and they certainly don’t build any car with passion or heart anymore. the difference between my 112 hp MR2 and my friend’s much faster tC is that the MR2 is actually fun to drive, it doesn’t feel like a loud commuter car. i’m not saying that the tc can’t be a nostalgic someday, i’m saying it will be only because Toyota makes no other alternative.

    Bring on the 086a!

  20. Oyaji Gaijin said:

    Mr. Akio Toyoda may have hearkened back to the 200GT when asked about “sports cars”, because he was applying the definition that puts Supras, recent Z cars, and GTRs, into the Grand Touring category. No clue why the MR2 was omitted. But it seems conspicuous that everything in the last 40 years of production was omitted.

    I brought up the Scion example only to point out that Toyota has managed to create some enthusiasm with small, affordable cars.

    The weight issue and selling a stripped down car to benefit both price and performance, will be an issue. Toyota products have gotten fairly heavy over the years. That sturdy and dependable reputation which was earned by such overbuilt things like using 1/4 inch sheet metal in the center console of a Camry adds a lot of weight. The comparably sized Toyota made Scion TC weighs 3,000 pounds. The Mini claimed the lightest weight car on the market at 2,500 pounds. This may be an indication that the safety requirements pushed up the minimum weight of a steel car and it isn’t possible to make a steel car any lighter. The US version of the Elise weighs 2,000 pounds, which is what the original Corolla Hatchback weighed. The Elise omits things like AC, cloth, carpet, sound deadening, folding seats, and it’s made of some pretty expensive bonded composite materials. The people here would drive a car without any interior, no cup holders, heck, if you add a roll cage that would just be something to brag about. But that narrows the market for the car by a lot, and you aren’t going to sell something like a Toyota small car built with the materials and features of a Lotus Elise to your average person, who wants a big hole for their big gulp, AC that causes icicles, and excessive sound deadening so they can’t hear all the people honking at them while they devote all their attention to their cell phone and none of their attention to the cars they are running off the road. Also, ignore the composite material pushing the price of an affordable car up into the $50,000+ range.
    The economic situation would have to get a lot worse, and we would have to be back to Hoover Towns and soup lines for quite a while before the buying public would accept the idea of a stripped down car. That’s what the Tata is, and look at the comments about that car.

    My suggestion would be that they could put some emotion in the cars they sell now, not resolve to sell boring cars until some time in the remote future, when they think they can afford to build cars with emotion.

  21. toyotageek said:

    @ Rob… In regards to the Scion tC, I never mentioned the car in particular. My reference to Scion was a generalized comment and suggested that eventually the ‘brand’ will become nostalgic and most likely collectable. ;)

    @ Oyaji Gaijin… Well said! You were able to put into words what I quite couldn’t.

    Perhaps with Mr. Toyoda at the reigns, Toyota will move ahead in some new directions. In today’s economy all the car manufacturers are re-thinking their products, but what the future will bring is anyone’s guess. While it’s great to reflect on the past, it’s not practical to bring it back as is often suggested. However, to take design cues, and performance ideas and incorporate their essence into a new and exciting product is something feasible. Let’s hope that Toyota’s direction will include a little excitement and cars built with emotion.

  22. zulu said:

    oh there is some hope for toyota yet. theres already proof of this. in the usa there has been pretty good advertising coverage of the new IS convert. even though most of us can afford that it seems the commercial put an emphasis on its sportiness and rwd format! i mean come on most of the commercial have them burning rubber and doing u turn drifts etc. God Speed Mr. Toyoda make your forefathers be proud of you and bringing back what made toyota a great car company that millions over the feel in love with

  23. slickwrick said:

    rob has states his position on his part

    but for us toyota folk
    we go way back with the big T

    were diehard fans and are really aware of there racing heritage.
    so i still say scions are lame and toyota is wasting their time.
    like i said, ditch the roller skates and overgrown toasters and bring the legends back.

  24. Rob said:

    well said by all.

    Maybe its my personal vendetta against the tC that leaked out, yes?

    I love Toyota sports cars and i got it from my father who always tells me about his 1973 Carina he bought brand new. Alas, that car has gone to a better place (it was dispatched by a wayward looking grandma in a Detroit land yacht…) but the passion he has for the cars was passed to me. maybe that’s why i got so upset as i grew closer to license age and watched as Toyota ceased to build so many great cars…

  25. Ben said:

    A lot of Toyota’s current direction was put in place when Fujio Cho became President in 1995. He took Toyota down a environmental path, which, business-wise, was freakin’ ingenious because at the time SUVs still dominated the market. But soon oil prices would rise, and a few years later Toyota was in a prime position to feed the new demand gas sippers. Of course, it wasn’t so great for us enthusiasts, but now that Toyota’s reputation is firmly established as a green automaker they can afford to turn some attention to “emotional” cars. They just need the captain to steer the ship in the right direction.

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