Why Toyota is building an insane 986-horsepower supercar

Toyota’s had a big week. They finally achieved their decades-long push to win Le Mans, overcoming a series of agonizing near-misses. It also announced the production of an insane 986-horsepower road car based on a 2021 Le Mans race car. While the given reason for the supercar was to homologate the racer, the real reason was buried deep in the Gazoo Racing president’s announcement. 

At a press conference kicking off the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Gazoo Racing president Shigeki Tomoyama announced the production of the Super Sport Concept unveiled at the Tokyo Auto Salon. However it was this quote that revealed Toyota’s true motivation:

As the automotive industry is approaching an era of big changes, we will continue our passion for making cars that are truly exciting. No matter how electronics and digital technology will continue to transform vehicles, we will make sure that our cars will not become just another commodity.

It’s true. With electric vehicles, self-driving cars, and ride-hailing technology changing how the world views cars, Toyota president Akio Toyoda has talked a lot about how the auto industry is entering a “once-in-a-century transformational period.”

Toyota knows that when these factors converge cars will be, in Tomoyama’s words, a commodity. There will be little differentiation between marques, and customers won’t care which one they’re in. When you buy apples, paper cups, or gym socks, do you really care about the brand? Closer to home, do you care what brand of car your Lyft is? How about your taxi? Probably not enough to wait around for an extra five minutes. For all intents and purposes, there’s already not much difference between a Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, or Ford Fusion, especially for the average buyer.

Toyota believes that the only way for an auto brand to survive is to create an object of desire. Buying a supercar is not a rational decision. It’s like paying $150 for a Kamakura shirt when you could get a $30 one at Uniqlo. If Toyota continues to make commodities, there will be no compelling reason to choose Toyota.

So, the Gazoo Racing Super Sport Concept, or whatever the production version is called, will not just exist to conform to homologation rules. It will be Toyota’s stake in the ground in post-automobile world.

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9 Responses to Why Toyota is building an insane 986-horsepower supercar

  1. Zuhair Ahmed said:

    Nice to see Toyota back in the game.

  2. Chan said:

    Oh lord am i excited. I really hope Toyota brings back more than just this one car. Hopefully inspire another generation leave a legacy behind of tuneable vehicles that future generations will aspire to own and create their own projects.

  3. Jayrdee said:

    “As the automotive industry is approaching an era of big changes, we will continue our passion for making cars that are truly exciting. No matter how electronics and digital technology will continue to transform vehicles, we will make sure that our cars will not become just another commodity.”

    I wish Toyota had this same mentality here in the US. This will probably be Japan/Europe only just like the Yaris GRMN

  4. bryan kitsune said:

    As awesome as this is, and I’m certainly not complaining, I wish they would announce production of the S-FR (and actually bring it to the US…at close to the price tag they were estimating).

    Still though, this is very cool, and I’m glad they plan on continued participation at Le Mans.

    • Phil said:

      yes Bryan

      What happened to the SFR? I last read in “Best Car” that it was undergoing a redesign, but it’s all gone very quiet, and failed to appear at Tokyo motor show.
      Is it dead (sob)?

      • bryan kitsune said:

        To be honest, I don’t think it’s been confirmed as dead. But there’s just been nothing really said about it. I believe they still had a previous concept on display at Taipei in January…but that’s all I’ve seen.

        I’m still hoping, but…I’d imagine even if it makes production it doesn’t make North America.

        • Ant said:

          Having spoken to Tada-san at Geneva, the S-FR (or a smaller, sub-GT86 sports car in general) is still being debated internally. They really want to build an MR2-sized car but it does need to work from a business perspective.

          I remain hopeful on that one – for a concept car, the S-FR on display a couple of Tokyo shows ago did look *very* close to production quality.

          • bryan kitsune said:

            I get Toyota’s reluctance I suppose. I just don’t understand Americans. Where I live (Indiana) I see new Chargers/Mustangs/Camaros all over the place. I almost never see an FR-S/BRZ/86. They are almost never on the Toyota dealer lot. But I can see dozens of Mustangs on the Ford lot. I get that my geography puts me with the type of people who love domestics…but there are plenty of Honda/Toyota/Hyundai appliance type cars. But the people who are buying RWD cars seem to go almost exclusively domestic. I don’t understand them. So that’s all to say, that I understand that while I personally would have a dream car in the SF-R, that much of the American population that is even interested in a RWD car would much rather stick with their heavy gas guzzling muscle cars. And the rest are content with appliances and huge SUVs/trucks. Sigh…

  5. Mark Newton-John said:

    The problem with cars like the 86 in middle America is they are simply underpowered and overpriced. Sure, MX-5 Miatas and 86s are great driving vehicles, but why spend 25-30 large when you can get a 252 hp Focus ST, or even a 300 hp Mustang with a turbo 4?
    Gush all you want about a 181 hp MX-5, but it’s a hard sell against 300 hp Fords and Chevys.

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