Toyota Celica revival is the “life’s dream” of new president Koji Sato

By this time tomorrow Akio Toyoda’s reign as President of Toyota Motor Corp will be over. He’s stepping aside and his protégé Koji Sato is taking over. Toyoda will be missed. When he took the helm the sportiest thing in Toyota’s US lineup was a RAV4 V6. During his tenure, he created the 86/BRZ twins and the GR Yaris/Corolla siblings, put Lexus’s brilliant naturally aspirated V8 in a host of cars, midwifed the LFA into production, and brought back the Supra. Those are big shoes for his successor Sato to fill, but we shouldn’t be worried. Sato has said that his “life’s dream” is a “revival of the Celica.”

We already knew Sato had octane in his veins. Before assuming the top spot, he was head of Lexus and Gazoo Racing. He owns a JZA80 Supra and recently bought an 80,000km (50,000 mile) AE86 that he’s in the midst of restoring (that’s him in the foreground and his Hachiroku in the background).

Sato has his work cut out for him, including putting Toyota on the path to electrification and satisfying critics who have been hounding the hybrid-pioneering company for being too slow to fully embrace EVs fully. Right or wrong, Toyota needed an image makeover, and Sato was the man chosen to show the public that the firm was shaking things up.

That’s fine for the consumer side, but what has the hearts of Japanese enthusiasts pumping is Sato’s post on social media, as reported by a number of Japanese sites shortly after he was announced as the new president, that his life’s dream is to bring the Celica back.

No further details were given, but it did raise the question of which Celica was he referring to. The beloved model of seven generations has lived two lives — half as a stylish sports coupe, half as an AWD rally monster (maybe three, if you count the front-drive sports coupe). Naturally, given the climate of the industry, some have speculated that it would take form as a sporty battery electric coupe. That would certainly be an interesting form, since EVs have yet to fill the space once occupied by cars like the Celica, Prelude, Silvia, and more.

The Shinshiro Rally in March was the first time Akio Toyoda made a public speaking appearance since his surprise announcement that he was handing over the keys to Sato. Toyota was campaigning the GR Yaris, but WRC driver Jari-Matti Latvala did a demo run in the ST165 Celica GT-Four.

Event host Kyonosuke Morita asked, “Do you have any feelings for this car, Morizo-san?” addressing him by his racing pseudonym. “Yes, of course I do. I want to have that Celica again. I feel like I want to have it again,” Toyoda replied, “And when I rode next to Latvala at the demo run, I felt that way even more.”

After Toyoda retires officially on April 1, he will take a less active role but still be involved as Chairman. We wouldn’t call the Celica revival a sure thing, but with two enthusiasts leading the way, the future of the 50-year-old nameplate is looking brighter than ever.

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12 Responses to Toyota Celica revival is the “life’s dream” of new president Koji Sato

  1. BlitzPig says:

    I would love to see an enthusiast oriented Celica make a return. There is a large vacuum in that market space currently, especially in North America. Cars like the Celica, Prelude, and Silvia are a perfect fit for many, in that they offer a bit more daily usability than a GR86/BRZ or a Z car/Supra. I purchased my Accord Coupe V6 because it was the closest thing to a Prelude that was available at the time.

    I hope Toyota can pull this off.

  2. vic says:

    Would love to see the revival of the Celica! At least to start up the production of some body panels/restoration parts for the first generation coupes! Think that would make a lot of enthusiasts happy!
    -1972 RA21 original owner.

  3. Dave says:

    I’m a bit confused where a Celica would fit in the lineup. The 86 occupies the $30k RWD range, the Corolla GR is $40k+ AWD. Then the Supra at $60k+. What would the Celica be? A $50k FWD car? That seems all that remains. Otherwise, they would conflict. The Corolla GR is essentially the modern take on the Celica GT-Four.

  4. Bryan Kitsune says:

    I haven’t read the article yet, but the Celica being my favorite car model, I am for it being revived –IF– it continues in the same spirit. I do not want a crossover Celica. I do not want a 4 door Celica. I do not want a Celica that does not have a Toyota engine. I do not want a 3,000+ lb. Celica (unless it is AWD & turbocharged).

    • Bryan Kitsune says:

      I should probably clarify myself, as on reflection, it would very likely not have ANY engine (let alone a Toyota one), but instead be electric. I am not terribly excited about that, but it seems inevitable at this point. I realize that “manual” transmissions are basically pointless in EVs. But, I’d appreciate if they use some sort of fake manual, because I just think it would be more engaging, even if otherwise pointless.

    • Bryan Kitsune says:

      Not to burst my own bubble, but after typing that I thought I should point out to myself, that any new Celica probably won’t have an engine at all, let alone a Toyota one.

  5. Louis Santana says:

    I currently have two celica’s! One a fully restored 1991 convertible 5 speed with a vented hood, and a 1982 Toyota Celica GTS with GT seats, sunroof, five-speed and the original stereo with equalizer. I just wish I could show you guys pictures of my celica’s on this site! I agree! The Celica fits a niche of customer that is in between the high dollar Supra, and the smaller size four-door coupe Corolla. This is a perfect project to get off the ground!

  6. Jim Klein says:

    Having been in the middle of high school when the ’86 Celica was released, this first pic takes me back to all that (for better and worse…). Then as now that first FWD Celica in GT-S trim resonated with me and while of course the rally machinery and the turbo-AllTrac are wildly interesting, the regular GT-S was (and still is) hugely desirable. While a huge fan of the last of the RWD versions prior to this one it’s interesting that those are still seen semi-regularly and have a significant following, yet the FWDers are comparatively much rarer, or at least have lower survival rates, at least from what I see. After this generation the “regular” models seemed to get less and less interesting, culminating in the spear-shaped 7th generation. Of course, I kind of feel that the Scion tC actually was the continuation of the Celica (even the tC name works as an abbreviation of Toyota Celica) even if nothing ever became of it beyond a one-trim NA FWD car.
    So I would welcome a return of this iconic name, but really only as a two-door coupe, yet am concerned about there really being a market for it, the remaining US-ponycars (that were the original competition) are not exactly lighting the world on fire anymore with this format even though the pricing vs performance equation is quite good, even in the base formats.

    • Bryan Kitsune says:

      The 4th generation is also my favorite. My first car was an ’86 ST, hence my bias. Still hoping to get another st162 GT-S liftback one of these days. For now, I have a spear shaped 7th gen GT-S. It’s styling is…ok…to me, but has nothing on the pop-ups & 80s angles. It did at least come in pretty lightweight and handles very well, and in that sense feels more like a 4th gen to me than the 5th & 6th gens I owned.

  7. civicboy says:

    i havent been on the EV transition just yet.. and i understand the market is transitioning. maybe a hydrogen celica is much more realistic at this point. i dont mind though. but what i want is to see toyota use it at full capacity and perhaps race in rally again. even if its not at the highest level. just yet.

    maybe a celica thats competing, or atleast be used as a flagship car once more

  8. socarboy says:

    Rebrand the Lexus RC series into the Celica

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