Between massive recalls and a losing battle with Honda over reliability, Toyota has had some problems with its branding in recent years. A few things have been keeping the Toyota name afloat and competitive. Recalls and Honda competition aside, Toyota still produces one of the most reliable brands on the market today, as well as one of the safest buys for a used vehicle. Another strength is the association with the Lexus Brand. When Lexus was first launched, the idea was that customers were buying a luxury sedan with the Toyota guarantee of reliability. Now it has switched a bit, with Lexus doing more by association for Toyota than the other way around. One last area, and probably the greatest strength of the Toyota brand today, is the Prius model. The full hybrid electric took the industry by storm, and has garnered a reputation of reliability that hearkens back to the golden age of Toyota.
With all of the other big auto manufacturers coming out with their own quality hybrid vehicles, Toyota again faces steep competition, and must fight to stay competitive in the global auto industry. But Toyota has not chosen to pick it’s fight in the green niche it already so heavily dominates, but rather has chosen another challenger. The sports coupe. This is where the new Toyota FT-86 II comes into play.
The concept version for the FT-86 was first premiered at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, and, according to industry insiders, the production version of the Toyota FT-86 is set to arrive at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show in December. Cosmetically the vehicle has already undergone a dramatic face lift based on consumer feedback gathered at its various motor show presentations. While we have ample photo evidence of a sleek and sporty new exterior design, aside from the fact that it is a rear wheel drive 2 liter engine, Toyota has remained hush hush as to the real specs and details of the rest of the vehicle. During a recent press conference, Didier Leroy, President of Toyota Motor Europe, stated:
“I want to focus on the passion that’s returned to Toyota in recent months. That passion is back in everything we are doing and in every new product we are developing. You can feel the passion in the only non-hybrid we’ve got on the stand, our FT-86 II concept car. This is the evolution of the concept we showed in Geneva last year and closer to the final car we will launch next year, as part of a new wave of Toyota products.”
Toyota’s head boss and key visionary Akio Toyoda has recognized that the brand does seem to lack emotional appeal and doesn’t offer a great deal in the area of driving pleasure, but that the company hopes the new car will inject some fun into the lineup. With the little bit that we have to go on, it looks as if this new model may essentially be a modern day revival of the sporty 1980s rear wheel drive AE86 Corolla. Given the cult status and reputation of the old 1980s model, this is not such a bad thing.
Phoenix Arizona residents can find the new FT-86 model at any of the Phoenix Valley area Toyota dealers sometime later this year.