By on May 27, 2010

Car & Driver voted Toyota’s FT-86 as one of the 25 cars worth waiting for. It seems like the wait will be a little longer than anticipated. Toyota had shown their sports car concept at many motor shows, from Tokyo to Beijing (but not in New York.) Of course, this was read as an imminent launch of the little brute. 2011 model year, hopefully. Mid 2011, maybe. Wrong. Not even close.

And there, C&D had already floated that the FT86 would revive the Celica nameplate, that the initial version would come with a puny 170hp engine (with a 230hp blown version to follow) and that the price would be a tad over $20,000 in Japan. Later, Autocar was sure that the price would be a bit higher, say $23,000. A FT86Club appeared on the net that said that “in terms of target demographic, Toyota has now upped the increased target buyer age from 30’s to the 40’s.” They all sounded as if they already had the dealer kit.

According to a report from Japan’s Best Car Magazine (via 7Tune), the release date of the FT-86 has been shifted back two years, which could mean 2013. Maybe. According to Best Car, the reasons are that the design is being revised, and that Toyota thinks there may be a better time than now to release a sports car.

A call to Toyota HQ elicited a not too surprising “as a policy, we do not comment on future cars.” The way it was said makes me think that Best Cars has it right this time. From what I’m hearing, the second reason (not the right time) is the real one. In any case, a Toyota insider had warned me not to expect too many product launches in Japan in the near future. Domo. I won’t.

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35 Comments on “Toyota’s FT-86. The Car Worth Waiting For – A Few Years Longer...”


  • avatar
    rpol35

    I see some last generation Celica in the front clip though the current large-mouth bass grill routine seen here and on others doesn’t do much for me.

    The real issue I think is that the market segment for these types of cars is probably not large enough to soak up all the product available in the Mustang-Camaro-Challenger-”FT-86″ et al. realm.

    I would be surprised if this one makes the light of day (in the U.S anyway) and I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that by 2015 or so, the Mustang is the only one still left standing.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The real issue I think is that the market segment for these types of cars is probably not large enough to soak up all the product available

      You’re exactly right.

      And it’s made worse by how fickle the buyers of these cars are. Dedicated sports (or just sporty) cars are flavours of the week, and are bought (and dumped) fairly frequently. You’ll never see Camry sales volumes, even though you’re making a product that costs more to make than the aforementioned Camry.

      To make an affordable sports car, your only real chance is to base it off a commodity platform. The problem is that, if you don’t do it right, you end up with a milquetoast offering that no one buys anyways. Up the content or use a dedicated platform and suddenly you’re looking at something that’s sell-able at $40K+.

      Toyota’s walking a fine line with this car, and I suspect they’re having trouble making the costs work. It’s not as bespoke as, say, the S2000, MR-2 or RX-8, but it’s not exactly Civic Si either.

      The point about the Mustang is a good one. There’s room in this market for about three or four players: the Mustang, the Miata, the WRX and the leftovers to the Si/GTI/etc and off-lease luxury models. Shouldering in on that is hard.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      It remains to be seen how long this will last, but I believe the Camaro is out-selling the Mustang, so there’s another competitor (with massive built-in following and history) to compete with. And Hyundai just launched the Genesis Coupe, which despite their claims of cut-rate Infiniti G competition really competes with buyers looking for this type of vehicle. Not to mention a few who would rather buy a less expensive vehicle (Scion tC, for example) then “invest” in upgrades to reach this price point.

    • 0 avatar

      @psarhjinian

      I can’t imagine this is the only car on that platform. To me it would make sense for it to underly the next gen IS (instead of cutting down a GS platform), a Miata competitor (something Toyota has tried before with limited success), replaces the Celica, replaces the Scion tC, and maybe even a luxury roadster.

      That would be enough platforms to satisfy a small RWD platform.

  • avatar
    pooplocker

    The FT-86 may still be worth waiting for for those who want something better than what is on offer at this price range. The only cars I can think of (imports) at this price range, or perhaps a little cheaper, are the Kia Forte Koupe, The Scion TC, the Mitsu Eclipse, and the base model for the Hyundai Genesis (none of which really do it for me). Honda is scrapping the S2000, so it would be nice to see another Japanese street racer enter the market. The FT-86 could be the best of them all if Toyota really goes for it.

    Toyota used to be a company that took chances and won a loyal following for breaking new ground. Let’s hope the Toyota of yesterday comes back.

  • avatar
    sitting@home

    The transformation of Toyota into GM continues. Maybe they could also have it star in a blockbuster movie this summer and saturate the public’s perception long before the car is available. By the time it does go on sale it will have morphed into a lolloping, coddling, overpriced bloatmonster because endless surveys asking the wrong questions will indicate that’s what the majority of people want.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      I’m not sure this really supports your assertion that well. If anything, Toyota is being cautious about quality (due to recent events), the market (as mentioned in other posts), and other factors.

      Also, has anyone else considered that this might be due to Subaru’s version not being ready for primetime? They have barely shown test mules, and near-production concept of the Subie version seems a pipe dream at this point. The cars share quite a bit of DNA.

  • avatar
    mountainman

    Bummer – I was hoping for the Subaru version of this.

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      Me too…the wife and I have talked about getting a used 05-07 Mustang GT as a second car (or my work car) to sit with the 07 Outback we have, but a Subaru hatch/coupe would be ideal as well. I really like the boxer/manual/locking diffs drivetrain in my Outback, and I think it would be great in a lighter car that is still decently rugged enough for Idaho roads and weather.

  • avatar
    L'avventura

    I find all these contradictions suspect; Peter Lyon of Autocar also contributes to Bestcar magazine as a foreign correspondant. He has also frequently posts Best Car renderings on Autocar, and there is the fact that Best Car is a biweekly 200+ page magazine that struggles for news. Best Car originally said the car would come out in 2012, then it became 2011, and I guess now its 2013, the power and price predictions seem to always fluctuate dramatically.

    But to their credit they do get inside information sometimes, and they frequently have interviews the head engineers of these car companies. Personally I suspect that Best Car is in cahoots with the Japanese car companies, their rumors section is so hit-and-miss that car companies can float wild rumors on BestCar and use it as market research to gauge reaction for future product development.

    Also, Bertel, we know exactly what Toyota should be releasing in Japan in the next few years based on their model cycles, and there are quite a few cars. Estima is due in 2011, Vitz/Yaris also in 2011, Ractis should be shown in September, Premio and Crown Magesta in 2012, and Corolla Axio and Blade in 2011. In the US we should see the Camry, Corolla, and Yaris updated within the year or so.

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      I would imagine that with everything that toyota has been through in the last couple of years and the fact that they made a profit or a much lower loss than anticipated means that something had to be cut out. Product development and plant retooling are the obvious ones. Therefore products that had been planned to launch in the near future will be pushed back.

    • 0 avatar

      Your JP numbers jibe with mine. I don’t follow the US market.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      The Yaris has been around since ’06 so I’d expect to see an update soon. However, the Camry was just refreshed for ’10, so that’s already been done, and the Corolla shouldn’t be for another year or so, as it’s only been on the market for two years in its current form. I believe their current cycle is refresh after three years, full replacement after five or six.

      However, the previous Corolla went almost completely unchanged for 8 model years, with no classic mid-cycle refresh (it got new wheelcovers on some models, that’s it), so we may have the current Corolla for even longer.

    • 0 avatar
      L'avventura

      @KalapanaBlack

      The current XV40 Camry has been around since 2006, its been refreshed, but its due for a full model change very soon, and the Yaris has been around since 2005, and the 10th-gen (E140/E150) Corolla has been around since 2006 as well.

      The Yaris/Vitz (and possibly JDM Corollas) are suppose to use the iQ platform; basically, flat-gastank, asymmetrical AC, and short overhangs, and a possibility of a (Ractis) variant with 3rd-row 7-people seating in a Yaris-sized car due to the iQ platform.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    2013? May as well be ten years off. This means they’re overhauling the entire car.

  • avatar
    L'avventura

    @rnc

    I doubt that, Toyota does still have available cash and they are profitable, and you can’t sell cars if you don’t produce new products. There are plenty of sources of money, including borrowing. And Toyota still is a financial powerhouse. The lack of short-term capital isn’t a reason for Toyota to delay a launch.

    They may delay a launch to double-check engineering issues for immediate car launches, something I’m sure Toyota will be doing considering the recall mess, but it won’t be for as long a year or more, and for cars further out have more leverage in time.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Bummer if true. Meanwhile used / off lease G35s continue to be the only “sports coupe” that has me interested. What are the sales numbers of the Genesis Coupe Turbo? If it is not moving units I bet Toyota calls the whole thing off. No doubt there is a market for this kind of car, at a price of course, but nobody seems to care to build it. At this point Mazda should just put a turbo in the Miata add a hardtop / hatch option and rule the world: http://www.clubmiatamonteregie.ca/mc12.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      Look how well that worked out for the Pontiac Solstice. I believe they sold all of a thousand Solstice coupe/targas, most of which were the turbo GXP model.

      Good thing is, right now, those are nearly worthless (but may someday reach collectible status), and it’s virtually competitor-less.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      That’s a really good idea: Like a BMW Z3 Coupe, but cheaper, better looking, more reliable, better MPGs, and more room under the hatch. Sold!

  • avatar
    Steven02

    I am guessing they are waiting for the Camaro/Mustang sales to die off before introducing their product. The Genesis Coupe is having low sales, anyone else think that Toyota would have a hard time competing in this market right now?

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    This sounds like another moment where Toyota is becoming more like GM ever day; in the ‘Camero’s returning’ tease sort of way. At least this will be a more interesting and better looking car than the Camero.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    Who cares? It’s a Toyota. Toyota can go away completely, for all I care.

  • avatar
    niky

    Toyota’s biggest problem will be to get it under the price cap… or it was… now that they’re aiming for the forty-something set, they’re butting up against a huge competitor for small, four-cylinder sportscar buyers… the MX-5. And it’s a huge competitor. The MX-5 already embodies the classic sportscar formula to a Tee, and to butt heads against it, as GM did with the Sky/Solstice… which did do well, admittedly, at first (outselling the MX-5 in the US), but eventually lost ground before being euthanized for not being profitable enough.

    Toyota is planning to build an ultra-cheap sportscar to compete with the MX-5, using the difficult to package boxer, with a bespoke drivetrain (gotta lose the extra differentials to keep the cost down) on a bespoke platform? Notgonnahappen.com.

    Now if they’d simply tried to repackage hardware from their previous generation IS platform and engines… or even with current engines… unlike the completely un-revvy lumps of manure in the Camry, their smaller, higher revving mills are fit for the job… they could’ve met their price target much more easily.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It’s not really a bespoke platform: it’s a riff on an existing Subaru one.

      Also, I think packaging a boxer—especially for rear-drive—is actually easier than an inline and only harder, I think, than a rotary.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      True enough, it’s going to be based on a Subaru platform… but it would still make more sense to use an existing Toyota platform.

      Packaging is easy until you have to change a spark plug…

    • 0 avatar

      MX-5 is a 2-seater. Also, no roof (there’s a folder version like SLK, but it’s still tiny).

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      They’re using a Subaru platform because the rear-drive IS/GS is too expensive to be workable at this price point. Ford had similar problems trying to get DEW98 affordable. Rear-drive is a bugger that way.

      Toyota’s other platforms are, to a fault, front-drive econocars. They’d have to take the Neon SRT-4 route, which I don’t think has staying power these days.

      As for changing plugs: that’s not a packaging problem, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. The boxer is a short, flat engine with a crank down the middle of it’s mass: that means it’s easy to pack without requiring a long or tall hood or weird attempts to distribute the mass left-to-right.

      You’re talking about an accessibility problem.

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    I still don’t get why Subaru is getting into the sporty coupe business. For one thing, it has been notably unsuccessful in past efforts. For another, it seems questionable whether Subaru can make much, if any, money at it — even when platform sharing with Toyota.

    Subaru has a weird cycle to its corporate culture where it becomes highly successful at being different but nevertheless decides that it needs to start playing follow the leader. So it copies whatever is the flavor of the month. The attempt fails miserably, so Subaru regroups by once again focusing on being different. And is successful. But not successful enough to keep the “me too” boys happy. . . .

    Out of all of the innovative product offerings Subaru could come up with, why a garden variety sports coupe that in the best of circumstances will generate a highly perishable “halo?”

    Perhaps Toyota put them up to it.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      Subaru has been very successful with the WRX sports coupe. Toyota has been moderately successful with the MR2 over the years (they certainly have a well deserved fanatical following).

      If they keep this thing simple and light it could be great.

    • 0 avatar

      Subaru makes great GT cars (Legacy and Legacy Wagon…OK, Legacy) and a tremendous sports car (Impreza WRX and STi). I believe that Impreza WRX are fairly popular with the young tuner crowd who want to individualize their vehicles. So…if you can get Toyota to foot most of the development bill for a low cost coupe’ (which you’ll make uniquely Subaru), then sell performance parts already out there for the WRX (engine anyway) why not? Gets them into the “family.”

  • avatar
    Buddhabman

    Toyota was obsessed with being No1, and look where it got them. They are not even close to the doom and peril Audi was in a few years back, but their rep is beat down. The problem facing Toyota is that the immigrant buyers that flocked to Toyota during the 80′s-90′s-00′s and then moved up to Lexus are now going to start considering other cars. Once Toyota’s gets cross shopped more seriously they might start to drop more sales. Toyota can block that buy dropping prices, but now their rep for safety and reliability is pretty much toast, so now they are going to have to produce cars with a little more substance.

  • avatar

    The LFA took ten years to get to market,and as impressive as it is, it is still outclassed by the 458 and upcoming McClaren. so why not postpone this untill the drift car craze has died, i.e. that was it’s purpose wasn’t it? To capitalize on the small rear drive concept. By the time they get this out it will be pointless. Toyoata just doesn’t do sporty well at all. My guess its just not in their corporate culture

  • avatar
    probert

    I don’t know about drifting – it’s simple – a sports car. Toyota has done very well with sports cars – the mr2 was a small miracle – and lotus uses its engines. No problems.

  • avatar
    snafu

    as soon as you start to rotate it around from that front view, it becomes disproportionate.


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