By on July 16, 2012

Back in 1992 Toyota was at the forefront of quality engineering.

The Lexus nameplate had become the best selling import luxury brand in North America thanks to ES, LS and SC models that were easily among the most over-engineered vehicles of the time. 200k became not only an achievement for most Toyotas, but an expectation as well, and the models of that time were rolling testaments to a culture that prioritized the principles of Kaizen (continuous improvement) and Muda (the minimzation of waste) above all else.

Celicas and Camrys; two models that were largely designed for middle to upper middle class customers who had lived through the latest recession, were offered with padded dashboards that once had been the exclusive domain of luxury cars.

Even the formerly cost contained Corolla found upscale underpinnings by the end of 1992. The redesigned Toyota Corolla finally grew up and out in an American market that increasingly appreciated four door designs that were longer, lower and wider. The success of the Corolla was reflected in Toyota’s long-time flagship, the Supra. The following year, a long overdue release of the new Toyota Supra Turbo would seem to check off all the attributes one could ever want in a sports car.

Everyone bought the Toyota sedans and ‘sporty’ coupes; but folks rarely bought the true sports cars.

The Japan-centric Supra design coupled with the Celica All-Trac Turbo and MR2 Turbo came to form what could only be described as a weighty dilemma. Toyota wanted to over-engineer their vehicles to such a fanatical degree that, yes, everything could last for nearly 20 years. But the sports car you chose would not be nearly as exciting to drive as other lighter vehicles of the time that cost far less money.

Enthusiasts who would usually want to opt for a $25,000 Celica All-Trac would see an Eclipse GSX for $7,000 less and go straight to the Mitsubishi dealer. Eagle dealers would often provide even better pricing for the mechanically identical Eagle Talon TSi, with a longer warranty than either company. Meanwhile the more cost competitive Toyota Celica GT-S,  which still sold for north of $20,000, would offer a woeful 130 horsepower engine and nearly 3000 pounds of heft for the enthusiast.

The Toyota Celica GT-S and All-Trac would sell fewer than 8,000 units a year.

It wasn’t just the Eclipse and Talon along with the short-lived Plymouth Laser that were far beyond Toyota’s grasp. The Acura Integra was lighter and more fun to drive. As were the 240SX, the Honda Prelude, and the Ford Mustang which truly shed its decrepit old Detroit image by the time it was redesigned in 1994. These largely successful models gave birth to a long line of fun to drive vehicles, both two door and four door models, that would let these manufacturers keep their pulse on younger buyers.

So did Toyota take on these upstarts? Nope, they gave up in the typical Toyota way back then of letting the model languish to the point of irrelevance once the market demographics seemingly started to change.

There was a rightness to that decision. Sport coupes and hatchbacks largely went downhill for the next fifteen years. But there was a casualty that came from that decision which inflicted permanent damage on the Toyota brand.

Toyota became the boring car company, while sportiness slowly migrated to all segments of the marketplace.

It wasn’t just the gaping blind spot that was Toyota’s continuing inability to attract enthusiasts to the brand which alienated millions of potential buyers.

It was the actual production cycles for the less popular Toyota products.

By the early 1990′s, Toyota had began to stray from the four to five year model cycles that yielded a younger buying audience that was increasingly anti-Detroit and Toyota loyal. Instead of building on this tide of favorable demographics, Toyota began to abandon it on a global basis. The last Toyota Supra was sold from 1993 all the way through 2002 in Japan, 10 model years. Slow sales led to a cancellation of the Supra in the United States by 1998. Even though the MSRP for their was discounted at one point by nearly $10,000.

The Celica, the last of the sporty 1990s Toyotas, only received a faint redesign in 1994 with all of the underpowered powertrain carried forward until the end of the decade. Same engine and transmission as the Camry. Same slow acceleration and lipstick light performance virtues. For the sole sake of cost containment and amortization, Toyota would essentially market the same vehicles on a global basis with little more than a price reduction for one and a half-hearted redesign for the other.

This behavior would pave the way for the decade that followed.

These two now defunct models, along with the last generation MR2 Turbo, represented the truly sad state of Toyota’s focus on the bottom line. While Ford gave the Mustang a $750 million resurgence that would add a youthful halo to their entire model lineup, and other manufacturers carried forward their sport coupe DNA into their four door models, Toyota only invested in a limited halo effect with their sports cars.

Only the top models received the best engines and powertrains while the rest of the line-up utilized whatever parts bin materials could be had, regardless of their real world competitiveness.

This doomed Toyota’s future with young buyers even from 20 years back. In 1992, the three true sports cars left in Toyota’s line-up registered fewer than 10,000 units sold. By 1993 the MR2 Turbo and Celica All-Trac would be axed in North America. Leaving behind the Supra Turbo as the sole true remnant of Toyota’s sports car past.

Meanwhile, the market realities of the 1990′s would yield a gap in the Toyota brand that would evolve into a void and then a darkening chasm in the eyes of a new audience. By 1994, the redesigned Mustang would be chosen by nearly 150,000 consumers on an annual basis, and help Ford keep aim at a youthful audience that wanted far more than Camrys and Corollas.

Toyota North America mistook the two door market as being the only sporty market that would matter in the near-term future. Toyota had a point by removing itself in a segment that was in terminal decline and hopelessly unprofitable.  Sports cars were on a severe downward trend in the late 1990′s, in spite of low gas prices,  with everything short of the Mustang, Miata and Corvette losing it’s hold in the marketplace. Demographics were shifting in favor of four door vehicles, and most sporty four door models simply had a V6 and minimal suspension upgrades, if any at all.

That was easy enough to do for a while.

But for every 240SX and 300SX that went down with that change, there was a Nissan Altima that would more than make up for it. While the RX-7 and RX-8 became increasingly irrelevant, the Mazda 3 would become a global success.

This would allow both manufacturers to retain a key audience that Toyota was losing as time went on, and the quality differences that once made Toyota a market leader  began to converge.

Nearly every other major automaker found a performance edge that Toyota could not replicate in the coming years. Chrysler’s Neon would decimate what little was left of the Tercel. The Honda Civic would handily outsell the Toyota Corolla with the under-40 crowd, which would help keep the Accord competitive with younger buyers. Even though Honda decided to make the Accord a conservative Camry alternative, by 2011 the average age of Accord buyers would be 50 vs 60 for the Camry.

Even the growth of Toyota’s best-selling Camry would be flagged by the slow selling Camry and Solara coupes that were far more like an old style Buick, than the youthful Accord coupe which would retain the sporty car DNA.

Toyota would still succeed in the 2000′s. But it would only do so within the scopes of quality and luxury.

As the 2000′s rolled in, Ford would continue to offer SVTs, ZXs, and GTs. Honda would release RSXs, TSXs and Si’s.  Volkswagen would soon roll out everything from GTI’s and Phaetons, to TDIs and W8s. Even Chrysler would attract the more youthful and enthusiast oriented buyers with SRT’s and  Hemis.

To the dismay of this growing sport-oriented audience, Toyota would let the last Celica whither on a seven year old vine and the Toyota MRS would get beat up by an ugly stick that would leave it as a one generation footnote in the company’s history. Nothing else that would bare the Toyota brand name would be worth a driving enthusiast’s consideration.

Today we do have sporty Toyotas, but we call them Scions. A brand whose survival is wholly derived from cars that have a limited audience.

Perhaps this is a good thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

102 Comments on “Hammer Time: Why Toyota Lost Its Sport...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    “As Toyota reliability gave way to Toyota recalls and stodginess, sales plummeted for the Camry from 473,000 in 2007 to only 308,000 in 2011, with nearly every automotive publication hammering away at Toyota’s declining quality standards”

    This is a bit of a cherry-picked stat: 2007 was the last “good” year for any auto manufacturer, and tsunami aside (which wrote off 2011 for every Japanese marque and dented more than a few non-Japanese as well) the SAAR in North America still hasn’t recovered to 2007 levels.

    The other cherry-picked stat is that, in terms of absolute and long-term reliability, Toyota is still as good or better than it was in the erstwhile “golden era”.

    I don’t usually disagree with TTAC articles in principle, but when Toyota is making more reliable, more efficient and more capable cars for a cheaper price versus their 1990s equivalent, it kind of seems like grasping at straws.

    • 0 avatar
      BugBehr

      Honestly, I’m not sure what’s prompting this Toyota-bashing as of late. Two Hammer Time articles in two days, both painting Toyota in a negative light? In addition, instead of portraying Toyota as a singular entity, I would have found it more interesting if the dialogue between engineers and the aging administration was discussed also.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “when Toyota is making more reliable, more efficient and more capable cars for a cheaper price versus their 1990s equivalent, it kind of seems like grasping at straws.”

      Pretty much. There’s a lack of perspective in this article that has morphed into quite a bit of reaching.

      A 2012 Camry SE V-6 has a lower 0-60 time than did a mid-80s 911 Carrera. Performance has become ubiquitous and affordable.

      The mainstream sports coupe market is dead in large part because it is now possible to get the same performance out of a run-of-the-mill sedan without losing the doors, practicality or interior room. The Camry of today will stomp on the 80s Celica in a stoplight race.

      The US car market generally has also been greatly affected by the emergence of light trucks (including SUVs and CUVs) as mainstream high volume vehicles. The passenger car market in the US has essentially been flat for the last two decades; the growth has been with trucks.

      I do think that there is a place for halo cars, and that TMC lost the plot by axing them. But their primary value is in the engineering lessons that can be gained from developing them. Good engineers should be rewarded and groomed, and one way to do both is to give them projects that may not make much money but that will fuel their imaginations.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        TMC seems to agree that a halo car is a good idea – hence the Lexus LFA. Maybe it would have been money better spent if they made a sporty Corolla or had kept the Celica, MR-2 and/or Supra.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Maybe it would have been money better spent if they made a sporty Corolla or had kept the Celica, MR-2 and/or Supra.”

        The 86 may as well be a Celica replacement.

        In any case, Mr. Lang overlooks the fact that the sporty compact class was pretty much purged by just about everyone.

        Ford Probe – gone
        Mazda MX-6 coupe – gone
        Nissan 240SX/ 200SX – gone
        Dodge Daytona – gone
        Honda Prelude – gone
        Pontiac Grand Am – evolved into the G6, now gone

        It’s not unique to Toyota; it’s typical of the class.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        I’d say Toyota does have a halo car, but that car’s name is “Prius”. The problem is that a lot of enthusiasts completely miss that.

        Buyers, though, don’t.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        @psarhjinian,

        And thus we see that ‘enthusiasts’ do not actually matter, regardless of their insistence to the contrary.

      • 0 avatar
        jimmyy

        Furthermore the 12 Camry SE V6 will outrun the so called Focus ST. Since the 12 Camry Hybrid is nearly as fast as the V6 SE, I wonder if my hybrid is also faster than an Focus ST.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Pch101 has a point I had’t really noticed the sporty compact class was pretty much extinct, although weren’t Probe and MX-6 pretty much the same car?

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        psar. Agreed, the Prius was a halo (and like most halos it completely ignored one set of competencies to pursue it’s limited brief, hence the enthusiast/my hate). But it isn’t anymore, it’s a successful mainstream model. Time for a new halo program, which I why we’re seeing 86′s and LFA’s. What I like a lot about this is it opens up the brands to pursue halos to emphasize aspects of their product lineup besides “hair shirt”.

        Jimmyy. Sure, but big engine in a medium sized car is a tried and trued formula that no one should get special credit for (anymore). The existence of the Fusion V-6, Passat V-6, Camry V-6, Accord V-6, Mazda6, Sonata turbo (no where near as sporty feeling as the others sue to lack of a v6 btw) etc… make this its own expected segment. The right way to look at this is, VW, Honda and Mazda et al… all have equivalent to better cars than the Camry V-6, and yet they still have cars on the market that are actually sporty (GTI, Si, speed3, ST…) as opposed to being just mightily powered. A mid/full-size FWD car with big outputs is no sports car, regardless of any “piston slap” camry love comments you may see regarding trap times and quarter mile nonsense ;). Flat staters are easy to please I guess.

      • 0 avatar
        Robstar

        Isn’t the WRX STi in hatch form a remainder of the sporty/compact class? Looks like the GolfR might be in that class well. The GTI (IMHO) might be considered a sport compact, no?

        I think extinct might be too strong a word. “last legs” might be better.

    • 0 avatar
      jeffzekas

      Surprised no mention was made of the Miata, a car which proved that there STILL was a market for a small fun sporty car… IF it was cute, fun and reliable!

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        “Pch101 has a point I had’t really noticed the sporty compact class was pretty much extinct, although weren’t Probe and MX-6 pretty much the same car?”

        The demise of the sporty two-door coupe was well documented during the late ’90s/early ’00s due to the American craze to rush into SUVs and Pickups while gas was still cheap. Hey can’t blame the car manufacturers. No pesky Gummint regulations on “light trucks” to get in the way of profits or such trival issues as emmisions, MPGs or safety. However, you still had the odd offering. The Hyundai Tiburon comes to mind.

  • avatar
    spinjack

    The Scion FR-S should have been sold as a Toyota Celica. WIth a Supra version in the works.

    • 0 avatar

      I second that

    • 0 avatar
      Duncan

      I completely agree. I rarely get too concerned with branding, but an NA Celica followed by a turbo Supra would have been much more appealing than an alphabet soup Scion.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        But Scion needed new models with the announced demise of the xB and xD, something had to be done, otherwise they would have the tC and the crappy IQ only in the showroom and Scion would have died from lack of models.

    • 0 avatar
      arbnpx

      The Celica has been front-wheel drive since 1985 (the T160 generation; previously, the Celica was on the A60 platform, a code name that was also shared with the A60 Celica Supra. In that respect, I’d have to disagree, because the FR-S has more in common with the AE86, in terms of FR layout, high-revving naturally aspirated engine, and light weight. The FR-S front does look interestingly similar to the 7th-gen ZZT230 Celica front, but that’s where the similarities end. I own an FR-S, and I’ve autocrossed with a few MR2′s, which seem to have a similar general handling personality (I haven’t driven an MR2 yet, unfortunately, so I shouldn’t judge farther than that). It is a nice homage to have the FR-S use a similar naming scheme to the MR-S (by the way, despite being labeled “uglier”, the 3rd-generation ZZW30 MR2 Spyder is very fast on autocross, given a skilled driver).

      The Scion tC is a nice evolution of the FWD Celica approach, though it’s taking a characteristic all its own in the 2nd generation. Peak sales for the tC was over 60,000 units in 2006; nowhere near Corolla or Camry numbers, but pretty good, considering “coupes going downhill for 15 years.”

      Toyota did cheat the US market out of fun by making the GT-S model of the 5th-gen (T180) and 6th-gen (T200) Celicas powered by the 5S-FE. I’ve seen a number of 3S-GTE converted Celica GTs, and those are fun to watch. While offering a GT-Four model would’ve been too expensive, I think a proper GT-S model should’ve had the 3S-GTE, or at least a 3S-GE BEAMS.

      I’m hoping that the Toyota / BMW partnership yields the Supra successor. BMW has the turbocharged inline-six engines, while Toyota has the attention to low-cost lightweight design (part of which was probably helped by the expensive lightweight design work on the LFA).

  • avatar
    mjal

    Can we have some responsible writing and stop trying to make Toyota look like the second coming of British Leyland? Your quote, “As Toyota reliability gave way to Toyota recalls and stodginess, sales plummeted for the Camry from 473,000 in 2007 to only 308,000 in 2011..” Perhaps if you qualified the statement that the Tsunami and global recession had something, but perhaps not all, to do with the drop-off.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Losing almost 200K units production on a model that is mostly built in the US? Possible, but its also possible buyers are doing more shopping around, or a combination of the two. Personally I detest the current model Camry and wish they would go back to their 90s or early 00s model line.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Right.

        While the Great Recession, the recalls and tsunami all played a part, one also has to account that a good portion of the loss in sales were due to the rise in sales for the Sonata, Altima and Optima.

        And Toyota has to compete on pricing, more ever than before (pretty typical to get a new Camry around invoice which wouldn’t have happened 5-6 years ago), not to mention fleet sales.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Toyota 2012 YTD sales for January – June were more than 27% higher than for the same period of 2011. Camry sales were up 43%.

        It wasn’t a secret that the tsunami/ nuclear disaster disrupted TMC’s and Honda’s global supply lines during the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2011. I realize that the domestic fans want to cover their ears and ignore this stuff, but the facts erode your argument.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        PCH – you are correct about the natural disasters. Although the quoted figures in the article was just one small part of the article. Are current Camry sales higher or lower than those in 2007? From what I have seen they are lower. Whilst at the same time the Passat, Optima and Sonata are all higher. So they grabbed market share from someone.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The 2007 SAAR was 16.1 million units.

        The June 2012 SAAR was 14.1 million units, 12.5% less than it was in 2007.

        YTD 2012 sales for the Camry to date were about 214,000 units. If you extrapolate that figure over twelve months, you get about 428,000 units, in a market that was smaller than it was in 2007.

        This is one of those cases when the author begins with a theory, then uses only very limited and selective factoids to reach a conclusion. Meanwhile, the domestic fans like yourself are looking for any minor win that you can get.

        Hyundai is undoubtedly a threat to TMC and Honda, since it delivers at least most of the perceived traditional benefits at a lower price. Meanwhile, VW can use operations abroad to finance a push into the US market, which creates an additional threat. GM, not so much.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        I should have added the Passat to the list of midsizers that have seen a noticeable increase in sales since 2007-8.

        Re Camry sales, also have to keep in mind that for the 1st 5-6 months of the year, 15% of Toyota sales have been to fleet (way higher than it has been in the past).

        Toyota should be cutting down on the fleet % going forward, so we’ll see if Camry sales slow down.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        PCH – I am not a domestic fan, I own two Japanese cars.
        Thanks for the sales figures, would be interesting to know what the mid-size segment was back in 2007 vs now – not just total vehicle sales. It is noteworthy that Camry sales have a higher fleet component now and greater incentives (Truecar, Edmunds etc show this).
        I note you do acknowledge that both Hyundai/Kia and VW are taking volume. I explicitly stated these two in my original comment.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      The simpler explanation is that many potential buyers for the 2011 Camry knew that a new 2012 model would come out in the fall. It would have been smart to wait for either the new model or a discount on a 2011. If potential customers strongly preferred the 2012, they would have further incentive to wait for better pricing as the initial newness wore off.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    I really miss the Celica and Supra of yore. This was an era in which I was very much a fanboy of Toyota. I rooted for them to when every comparo in the the buff books. For me it was in order: Toyota, Ford, VW/Audi and Infiniti at the end. Now its Infiniti, Mazda, Audi, Ford.

  • avatar

    An interesting sidebar to this story may be the fact that Toyota was caught cheating in the World Rally Championship in the mid-90s.

    http://crasstalk.com/2011/03/cheatins-still-winnin-the-story-of-toyota-racings-best-cheat-ever/

    • 0 avatar
      dejal1

      The 1st thing I thought of when I saw the Celica pictured.

      • 0 avatar
        MeaCulpa

        Second, eehrm, third that. That’s the downside with European style motor sports (you know with technology and actual manufacturers), cheating is rampant and some truly baffling things happens. My personal favorite is Mclaren losing its manufacturer points while Hamilton retains his points, okay it’s a financial punishment associated with that action (loosing out on revenue from TV deals) but from a sportsmanship standpoint it all seems unfair to the other drivers. Or Schummi’s amazing – and totally not assisted by electronics – ability in the wet.

    • 0 avatar
      daiheadjai

      Look into how they cheated.
      It was actually pretty ingenious engineering.

      They didn’t win their WRC championships solely by cheating though – they did bring things to the table like the first anti-lag systems (the system that gives rally cars their “pop pop” exhaust note)

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    no mention of that other mid-engine, supercharged, AWD Toyota….Previa S/C All-trac!!

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      IIRC, you could get either the AWD or the blower on the Previa but not both.

      • 0 avatar
        Sammy B

        negative – you could absolutely get both. you couldn’t get a 5MT on the S/C engine (though you could on the All-trac). In fact, for 1996+1997, you could ONLY get the S/C engine!

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        Nope. I owned a ’94 with both AWD and the supercharger. It was a great car. We had it for 140K miles. Only repair: a failed universal joint. Due to the engine being located under the front seats, the car had more room inside than any other minivan on the market. Equipped with Blizzaks, a surprisingly capable car in snow. In big snowstorms, we passed more than one stuck SUV (usually equipped with all-seasons).

        The front seats and the second row “captain’s chairs” were terrifically comfortable. I remember when my wife and I shopped a replacement (a Highlander) and my wife’s comment was that the seats — even in the top line model — were terrible. Interestingly and perhaps tellingly, although we looked at the Highlander first, we ultimately gave the nod to the Honda Pilot. We thought it had nicer seats and interior, even though the engine was noticeably less powerful.

      • 0 avatar

        @DC Bruce

        You probably had an easy time in the blizzard of Jan 1996, when my Planet Six (saturn) was stuck in a parking lot across town from my house.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The other Toyota piece was pure jerkbait, so I didn’t bother with it. This one, however, sets up something of a ghost strawman. Being a big Japanese keiretsu, Toyota has almost always been a conservative, reactionary company. The sporty stuff was entirely a result of following the market trends in the 1980s. Pretty much every Japanese manufacturer was throwing out sports cars by the case in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Toyota never had anything close to the audacity of the Honda NSX or Beat, nor the performance legacy Nissan picked up in the Prince merger (and Prince retained a great deal of autonomy under the Nissan umbrella until the Ghosn reorganization).

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      The More You Know! *NBC chime*

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      bumpy – It does seem to be a Toyota issue because Nissan, Honda and Mazda have all made sporty cars more recently and in Nissan and Mazda’s case still do. They are all as Japanese as Toyota.

      Toyota has its market and is succeeding, time will tell if the lack of sportiness does impact sales of mainstream models.
      It is interesting that Lexus, which was premised on luxury and refinement is now rushing into plastering F-Sport on any model. I was surprised to see an RX F Sport being available. Talk about BMW wannabe.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        Look at Mercedes and Audi. Lexus is only doing theis to stay competitive.

        Mercedes throws AMG editions on every car they make. Audi does the same with S and RS badging, though I’m unsure if the Q3/5/7 are involved in this as well.

        The SUVs are included as well because Porsche made the Cayenne, followed by the S, Turbo, and Turbo S. The sort of people who buy this want the fastest one just because. Ms, AMGs, and Fs are needed to compete for the alpha douches and their wives against the P-car SUVs.

    • 0 avatar
      jco

      you don’t think the 2JZ turbo supra could meet the NSX head-on? The Supra was playing along with the GTR, above and beyond what the NSX was capable of. not that I don’t appreciate the NSX because I think that was and remains one of Honda’s top engineering achievements. and then Honda had cars like the Integra/Civic type-R at a time when Toyota was letting the sport slip away and in a class of car most of the buying public could afford.

      Nissan is still the leader amongst the Japanese when it comes to Sport. you won’t find disagreement there. the S-chassis cars, the Z, the GTR. But there was a large time-frame where NIssan’s sports offerings in the North American market fell off to nothing. credit Ghosn’s reign and the Z with that resurrection. the r35 GTR may well have still happened, but without the success of the Z here, there’s almost zero chance they’d have sold it to us. I guess you can throw a little credit to Gran Turismo and the Fast & Furious movies for making the NA market aware of some of the cars we’d not been given the privilege of owning here.

      I think Toyota saw opportunity where the other two did not, at first. And that was upmarket luxury. the first LS400 was the opening shot. with a $400 million (to develop) V8. while I think that Acuras and Infinitis are great cars, they had to play catch up. and you could still get seriously sporting cars from Toyota in that category, like the Soarer/Aristo (our GS lexus). they never stopped selling that car, though the only version of that platform we got before the original GS was the Supra.

      The 80s really were a golden era for the Japanese market. the 80s for them I’d compare to the 60s for the Americans. look how terribly the American sports segment fell off after that. it took close to 20 years to come back to a point where you could own an American car that had real performance.

      something Mr Lang didn’t mention is the “Ushinawareta Nijūnen”, or Lost Decade. that removed a lot of their ability to spend on development. so they retreated somewhat to their core competencies.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        The NSX was playing in a different field than the Supra and the other GT coupes. Several of the Japanese companies put out exotic-style mid-engine wedge coupe concept cars in the mid-late ’80s, but Honda was the only one to build theirs, and with an aluminum chassis and the brand-new at the time VTEC system. Everyone else was content to strap turbos on their existing coupe lines and go hunt Corvettes.

        Nissan was kinda weird in that their lineup often vacillated back and forth between stodgy salaryman cars and the flashy sport models. The relative emphasis probably depended on which side of the company was more influential at the time.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        The NSX was designed and priced to be a Ferrari competitor when it came out, and due to it’s aluminum construction was faster than anything Italian or German at a competitive price when it came out, and was also easy to drive and maintain, as opposed to the italians of the era and Porsche’s 930, which would actively try and kill you, and required you to import a mechanic named Hans or Antonio to maintain. It was better than a 308/328.

        The GT-R was designed to compete in Group A racing in Japan, which it did excelled to the point of being banned.

        The Supra was a Group A Competitor initially and later moved up to Super GT with the Mark IV.

        The FC RX-7 was Mazda’s Le Mans competitor before the 787B. The FD series had no notable pro-racing heritage though.

        I would argue that the 300ZXTT, RX-7, and Supra were competitors, all being basically Japanese Corvettes.

        The GT-R and NSX were of a different breed, the NSX being a true exotic and the GT-R being something different entirely with it’s fancy 4wd system and no rally pretentions.

        All of these cars were limited to 276HP though due to Japanese regulation at the time, but are all capable of wild performance with minor tuning in the case of the turbo cars, or a roots blower sitting in the V of the NSX’s V6.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    I saw the GS350 slaloming the cones in it’s commercial. It must be a sports car as who would do such a thing with a Lexus?!

    …waiting for the Honda/Acura stories how they just bowed out of the niche vehicles.

  • avatar
    RGS920

    “As the 2000′s rolled in, Ford would continue to offer SVT’s, ZX’s, and GT’s. Honda would release RSX’s, TSX’s and Si’s. Volkswagen would soon roll out everything from GTI’s and Phaetons, to TDI’s and W8′s. Even Chrysler would attract the more youthful and enthusiast oriented buyers with SRT’s and Hemi’s.

    To the dismay of this growing sport-oriented audience, Toyota would let the last Celica whither on a seven year old vine and the Toyota MRS would get beat up by an ugly stick that would leave it as a one generation footnote in the company’s history. No other model that would bare the Toyota brand name during the 21st century would be worth a driving enthusiast’s consideration.”

    Toyota did make the 2005-2006 Corolla XRS with the 2ZZ engine, 6 speed close ratio manual transmission and substantial suspension and chassis upgrades. Weighing 2600 lbs that car would eat for lunch the Focus SVT and the 05 Civic Si (not the 06 Si). I would say it’s the exact definition of an enthusiast’s car. However, only 6000 of them were made and apparently is not even worth mentioning. I guess if a car company builds a great enthusiast car and no one knows it even existed, does it or should it count for anything?

    • 0 avatar
      Mrb00st

      I remember the XRS, it was a neat car.

      Steven, I’m really not sure your judgement of the last Celica and the MR2 Spider are really fair.

      The Celica GT-S of the last gen was a pretty hardcore car for the segment. It was basically a modernized Integra GS-R with struts, at the same time when Acura was busy turning the Integra into the not as fun RSX. It had a banshee of an engine (thanks to Yamaha), a nimble chassis, and it had the kind of bizarre flimsy-yet-sturdy construction that DC2 drivers would find immediately comfortable. I would say it was actually a great car; not without flaws of course. (It had VVTL-i; identical in function to VTEC, but the gearing was poorly choosen. For the first few gears, you would hit lift around 6k, shift at 8,200 something, and fall back out of the hot side of the cam. Poor choice! Plus some people missed their redline upshifts and popped the head, since they were interference/belt engines.)

      The MR2 was funny looking, but it was a great car.

      What sucks is that between 2003 and now, there was nothing!

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        I take must opine differently when you say the RSX was not as fun as the Celica.

        I owned an RSX Type-S for almost seven years and cross shopped it with the Celica GT-S at purchase time. The RSX was measurably better in every way except for my preference for the aggressive look of the Celica

        Both manufacturers screwed up by going with struts for the front suspension over double wishbones, but the Celica having stuts on all 4 corners was arguably worse, as you get no camber gain in compression on the rears that you do in the RSX, enhancing high speed cornering stability. The RSX-S felt more precise and had better steering feel. In GT-S trim, it only undercut the RSX-S by about 150lbs, narrowing the P/W ratio problem, but the K20′s extra torque makes it the faster car. And the Celica’s cockpit is nearly as claustraphobic as my S2000s, where the RSX’s wa extremely comfortable from day to day.

        If you’re going racing, the RSX has the better aftermarket as well, and I handed quite a few Celicas their butts in autocross over the years.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      “Toyota did make the 2005-2006 Corolla XRS with the 2ZZ engine, 6 speed close ratio manual transmission and substantial suspension and chassis upgrades. Weighing 2600 lbs that car would eat for lunch the Focus SVT and the 05 Civic Si (not the 06 Si).”

      I admittedly never did drive one of these — but I suspect that in terms of performance it would have been hard-pressed to keep up with the contemporary VW GTI given that car’s 1.8T engine and fully independent suspension. This is pure speculation six years later, though, I admit, but the combination of middling performance with the lack of performance cachet for “Corolla” or “XRS” might well explain the low sales numbers.

      • 0 avatar
        smokingclutch

        The problem with the XRS is that it matched or beat the old 1999-2000 Civic Si on paper, but the execution was awful. I had a 2000 Civic Si when this car was introduced, and I considered it as a replacement.

        Both the 2ZZ engine in the Toyota and the B16A in the Honda were similar in that they had both variable valve timing as well as variable lift cams. The variable lift is what gave Honda’s and Toyota’s top N/A engines their “Jekyll and Hyde” nature, where below a certain RPM they seemed like normal 4 cylinder engines, but above that RPM threshold, they sounded and acted like racing engines.

        The difference was that Honda would gear their transmissions so that if you shifted near redline, you would stay above this threshold at every up shift. Toyota couldn’t be bothered, so in the XRS you dropped out of the power and with every shift. It totally defeated the purpose of using such a pesky engine.

        Fault Honda for a lot of things, but this attention to detail is why their peaky DOHC VTEC engines are so engaging to drive, and the B-series of these are still, IMO, the standard all N/A 4-cylinders are compared to.

        Aside from that, by this stage the Corolla had gotten tall, roll-poly dimensions, and Toyota half-assed the suspension tuning. It felt like a Corolla LE with a motor swap from a Celica.

        I kept my Civic Si. I only traded it when RX-8 prices dropped in 2005 and I could afford to move up a whole class of car. That said, the Civic Si was the best car value I’ve ever had – I bought it for 9k with 92k miles, ran it to 140k miles and traded it (not sold, traded) for $7500. The car never need a dime aside from scheduled maintenance. I’d love to have another, but I’ll probably just get an S2000 since I want another convertible to compliment my Challenger. I had a 2006 Civic Si which was just slightly faster but nowhere near as reliable, and I sold it after six months.

    • 0 avatar
      Mitsu_fan

      I still have my 2005 Corolla XRS. 51,xxx miles on it. No one remembers this car, not even toyota employees. I cant tell you how many times I’ve heard “Whats VVTL-i?”, or “Why’d you put a Celica GT-S engine cover on your car?” or “Did you do an engine swap?” The only thing I’ve added is the ToMoCo factory navigation from a Matrix and 2007 Camry SE wheels, I’ll never get rid of it! I love its high strung engine and its very light, playful handling. The 2009-2010 Corolla XRS was a joke. Had a good torquey engine, but they didnt back up the engine with a better suspension and it was WAY WAY overpriced for what it was. Keeping my ’05 Corolla XRS and my ’09 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart ’til the end 8-)

    • 0 avatar
      daiheadjai

      the 2001-2006 Celica GT-S was a far better choice than the half-assed Corolla XRS, IMO.

      That thing could remain competitive with the RSX-S, and looked far better to boot.

      • 0 avatar
        luvmyv8

        I liked the idea of the XRS, but aside from being relatively rare was that it used the same lame old rear beam axle, which didn’t help it. Also too, it looked pretty much the same as a normal Corolla S model, there were subtle differences between the 2 (rear discs on the XRS, body colored grille surround and larger wheels, but nothing mind blowing) that and they didn’t really market it.

        I love performance cars of all ilk. Mainly I love muscle, especially FoMoCo products, but also hot hatches, sport compacts and import tuner cars. True I love the hearty growl of a 440 Magnum, but also I love the wail of a RB26DETT at full song. Maybe performance isn’t the bread and butter, but it does serve an important purpose, to help showroom traffic and inspire enthusiasm. For example, let’s say I drive by a Ford dealership and there’s a gleaming new Shelby GT500…. I stop to take a look and drool over it, but I can’t afford it… but I CAN afford a 5.0 Mustang, or even a 3.7 V6 Mustang (hey, that engine quite literally changed my attitude about 6 cylinder fullsize pickups!) or failing that; I take a look at the Focus ST or a Taurus SHO.

        Versus this scenario; I drive by a Toyota dealership and see a Camry or a iQ….. not the same is it? While right across is a Nissan dealership with a GTR and/or 370Z’s. So a GTR is out of reach and a Z is not pratical, but hey the Altima has a VQ series engine derived from the Z! See what I mean?

  • avatar
    benzaholic

    So if Mercedes-Benz was the overengineering poster child of the 70s/80s, and Toyota took that crown for the late 80s and early 90s, who if anyone would you say held that title for the late 90s and the naughties (I like that pseudo-British term for the 00s), and who holds it now?

    • 0 avatar
      Chocolatedeath

      Honestly IMO I would have to say at this time…no one. It seems that most if not all manufacturers are building to a price point one way or another. The CLS being one that is not to a price point and the E an C classes as examples of a price point. They are even having to build S and 7 series to some type of price point due to sharing of parts with lesser siblings.

    • 0 avatar
      smokingclutch

      Late 1990s, I’d say Honda. From 2001 on, when Honda redesigned the Civic and Accord, I would agree, no one.

      If I have to recommend an early to mid 2000 car to anyone looking for a quality, inexpensive, sporty used car, I recommend the Mazda3, but you have to watch for rust.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I refuse to ignite another firestorm like the other day, but I feel Toyota’s lack of offering real sports cars just doesn’t fit in with their current philosophy, plus the fact fewer young people can afford to buy cars that aren’t commuter boxes, and their previous clientele – guys my age now – are buying – like me – larger, more comfortable cars. I’m sure the general economy factors in as well.

    A woman at my previous company owned one of those Supras – the very rare one – bright red, Turbo and very sharp. It had some of the lines of a late ’60′s Camaro. I really admired it. Hey, credit where credit is due!

    Here I go – my one cent’s worth: If I was going to buy another sports car – we just sold our 2007 MX5 – It’ll be a Chevy and it’ll be a Corvette!

    — Might as well stay true to form! ;)

    Let the beatings begin…

    • 0 avatar
      dejal1

      No beatings. Sports cars are halo cars. More people talk about them than actually buy them. Also, todays average car is pretty good.

      As Pch101 said above:

      “A 2012 Camry SE V-6 has a lower 0-60 time than did a mid-80s 911 Carrera. Performance has become ubiquitous and affordable. ”

      There’s more to life than 0-60 but todays cars are so good that the extra whatever a sports car can offer can rarely be used legally on the open road.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        The V6 Camry may have a quick 0-60 time, but even the new ‘sportier’ SE trim is middling at best when it comes to sportiness in a mainstream midsize sedan.

    • 0 avatar

      Zackman, I hereby roundly criticize you for even thinking of buying a Corvette. You are being very unduly provocative and this is not a purchase that many ttac’ers would consider (and those who would consider it are as misguided as you are), and furthermore, it suggests a lack of imagination, since many men of a certain age buy Corvettes. Furthermore, Steve Lang probably would not approve of this purchase unless it were used and you got a really really really good deal on it. Otherwise, it’s a waste of your transportation dollar.

      There. Does that hurt?

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      That 2012 Impala is faster than any Toyota(not Lexusu) made to 60 mph from a stand still?

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @Zackman….I didn’t get involved in yesterdays “firestorm”. However I did read it. I have agree with you. I lost count of how many Pontiacs I bought. New, and used. With, and without, “plastic cladding” I just plain liked the Pontiac brand.

      However, these days its two Bow Ties, and a Blue Oval.

      I’m with ya dude. If I wanted a “real” sports car, {and had the money} I’d have a Vette sitting in my garage. The local Chev dealer would have a sweet 08 Mustang sitting in his used car lot.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Props to ya, Mikey! If I get that 2012 Impala, you’ll be first to know!

        I did get off-track yesterday trying to get a point across that some people do buy for the brand and perception, not necessarily the “appliance” factor.

        If I want a toaster, whether it’s a Cuisinart or Black & Decker or some other brand, I don’t care, but wifey has to have it match the other applances.

        To me, a car is a bit different if I have a choice, and right now I do.

      • 0 avatar
        smokingclutch

        Put even the Camaro’s interior in the Corvette, and I’d have had a ‘vette instead of my Challenger. The Corvette interior was marginal in 2005 and downright shocking in 2012.

        As far as I’m concerned, the C7 could just be a warmed-over C6 with a decent interior and I’d buy one in a heartbeat.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      The Corvette is the only GM that I ever really liked, good luck with it!

  • avatar
    jaje

    The xB was a cult car that attracted the non your average Toyota buyer and with its redesign it got the Camry 4 cylinder, was rounded out in design, got bigger and heavier, got more expensive, thus lost its youthful appeal. 2nd Gen xB sales have never hit the highs the 2st gen did (but economy changed things as well) but has never recovered.

  • avatar
    W.

    In my own experience, my parents wouldn’t now touch a Toyota if their life depended on it. They are in their mid 60′s, and the spectre of unintended runaway acceleration is just too much for them. Truth or not, that’s the mindset a lot of people have.

    I also find it interesting that of all the car companies mentioned, Chrysler gets one passing mention with the Neon, and Ford is the only ‘domestic’ that manages to keep pace with everyone else. Of course my blood runs Blue Oval…ha.

    It took GM 100 years to get to the downhill slope where they are now. 50 years for the Toyota to do the same, and I predict 25 years for the Koreans. Whatever goes up must come down, and that’s the harsh reality for everyone.

    • 0 avatar
      benzaholic

      You gain points for that pretty Cutlass, but you lose points for having parents who still believe that hype.

      (My first car, around 1980, was a 72 Cutlass Supreme Coupe purchased for $1,000.)

      • 0 avatar
        smokingclutch

        My parents are in their 60s but wouldn’t touch a Toyota Camry because, as they put it, “we aren’t dead yet.”. They have mostly had Mazdas over the years, including their current Mazda6 V6 5-speed. They do have a first gen xB, but with a manual transmission. Mostly they like it for my mom’s back issues making it easy to get in and out. They’re not sure what they’ll buy next, nothing combines sporty driving characteristics with tall seating position like the xB, except for the Fiat 500.

  • avatar
    Travis

    This was a very enjoyable read. Normally, the trend of this site is to have Mr. Baruth do the off-pieces that don’t directly pertain to a specific model or incident occuring right this moment. I like seeing something different from another author, especially on a topic like this. More like this (from you and everyone else) would be great!

  • avatar
    Grumpy

    Huh–Mr. Lang, what am I missing here. Toyotas started showing up in Canada just as I was starting to drive in the mid 60s. We thought them delicate and refined, but inevitably my friends and I migrated to the American muscle cars of the era. Now of course the land is covered with Toyota products and they have steadily grown to be one of the largest and most profitable car companies in the world ( the largest on and off the last few years )

    Although, I have never owned a Toyota, and they may not have been building what you want, they must have been building what a lot of folks did. I often recommend their products to friends and family looking for high quality vehicles that will serve them well for many years.

    Like any rapidly growing company, they have had their share of glitches, but I expect them to continue offering excellent vehicles in the future.

    Their recent work with Subaru is a good example of their willingness to innovate and take measured risks to reach out to corners of the demographic map that they may have overlooked recent times.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I doubt there ever was a huge demand for sporty 2+2 and 2 seaters, but early Celicas, Supras, MR2s, RX7s, and Nissan Zs were cheap, fun, light weight, simple and had decent MPG. Why spend nearly the same money on a Camry, Accord or Stanza unless you friggin’ had to?

    It wasn’t so much that the market dried up, but OEMs kind of lost their way. OK, they added way too much size, heft, engine complexity, forced gadgetry and of course price.

    They had the right idea in the beginning, but the reason the Mustang and Miata are still around is it stuck to the original formula and are still affordable by the masses.

    • 0 avatar
      smokingclutch

      There was a huge demand for sporty two seaters and 2+2s, back in the 80s. They were the fashionable vehicles back before SUVs.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        What’s good is always fashionable. The ’90s offered plenty of sporty 2+2s options, but were rejected because they were no longer light weight or simple nor were they as affordable or fuel efficient.

        SUVs were completely different animals, but they were good. Their sporty utility and rugged go anywhere/anytime attitude won over displaced shoppers.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    A global company with Borg-like aspirations doesn’t have an affordable sports car? You are known by the company you keep.

  • avatar
    Type57SC

    So Toyota let a bunch of sporty secretary-mobiles languish and came up with the Prius, that after some teething and good/lucky marketing is now one of the strongest nameplates in the market. While I’m sure Akio wants both, if he had to choose, he probably would take having the prius in the Toyota lineup over a maintained Celica or Supra fighting the Mustang, or some other example of good investment in sporty coupes, tooth-and-nail.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Toyota didn’t make a lot of Celica All-Trac’s because they were built to meet homologation rules. That’s also why they were so heavy, as they featured double seam welded body panels and heavy reinforcements. They were never designed to be light.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Love the feedback. Although it seems like there is a bit more kvetching than usual over historical facts.

    First off, the prior generation Camry experienced a severe decline over its entire run for a long list of reasons. Lack of sport. Lower quality levels. The tsunami had an impact, sure, but it was nowhere near what a few of you are making it out to be.

    Nissan was harder hit by the tsunami. Yet their sales rose while every Toyota division experienced a substantial decline.

    http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/1/prweb9084471.htm

    In 2011, the Altima was a mere 12k units from overtaking the Camry as the best selling car in America. Does that represent a statistical fluke? Or does it represent the progress of an automaker that was able to infuse the excitement of many of their sporty cars into a mainstream sedan?

    The Sonata and Fusion also gained substantial ground in this segment since 2007. Should we stick our heads into the collective sand of propaganda? Or is there perhaps a reason why Toyota is now having to address the issues I mentioned in this article.

    The company has made progress with the new Camry, which was given a positive review by yours truly, and even bought on behalf of my 70+ year old mom. So personally, I’m not here to simply sow sour grapes.

    But to be blunt, Toyota does have serious image issues with all three of their brands in North America. They are taking steps in the right direction. But to ignore what exists, without understanding the decisions that lead to those failures, is to never progress as an automaker… or as an enthusiast.

    Which is why GM and Chrysler went bankrupt not too long ago… and which is why you will likely continue to see another author highlighting why Opel and Fiat have become basket cases.

    Sometimes it is those decisions back in the day that lead to the wrong turns you’re experiencing at the moment.

    All the best!

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I don’t know if the tsunami specifically had a greater effect on Nissan than Toyota, but the combination of the earthquakes and tsunami did less harm to Nissan’s production capabilities than it did to Toyota or Honda.

      http://www.saaautoleaders.org/content/ypn+insight/8419
      From Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Bill Visnic: “Nissan’s record October sales show the company not only has a product range and price point that currently is well-aligned with consumer demand, but that the company probably still is enjoying an advantage in vehicle availability compared with chief rivals Toyota and Honda. Considering that the Thailand flooding may further prolong inventory shortages for Toyota and Honda, Nissan may extend its supply advantages through the end of the year.”

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “Nissan was harder hit by the tsunami.”

      It’s the opposite. Nissan lost less production, and was fully back online by May 2011. Toyota didn’t get back to 100% until September 2011. Honda was harder hit than either.

      http://www.autoremarketing.com/mobile/retail/nissan-plants-near-full-production-capability

      “Or is there perhaps a reason why Toyota is now having to address the issues I mentioned in this article.”

      How is it an issue that Toyota dumped its mainstream sporty compact coupe, when every other automaker did the same thing? Or is the sequel of this article going to claim that Ford is about to implode because it scrapped the Probe?

  • avatar
    sudden1

    Ok, grzydj, you win.
    Thank you. You said so much and said so little. As an obvious serious Toyota fan,I encourage you to check out:

    http://www.mat.fi/n_index.php?nav=gallery_view&gallery=projecttoyotacelicaturbotc35&g=13

    787 pictures, and I looked at every one…

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    No mainstream turbo-4 from any of the Japanese manufacturers for the US?

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      By definition, turbo is not mainstream.

    • 0 avatar
      daiheadjai

      Acura RDX.

      But it seems to have gotten poor reviews for gas consumption.
      There were also the 3SGTE, 4G63, EJ-20 and SR20DET – 4-cyl turbo engines which were 4-cyl turbo engines before it was cool to be 4-cyl turbo engines.
      However, these went out with the sport coupes that sported them (no pun intended), especially as they tended to be overengineered and relatively bulletproof (which meant heavy).

      OK, I guess you’re right – no MAINSTREAM turbo-4.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    Can’t we all acknowledge there are laws of physics that limit what can be done? Toyota isn’t head-and-shoulders above the rest anymore, because “the rest” learned and caught up, especially the Big-3 who had the most catching up to do. In fact, the rest are so close that Toyota mistakes show up in an obvious manner.

  • avatar
    wsn

    The 2007 vs. 2011 Camry sales argument is completely flawed.

    1) 2007 is the peak year of auto sales. The author should have listed sales from other car makers for comparison. FWIW, Pontiac G6 sales went to 0.

    2) 2011 is the year natural disaster striked Japan. Should have used either 2010 figure, or early 2012 figure.

    3) Venza, the Camry wagon, was introduced in 2008. You need to add that to the Camry sales to not miss the big picture.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Why should the Venza be added to Camry sales. That is like adding Edge sales to the Fusion. It is apples to apples to compare Camry with Accord (Crosstour now separated out), Fusion, Malibu, Passat, Sonata, Optima etc because they all come in one body style. Lets not get into the game of adding disparate models under one name like the Yaris hybrid (aka Prius C in the US) just to trumpet higher sales for a nameplate. That is a game I expect of GM not Toyota.

      I don`t presume to know what the author thought but I assume 2011 was quoted since it was the last full year of sales. Using 2012 would mean extrapolating sales out to December.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    The hatchet job from car bloggers on Toyota is simply because they ‘stopped making cars for car guys’.

    But, how many of these guys buy brand new performance coupes? Usually thy go to Auto Shows, post ‘build it’ on internet, and then just keep driving the vehicle that ‘Mrs Car Guy’ approves.

    Coupe sales dropped off period, since many ‘car guys’ buy used to add mods. Or, they “can’t fit baby seat in back, so…”.

    Reality is the boom economy crasshed in 2001, and new car buyers want safe and reliable. Car guys demand ‘cool’, but then buy used, or what wife decides, so, oh well.

    Toyota and Honda are back with vengenge, last sales figures show they lead segments. Don’t assume that they will ‘do nothing’ as GM did for eons.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      chicagoland. Yes and no. I agree that Toyota not offering a dedicated, mainstream sports car chassis (as implied by the article) isn’t the end of the world. Toyota not being able to keep their cars competitive with evolving expectations in vehicle dynamics throughout their lineup is a huge deal. That was one of GM’s major sins over the last 20-odd years, and one that does have long term consequences. Customer loyalty and brand perception mitigate the impact on sales big time, so right now it’s Toyota’s ad agencies problem, give the perception enough time to percolate however and the problem belongs to corporate.

      Where it gets tricky is the cart/horse issue with nurturing engineering talent and the improvements to the rest of the lineup that a sporty halo might inspire. Which comes first? Is there any impact on pedestrian car dynamics if the halo engineers aren’t used in a specific way?

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Personally I dunno why everyone wants “sporty” in their cars, if you want “sporty” go buy a sports car, not a plain sedan.

    I’m probably one of the few kids that’d pay extra cash for more years on a car.

    As for the Neon “trouncing the Tercel”, well lets see which ones held up better, its a shame that we never got the turbo Tercel.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      “Sporty in their cars?” because it is serious fun to stomp a teenager with your mom-mobile. Tell me the idea of passing cars in a Speed3 Mazda5 doesn’t appeal on some level. Also, it is more luxurious feeling to drive a car with monster torque figures. Not my bag of tea either, but it is fun I’ll admit.

      If you meant sporty handling…there is no tradeoff between reliability and sporty suspension setup, so long as you aren’t camber/toeing your tire setups to extremes (no one is). The criticism here is that Toyota could bother to spend the time doing a comprehensive and world class suspension setup for the Corrolla but they simply haven’t bothered. They certainly have the volume, time, (maybe talent?) and cash to do so. Also, sporty doesn’t have to equate to poor ride either.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I do like having decent torque, but I’ve found responsive steering and pedals to be fun for me, I don’t race at the stop lights.

        These thing are fun, but 97% of my driving is traffic and suburbs, it’d be boring even in a Countach.

        I’ve found most older compacts to be pretty fun, right now I have an ’89 Tercel that I’ve yet to really test the limits of, I’ve got no decent country roads.

  • avatar
    manbridge

    Celica Alltrac owner weighing in. I had a 1990 model from 97K to 150K. Nothing but oil changes, AC hose, and a wheel bearing or two. A sturdy car, yes but certainly no sports car. More a GT. An absolute blast on loose gravel/snow here in Colorado. Liked it so much I bought a 93 from the original owner. Still have it. Replaced O2 sensor and a wheel bearing.

    After almost 20 years I’d say the difference in price between a GSX/Talon was more than worth it. I can’t think of another car from the early 90s with sporting pretensions that has held up so well. People still ask me if it is new model. It will be my son’s first car when he is of age.

    I also have a DD 1990 GTS that I got for free. I stripped 300lbs out of it when gas was outrageous. At 205K miles the drain plug somehow backed out and I drove it until the engine locked up. Came back the next day planning to haul it off for scrap but we put 4 qts in and it fired right up. It has been hailed on, deered on, and hammered on. Apparently it won’t die. Still driving it.

    I like Toyotas from the early 90s due to better rust resistance and simpler OBDI emissions. They were the perfect intersection of technology combined with reliability and quality. IMO.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    You have to be living in the parallel world of the West Coast to still believe in Toyota quality, or that that the “Japanese GM” Toyota has become in the states with poor fit and finish and just passable reliability has anything to do with 20-30 years ago when Toyotas could easily run 200k at a time where 100k was a pipe dream for many cars.

    They still have the nerve to say how 80% of Corollas sold in the last 20 years are still on the road. The abysmally pitiful and plasticky modern Corolla (aside from being an expensive and cramped sleep aid) is in no way on par in terms of quality with prior models.

    Luckily there are enough of the “imports are better” crowd who will continue to buy these lousy American made cars to keep Toyota afloat and profiting based on stereotypes that don’t apply anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Wow. Is that really true? Is Toyota really making bad cars? Are they truly living on their reputation?

      I wonder how, in reality, Chrysler, for example, actually stands up to an average Toyota in terms of quality?

      I ask that because I’d like to see an actual metric that tells me what cars really are the best and worst and everything in between, and not based on perception.

      Here I go again, but my car, bad as most everybody says it is has been just as reliable to our right-off-the-boat-from-Japan 2002 Honda CR-V. How can I be unhappy about that?

      In other words, so what if a car has less-than-perfect panel gaps, fits, etc. Does it start/stop/work/not fall apart right in front of your eyes? That’s reliability, not personal perception.

      I think Toyota will be just fine. All OEMs are under the cash crunch and are going to cut corners wherever they can because they have to in the present world economic circumstance. Wait ’til the bottom really falls out, then none of this will make any difference.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        Zackman, as an exercise, pay attention to the panel gaps that the MSM claim should be the “industry standard”. Bonus points if the car is a premium European. Check the ones in your Impala and the one you’re going to buy. Compare.

        Then, next time you read a review, bring your boot covers and life-vest. You may even need a boat when your BS meter goes to the max reading.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    I remember years ago that it was very rare for any car maker to have just a four door offering. There was always a Coupe version and to some extent the car makers still do it (Honda Civic, Ford Focus) but its still pretty rare.

    The Big 3 Japanese makes were the best at diversifying each vehicle they had in the late 80s. The Nissan Sentra came in an amazing six forms (sedan, coupe, 3 dr hatch, 5 dr hatch, notchback sport, wagon). This still happens in Europe, surprised it doesn’t happen anymore here.

  • avatar
    PlentyofCars

    You forgot about the Altezza/IS300 which was available through the 2005 model year.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India