By on March 14, 2013

Ahh, the benefits of free PR. Mere minutes after Toyota UK’s official blog posted their “interview” with GT 86 chief engineer Tetsuya Tada, the outlets of the autoblogosphere were alight with Tada’s comments praising shooting brakes.

See, dropping a choice quote about Tada’s desire for a GT86 shooting brake isn’t just a coldly calculated way to ensure that this interview is re-posted ad infintium  on every content aggregator and “enthusiast blog” (read: free PR machine for the OEMs) in the world. It also provides a bit of insight into the economics of vehicle development, sales and manufacturing today – not to mention the PR and marketing side.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to how it all works. Toyota’s in-house communication channel gets an “exclusive” interview with Tada-san, which is even more tightly controlled than it would be with a third party blog. Everything here is being tailored to get the exact message out that Toyota wants.

But it can’t be too dry and fawning, or else the rest of the blogosphere wouldn’t seize on the original work, alter it slightly and then publish it under their own name. So a few nuggets must be dropped in to appeal to the auto blogger army, who tend to be automotive uber-nerds of the highest order. So we get the following quote

“Mass producing a sports car for a company like Toyota carries a big business risk and we’ve tried to mitigate that risk with our collaboration with Subaru. We say, ‘mitigate’ in one [easy] word, but we had to make some really tough decisions for us to realise this. Also, along the way, we investigated the possibility of a sedan [saloon] and a shooting brake.”

At this point, a million articles entitled “SCION FR-S SEDAN AND SHOOTING BRAKE HINTED AT BY TOYOTA”, and that’s that. The real juice is of course, further down the article, but over the heads of anyone without real understanding of the auto industry.

“It’s just my personal dream that the GT86 could become a family like what BMW has done with the Mini family. I hope that happens.”

Whereas the car nerds see a savior-like product that can redeem the homogeneous  soulless and terminally boring auto industry, Toyota sees a costly niche vehicle with little opportunity to take advantage of scale. Car development is a multi-billion dollar exercise. If a giant like Toyota needed to partner with Subaru to mitigate some of the financial risk, you can imagine what an undertaking the 86 program must have been.

Luckily, there’s a way around this problem, as BMW has demonstrated with Mini; make a million variants of the base car, with each one carrying a slight differentiation and a substantial price premium to allow for greater margin. While most Mini variants look like a cynical exercise in foisting high margin crap on self-concious yuppies, a range of FT-86 derived products would be pretty cool. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want a lineup of affordable, rear-drive vehicles that met their practical as well as emotional needs? The complexities of vehicle design also dictate that variants like a convertible had to be thought of in advance during the 86’s engineering.

There’s a good chance that these future variants, like a shooting brake and a sedan, were also envisioned, and likely not forgotten. Auto makers do not just turn on a dime and decide to produce a full lineup just because one niche sports car has done well – the timeline of vehicle development is simply too long  and too planned in advance for these things to happen. Everything in this business comes down to money. If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense. Never forget that. In fact, it’s quite liberating. And sometimes, it even leads to desirable outcomes like this.


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25 Comments on “Tada’s GT-86 Dreams Decoded...”

  • avatar

    Well here:

    I’d say it’s well on the way.

    Also here:

  • avatar

    I said they should do that from the beginning. So either I am a genius automobile company executive, or an uber car nerd. hmmmmmmm I wonder which it is… :)

  • avatar

    It’s interesting that the same strategy has been proposed for the Corvette, turning it into its own line of cars.

    It seems to me that there was a time, at least with the American car companies, that when they introduced a new sedan, it almost always came in two door, four door, station wagon and convertible versions. Hell, the Corvair came in all of those plus a van and a pickup.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Problem with the Corvette is that it’s too specialized to be adaptable to other body styles. The FT86, on the other hand, is largely a new body on an Impreza chassis, so it’s a lot closer to a hatch or a sedan or a wagon, etc.

      • 0 avatar

        Is that so?

        I always thought the Corvette, with it’s plastic body perked atop “frame” rails, wold be the easiest car around to make different body variants of. A ‘Vette shooting brake would be one cool car. As would an ’86 shooting brake of course…..

        The main issue as I see it wrt the ‘Vette and anything more practical than a fair weather sports/gt, is silly wide tires and a nose waaay too long and low, pretty much guaranteeing every single undulation in the road tears the front airdam right off it. But a snubnosed ‘Vette shooting brake with 215 width 17″ 70 60-70 series tires, would be a sick way to bomb around potholed LA surface streets. At the traffic mandated 3mph, of course :(

  • avatar

    Toyota, DO IT!! Sedan, farting brake, station wago, just do it! And then, everyone will make fun about “another GT86 Toyota appliance car”. I’d love it though, tired of FWD.

  • avatar

    Shooting brake? Well at least I wouldn’t have to worry about if there was room for my damn golf clubs. I’m only 35 but I can’t justify a “FUN” car without having room for my sticks.

  • avatar

    do that and you really will have a successor to the e30. I hope Mini and maybe the 500 show larger carmakers a way to make this sort of niche product work. Gotta wonder if there is a way for Mazda to pull this off with the Miata.

  • avatar

    BMW is the best.

    I believe this.

    And Toyota just confirmed it.

    • 0 avatar

      It is Toyota/Subaru that is making the family of lightweight, rear wheel drive cars, not BMW. The 1 and 3 series are overweight and overpriced. I will buy an FR-S shooting brake (actually I will probably head in for the shooting brake and end up with the sedan version). I’m not even tempted to lease anything BMW currently makes.

  • avatar

    Subaru should make a lifted AWD variant akin to the AMC Eagle.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    I love the FR-S, but have a family, so it doesn’t make much sense for me. A 4-door 86 though… I’m willing to do very bad things to get one…

  • avatar

    A sedanshooting brake version of the GT 86 just strikes me as pointless, the idea of the car was to be a sporty, lively fun car to drive, not a cheap mans Panamara…whatever stupid Porsche thing.

    Frankly I think its idiotic how blogs go insane about one little line that barely hints at anything.

    • 0 avatar

      I like the idea of the shooting brake. It makes sense. Its a cheap niche that would appeal to a sect of folks crazy enough to buy them.

      I really hope Toyobaru fixes the damn torque hole in the midrange though. If they come out with other (read: heavier) versions of this, 100lb-ft at 4000 RPM just won’t cut it. They could easily bore + stroke this thing out to 2.5L while adding zero weight, maintain the redline, and retune it to have actual midrange. Or offer a 3.0L H6. Something. As is its just crazy. The dyno charts look ridiculous.

      • 0 avatar

        I say that they should just throw in a different engine altogether, keep the boxer in the Subaru and offer 4wd while giving the Scion a regular 4 or 6 with decent mid-range, this’ll make some more differences between both models and help them fit within their brands.

    • 0 avatar

      I think that Toyota would have done well to develop the car as a shooting brake from the start… styled right, most of the people who bought it still would, and the vast numbers who won’t give up their lifestyles to buy the car they want would suddenly find it an option. Many of us can’t afford a second car as a toy but would buy something like the GT86 if it were remotely practical. Heck, I don’t even consider it affordable as an only car. The insurance increase alone seems unreasonable, let alone the cost to buy in.

      My loss and Toyota’s I guess.

  • avatar

    A “shooting brake”? Oh, in other words, they’re finally going to make a new 86? As a shooting brake is basically a hatchback with a squared off butt.

    I think a hatchback variant of the 86 would be a fantastic idea, give it a little more headroom in the (still useless) rear seat and lots more space for extra tires. A sedan variant would likely be a way to tie the 86 into the Lexus line as a sub-IS model… something in the 1-series size range (but cheaper in Toyota spec).

    No point in making a car that costs a crapload of money to develop if you don’t milk it for all it’s worth.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed the GT-86 should have been a hatch from the start, like it was originally. This is (was?) a no brainer! I still don’t understand why the current car has a trunk. Let me guess – rear stiffness? That’s the reason my Z has that stupid bar in the back. I’m a sucker for hatchs… so much more convenient. The wife has a Volvo C30 and now realizes how much easier loading and unloading various sized items are when you have a hatch style opening vs the mail slot you get with modern trunks (small deck lids + high bumpers = no room).

  • avatar

    If they decide to make a shooting brake, I hope they use some of that extended rear head room to push back the rear seats a couple inches. Then it would make much more sense.

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