By on November 7, 2013


It’s been a year-and-a-half, and the Toyobaru twins have not lost their luster. Proximity has not made the heart grow less fond. American sports car consumers still want to buy the Scion FR-S and the Subaru BRZ.

In the case of the lower-volume Subaru, the desire is growing at an especially fast rate.

Shortly after sports cars and coupes and roadsters debut, we expect to see demand tail off. Deep-seated anticipation leads many customers to buy early. Perhaps their orders were already in, maybe they only need a five-minute test drive. And we did see this with both the FR-S and BRZ. FR-S volume has never risen as high as it did in the car’s first full month, June 2012, when 2684 were sold. BRZ sales have twice stepped ahead of the early level, but only after many months went by. BRZ volume fell 39% from June 2012’s 818 units in July 2012. Again, this outcome was anticipated and thus it was tolerated.

Fortunately, the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ levelled off afterwards, at the very least. Scion averaged 1441 FR-S sales per month over the second half of 2012, 1547 FR-S sales in Q1 of 2013, 1794 in Q2, and 1582 U.S. sales in Q3.

The BRZ averaged 509 sales per month in the second half of 2012, never falling below 402 units; never rising above 623. Subaru dealers then averaged 596 sales per month in the first quarter of 2013, 760 sales in Q2, and 759 in Q3.

Your pressure is fine, Toyobaru. Both diastolic and systolic are within statistical norms.

This kind of sure and steady improvement has been known to occur with other new coupes. On a longer-term scale, Dodge has consistently sold more Challengers each and every year since the muscle car debuted in 2008.

On the other hand, Mazda watched as sales of the MX-5 tumbled year after year from 2006 until 2011 – a 66% drop over that span – before rising only slightly in 2012 and then falling again in 2013. We’re judging a fairly brief period with the BRZ and FR-S, and their rawness could limit appeal over the long haul. In the here and now, however, it’s safe to say that for each of these two cars to have succeeded there must have been more than hype on their side.

Yet the method by which we measure success depends a great deal on how we view a car’s competitive set. We know the FR-S isn’t supposed to sell as often as a Camry, but establishing the kinds of cars with which the FR-S and BRZ are most likely to be cross-shopped is a task for owners of crystal balls. Will you consider an FR-S and a Genesis Coupe, a BRZ and a WRX, an FR-S and a Camaro, a BRZ and an MX-5, an FR-S and a 1-Series?

We’ve displayed a plethora of possible opponents in the accompanying table for you to peruse. There’s no doubt that American car buyers turn to (sometimes Canadian-built) American muscle cars in very high numbers. Many more buyers want two doors but prefer a softer, gentler, front-wheel-drive warm hatch.

We should also take the time to consider a wider-ranging field. In the grand scheme of things, in terms of different types of cars which left showroom floors in 2013, how do the overall numbers for the FR-S and BRZ measure up? Combined sales of the BRZ and FR-S reached 23,126 units between January and October.

Lincoln sold 26,684 MKZs during that ten-month period. Cadillac sold 26,472 XTS sedans. Acura sold 21,057 TLs. Toyota Yaris sales fell 24% to 20,029. Volvo sold 20,008 S60s. The Chevrolet Volt, America’s 71st-best-selling car this year, found 18,782 buyers. The Nissan Leaf is just 704 sales back of the Volt.

On an individual basis, for every Porsche 911 sold, Scion sells nearly two copies of the FR-S. Mazda 6 volume is more than twice as high as FR-S volume. The BRZ sells about twice as often as the Scion iQ and more than three times as often as the BMW Z4.

The Lincoln MKZ, of course, isn’t a Scion FR-S rival, even though TTAC’s managing editor doesn’t become weak-in-the-knees over either car. Nevertheless, if we’re trying to gauge popularity, if we’re trying to acquire a clearer understanding of the frequency of a BRZ sale, paying attention to other successes and failures is of some benefit.

The Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ have both been hits. Don’t let hit status lull you into thinking that your uncle’s next car will be an FR-S. He will trade in his RAV4 for another RAV4. And remember, your neighbour doesn’t drive a BRZ. She just leased a Mercedes-Benz CLA250. Obviously.

Audi A5
1487 1308 + 13.7% 15,975 14,313 + 11.6%
BMW 1-Series
588 778 – 24.4% 5482 6313 – 13.2%
Chevrolet Camaro
5669 5122 + 10.7% 70,484 74,090 – 4.9%
Dodge Challenger
3256 2686 + 21.2% 45,833 36,309 + 26.2%
Ford Mustang
6918 5328 + 29.8% 66,083 72,149 – 8.4%
Honda CR-Z
325 244 + 33.2% 3871 3705 + 4.5%
Hyundai Veloster
2175 2464 – 11.7% 25,448 30,802 – 17.4%
Infiniti G37
Coupe/Convertible & Q60
657 718 – 8.5% 8816 11,004 – 19.9%
Mazda MX-5 Miata
377 461 – 18.2% 5167 5542 – 6.8%
Mini Cooper
(Hardtop, Convertible,
Clubman, Coupe, Roadster)
3145 4053 – 22.4% 35,519 37,239 – 4.6%
Nissan 370Z
537 383 + 40.2% 5648 6482 – 12.9%
Scion FR-S
1233 1107 + 11.4% 16,000 8572 + 86.7%
Scion tC
1499 1654 – 9.4% 16,505 19,790 – 16.6%
Subaru BRZ
780 402 + 94.0% 7126 3120 + 128%
Subaru Impreza WRX/STi
1356 1100 + 23.3% 14,782 10,629 + 39.1%
Volkswagen Golf GTI
1032 966 + 6.8% 11,287 14,226 – 20.7%
Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

39 Comments on “Cain’s Segments: The Toyobaru Twins...”

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Wow, I didn’t realize that so few people bought Miatas. Though as I’m thinking about it I rarely ever see a new one on the road. Even one a few years old.
    I also didn’t realize such a crapload of Camaros and Mustangs were being sold.

    • 0 avatar

      That was my first impression too; the Miata is a very good car, and it’s a shocker that it sells so poorly. If I was in the market for a roadster, it’d certainly be on my short-list. Really, I have the same question about most of their product line; they make by what all accounts are pretty decent vehicles that have a reputation for good handling, yet their marketshare in the US is unsustainably low. What does, say, Nissan, provide that Mazda doesn’t?

      If I was Mazda, I’d either be trying very hard to get myself bought out by another, larger, car company, or reduce my product line. A full product line and low sales are not a recipe for continued viability.

      They had a long a fruitful relationship with Ford, but Ford’s purged the last of the Mazda bits from their product line and their current strategy doesn’t include anything Mazda could provide them.

    • 0 avatar

      Cool, glad to see the pony cars doing well.

      • 0 avatar

        Mustang is well ahead this month, but tracking the sales between the 3 over the last year has been really interesting. Each of the big 3 pony cars had a pretty good year, especially the Challenger nipping at the heels of Camaro and Mustang sales during a couple months.

    • 0 avatar

      MX-5 and Toyobaru are very different cars. Toyobaru is more practical and more accessible to younger buyers. With all their faults, Toyobarus can be used as a daily driven car. The MX-5 is positioned as the car that will be a 2nd or 3rd car in a household.

      For the next revision of MX-5, Mazda should seriously consider using the platform to build a roadster and a coupe.

    • 0 avatar

      Not that surprising considering it’s still the same car from 2006MY and the price increases year after year with no improvements to show for it. When it debuted, you could get the club spec model for a little over 20 grand; now the cheapest one you can get is 24.

  • avatar

    The GTI is down 21% because VW isn’t making any. The Mark VII version will debut in the US sometime next year.

    • 0 avatar

      Weird, I have seen new 2014 MKVI GTIs for sale in my area. I figured they were still building them in Germany. It’s not unusual for VW to keep building older models, even when the new ones have been released.

      Incidentally, I was only looking because I was curious to see if any German built MKVII’s would show up here. Guess we have to wait for the Mexican version.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s hard to find the date exactly, but most sources point to US market Mk VI GTI production having ceased in Wolfsburg in May of this year. Those last batch cars were issued as 2014 models, probably to keep the sequence going. The Mk VII GTI for North American consumption will be built in Mexico and will be 2015 models, available “sometime” in 2014. Fall 2014 is the best guess at the moment.

  • avatar

    The QC issues with these things have been abysmal, most concerning are engine and transmission problems. Seems that Subaru didn’t really pay attention to putting them together right.

    I wanted to buy a small sports car, but the initial dealer price hikes, the poor availability, and the eventual homogenization of the model line to two loaded versions (AT or MT) has soured me to the entire idea.

    And let’s not even talk about the fact that it’s a terribly underpowered car–the two or three we’ve encountered got smoked easily by our WRX Impreza wagon… which cost less, and can haul a 60″ TV.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought like you did when I had my Mk.5 Golf GTI, with stock powertrain and smoked every souped up FRS/BRZ during every encounter while hauling arses.

      But ever since I “downgraded” to a BRZ last month, every drive now regardless of distance has put a smile on my face and I can’t quite explain why I never want to leave the driver’s seat. It’s a really cheaply put together car but no issues so far *knock on wood*.

    • 0 avatar

      No doubt about it – straight-line speed and outright practicality are the Achilles’ heel of the twins.
      But flogging it on on-ramps and off-ramps, the (few) curvy roads in Toronto, I find this to be my decompression chamber after a day of work.

      But you’re right – I would never even bother if any WRX revved at me.
      Or V6 Camry for that matter.

      FWIW – there ARE flaws to this car, absolutely. I find the clutch a tad light, and Drive-by-wire still bothers me (even one tuned for response like this one) – but cornering flat at double the recommended speed is pretty addictive.

  • avatar

    A brief scan at a toybaru forum will quickly inform you that you get a long list of issues when you buy one of these things.

    Very untoyotalike.

    • 0 avatar

      I would suggest that scanning forums will tend to give you a very detailed, but also skewed look at the issues for a car.
      Enthusiasts will tend to discover flaws your average appliance buyer may not notice.

      That being said, there have been teething troubles – but my BRZ (purchased in mid 2013) exhibits none of the issues that early adopters identified (taillight condensation, “cricket chirp” from the fuel pumps etc.).

      I suspect this may also be a symptom of Subaru’s major role in the actual production of this car.

    • 0 avatar

      Well Consumer Reports says “Subaru and Scion got together to build an unreliable car,” citing specifically all the problems with the FR-S dragging the Scion brand down to 11th place, on par with Buick – but you know Consumer Reports, a bunch of haters.

      …But the slip in stature emerges upon closer inspection of the data. Along with the rankings of the Accord V-6 and Altima, the twin models shared by Scion and Subaru, the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ, scored below average in predicted reliability and were responsible for Scion falling from first place last year to 11th this year, and for Subaru falling from fifth to 10th.

      “On the whole, Japanese brands are still more reliable than Europeans or Americans,” said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports, in a telephone interview. “But we are talking about an Accord, Altima, Pathfinder, FR-S and BRZ, all below average. That’s something that’s kind of new…

      • 0 avatar

        Not exactly what I would conclude – the CR review of the cars was actually very positive (from a driving fun/dynamics perspective).
        But reliability is a separate issue.

        All I can say is, I haven’t experienced any major issues (or really any minor ones) beyond a stupid navi unit…

    • 0 avatar

      You should see what they write about Pentastar’s ticking in Jeep forums :-)

    • 0 avatar

      “Very untoyotalike.”

      That’s because it was engineered by Subaru, according to their own bragging and admission to many publications before these cars came out. Toyota should’ve taken the lead or had more oversight, it was their check book that made this car a reality. Very few Subarus have ever impressed me, and I wish Toyota did this car by themselves. It makes me dread the BMW/Toyota sports car they’re making, because we all know how awesome BMW quality is.

  • avatar

    Wow, the A5 is still selling strong. It is a hot car, but are we sure we don’t have A4 sales combined in there?

    “. . .but establishing the kinds of cars with which the FR-S and BRZ are most likely to be cross-shopped is a task for owners of crystal balls.”

    I seriously crossed shopped (test drove each) the FR-S, Ford Mustang V6, Genesis Coupe 2.0t and Camaro V6.

  • avatar

    The surprising thing for me is the A5 volume. How are they moving so many of these and where are they going?

  • avatar

    Also surprising is the % of change from last year. I don’t pay attention to Audi, so not sure if they refreshed, redesigned or chopped the price.

  • avatar

    The A5 is selling well, but that figure for US sales is off.

  • avatar

    It should be asked: How much of the ponycar numbers come from rental/fleet deals? Is it possible that this is having some effect on the results for the big 3 models (or at least the Mustang – not sure if Camaros and Challengers can be rented)?

    As far as I know, most of the other cars on the list are not offered by car rental places (though the Mini is on tap from ZipCar).

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    The Miata is a luxury, not in its price, but in the types of lifestyle that can afford a roadster.

  • avatar

    Ahh the BRZ. My dealership has been allocated 6 so far. We have sold 3 and swapped 3 out to other dealers. All the ones we sold sat on the lot forever before they sold. There is one dealer in my state (Maine) who has had one since last summer. I think it is a great car, but you need the right demographic to buy it. Most guys up here looking for a RWD summer sports car are going to buy a Camaro/Mustang/Challenger cause its more of a “NASCAR” mentality up here-and there is nothing wrong with that, I’m no snob. I’d be first in line at the Ford dealer myself.

    Bottom line, I kind of chuckle when I read how well they are selling, or that dealers are marking them up, or there is a long wait for one. Last one we sold we had on special below invoice for 2 months before it sold.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not surprised by this. I checked out both the BRZ and FR-S prices on Autotrader in the DC area. Despite the higher MSRP on the Subaru, I see posted prices for the BRZ that are lower than those for the Scion. I guess Subaru dealers have more pricing flexibility than Scion dealers.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Scion does have that single-price model.

        • 0 avatar

          Which makes the BRZ with discounts the only one worth looking at. More features and a lower price? What’s not to love?

          Scion has gotten a little out of control, and the price of the FR-S has climbed steadily since its release. What started as a $1200 difference in MSRP between the two cars had narrowed to $200 last I checked. And it comes with a lot less content than the Subaru model.

  • avatar

    I would also expect a bit of an uptick next year when they introduce higher-horsepower 2015 variants.

    Hopefully Mazda keeps their current win streak going with the next Miata. I am sure it won’t reach the highs of the original, but I hope that it at least returns to a successful sales rate.

  • avatar

    The FRS and BRZ are the modern equivalent to the first generation of the Mazda RX-7. That car was a success, too.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Around these parts the FR-S far outsells the BRZ due to the simple fact that there are very few Subie dealers, no demand for AWD in sunny So Fl

  • avatar

    Dear Honda.

    The CR-Z. Give it an Si engine or shoot it in the head.

    Thank you.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • 28-Cars-Later: Just an opinion for the editor, why do you maximize the size of the blue GM logo? I ask because it...
  • RHD: The original post in this thread had the analysis of its content in the very last line: “All BS.”...
  • Inside Looking Out: Grishka Rasputin is a brand of vodka.
  • redgolf: “The rule of thumb is never buy first year production cars” I disagree, I bought a 97 Pontiac GP...
  • SD 328I: Isn’t the current Ranger outselling everyone but the Tacoma? The current Ranger is nowhere near the...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber