Slow Sales Of Scion FR-S Disappoint Toyota, Jeopardize Engine Upgrades
The Scion FR-S – lightweight, affordable sports car that the world was supposedly waiting for – is reportedly lagging behing its sales targets across the globe, making it difficult for Toyota to justify upgrading the engine or bringing a convertible to market.
Speaking to Auto Express, Toyota Europe R&D head Gerald Killman said
“A faster version of that car would be at the top of most people’s wish lists, but like the cabriolet, it is hard to justify a business case to push either model into production based on the current sales.”
Killman also reportedly expressed befuddlement over the car’s cool reception in the market, depsite enthusiastic reviews, not realizing that this is exactly the problem. Enthusiasts, like automotive journalists, don’t buy new cars. Even though they clamored for a new rear-drive sports car that was relatively affordable, gearheads still found fault with all sorts of things, from the lack of power to the less than impressive numbers it put up and even the sub-$25k pricetag (according to some, it should have been around $20k). If this car suffers an unnaturally short lifespin, there will be plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth from the same people who criticized it and never bought it in the first place.
This is also a particularly tough time for a youth-oriented sports car to exist in the marketplace. Car ownership for the FR-S’ target market has become a faraway dream in Europe, a relic of an idea in Japan and a luxury in North America. Personally, I think the car was a victim of too much hype. The Toyobaru could never measure up to the effusive praise heaped on it by the media, though I have grown to like the car more and more as time goes on.
McDonalds listened to what customers wanted and made the McLean deluxe, a hamburger that was 91% fat free. Nobody liked it or bought it. This car reminds me of the McLean, everyone want's a simple sports car, but these are not selling.
So which, is it? "is reportedly lagging behind its sales targets across the globe "the Subaru/Scion introduced in 2012 has proven popular with both companies reporting strong sales and has shown that the small but clear void in the market was very real indeed. It seems that people really do want a cheap and practical but rear-drive and sporty daily driver."_ SCG Anecdotally, I see more and more of the Twins on the streets everyday, and, I don't live in a big city. Interestingly, yesterday, I had just came back from the Toyo dealer after measuring up an FRS for an LS transplant(Thank you Lithia, et al), when I saw this post. After suffering through the usual inane comments, there was a sparse scattering of considered comments. Today, I looked at a few more comments, but a guy can only take so much of the lame comments by the prejudiced sort, who are never going to buy anything that matters, let alone a FRS/BRZ. For anyone who can actually drive at the 90th percentile, the Twins are a wonderful addition to the sporty car ranks... Thank you Toyota/Subaru. While safely sorted/equipped from the MFG's, for drivers of all skills, the Twins can be easily fined tuned for more deliberate sporty uses or track work. And, I have never seen one break on the track or at Auto-X's For those complaining about a lack of power, I'm pretty sure you can't handle additional Hp, except on an on-ramp, but your not a buyer anyway, so quit bothering us and throw sand at someone else. If you are an 'owner', and really want more thrust, the after market is ready to supply power enhancements, but then you already know that, your no dummy. By the way, I love people with generous amounts of disposable income, who want more power. Pays my bills and buys my toys. As I write this, across the shop and in process, is our first ever transplant of a Cobra 'R' engine into an NA Miata. I gotta love Horsepower Freaks with bucks. And 'JB' denigrates the handling of the Twins? Who cares, that guy drives an Accord of all things. Sorry, JB, couldn't resist. After market suspension, wheels & tires, would cure his complaints in the first, fast, compound apex. That is, after he is fighting shape. Toyo/Subaru did damn fine job bringing to market a light weight sporty coupe with considerable potential in this day of demanding safety considerations that pile on the weight... Thanks, again Toyo/Subaru. If reducing weight was all that easy and cheap, why didn't Ford find more weight to lose in the 2015 Mustang? Interior complaints. Enhanced interiors add more weight and cost more money. Go buy a Luxo boulevard cruiser, whiner. You just can't have it all. Cars, like life, is about compromises... give and take. More power? You weren't the sophisticated market target of the Twins. See your Big Three dealer for your 'special' needs. Owners and the aftermarket, love their Twins, and couldn't care less about the whining of the sandbox mentality crowd.
Maybe Toyota/Subaru can retune the ECU? If not them, someone in the aftermarket must have done this by now. Since it sounds like a more powerful engine is off the table, make the best of the one you have. 200 hp in a car that light should be plenty, if you are willing to rev it. Making the power delivery more linear might help.
Looking over this thread and the same theme keeps coming up. Even among the people who cross-shopped the Toyobaru with the Mustang. They did not like the character of the car. They wanted it to be something else. I think this is at the core of both the debate around these cars in particular, and the internet car fandom issue in general. These cars were conceived as continuations of the small sports car concept which had existed since at least the 1930s. The entire point is that you have to beat the snot out of them to go anywhere. The thrill came not from being fast, but from having to drive them with spirit. Sports cars never sold well. This kind of car has a very narrow market niche and has ALWAYS received much criticism. One point that Derek made in his article, and which others (including me) have echoed in the comments is that the online car enthusiast community kept saying how much they wanted this kind of car. Then Toyota and Subaru actually built it, and this same global electronic community lambasted the car for not being all many of things which it was NEVER intended to be, or was NEVER economically possible. It was not supposed to be a Mustang, it was not supposed to be roomy enough to be a practical "only" car. It was never supposed to have a lot of power. It was never economically possible to have a nice interior. It was never economically possible to have a more powerful motor. The car had to meet x cost requirements, y fuel economy goals, z safety laws, and do it all with parts from the Subaru and Toyota parts bins so that x was possible in the first place. Yes, they could have done a turbo motor. Yes, they could have done a better interior. Yes, they could have done so much else. But not for 20 million yen retail. Which, with the exchange rate at the time (which was VERY different than the current exchange rate, which everyone forgets), led to the car being $25k. I've been reading a lot of interesting points about how the Mustang does all these other things better. That is laudable. But it also missed the point. The Toyobaru was never intended to do those things in the first place. So, if you are concerned about those things these cars make no sense. But the entire point of the Toyobaru was to articulate a specific idea of how to have fun while driving a car. It was not supposed to be fast. Nor to have a ton of grip (hence the tires chosen). It wasn't intended to be practical. It's a lot like music. The FR-S and BRZ a pair of songs in a niche genre which exist as essentially an artistic statement. We don't have to like said art. We can critique it in the sense of what we would prefer. But to claim that it was a mistake or bad, because of the statement it makes, is to miss the point. The reaction from the online community teaches us two things. Firstly, it is impossible for a car company to satisfy this fan base with any car, and so treating "the online commentariat" as a source of knowledge to be consulted is a fool's errand. They should be ignored under any and all circumstances. Secondly, thanks to the visual language of Gran Turismo, Top Gear and other UK press, and others, the global car enthusiast community has come to embrace less diverse views of what constitutes "fun." If it can't do a big, smokey drift, or go faster than a certain arbitrary speed, then it cannot be considered as being of any worth. The fact that many of the media figures at the heart of this viewpoint (one Jennifer Clarkson in particular) actually doesn't feel that way is irrelevant. The entertainment they have presented has been taken as gospel, and alternative views have been sent to the margins. This has led to the car buying public shifting their car-buying preferences in general. The always small sports car demographic has shrunk considerably further. It may no longer be viable as a market niche. People will say online they are in love with the idea. But they will not or cannot support it with their wallets. The car industry is probably already well aware of this. But if they aren't, they should be now. Toyota might have been able to do the FR-S because Akio can force the project through, but the business case is poor, and the market is shrinking. Better to do something else at work, and then buy one and play with it at home as a hobby.