By on November 8, 2018

Toyota has been exceptionally vocal about its desire to spice up the brand and, for the most part, it has delivered. Expressive, sometimes polarizing, designs have begun populating its lineup as company president Akio Toyoda endlessly talks up the merit of sporting vehicles. While other chief executives focus solely on promoting mobility, he’s discussing the importance of building fun-to-drive cars.

The company’s motorsports group, Gazoo Racing (GR), has even started cranking out tuned versions of the brand’s road cars. However, none of them have made it to North America — nor will they. Despite all of Toyoda’s seemingly earnest talk of performance models, the United States hasn’t seen it manifest into anything tangible.

Considering Toyota also decided not to offer GR models in the U.S., and with cost-cutting measures making the 86 coupe a potential candidate for discontinuation, Akio’s grand vision doesn’t look particularly robust in the West. 

“For me, this is the kind of car we should all dream of making,” Toyoda said of the original Mini while being honored by Autocar earlier this year. “Affordable, simple and as fun to drive as a go-kart. Even if in the future people go to work in autonomous pods, as industry leaders it is also our job to keep making cars like this.”

Toyota already makes a few vehicles like this — the aforementioned 86 and 210-hp Yaris GRMN, being personal favorites. But one may soon face death while the other has been confirmed to stay out of North America. In fact, CarBuzz recently asked Toyota if any of the Gazoo models would make it into the United States.

“We do have TRD here in the U.S. and we have a lot of equity with that brand for many of our models. Other global markets are aligning with GR as their performance brand. Going forward, we’ll evaluate if there is value for us to align with GR, but at this time, we don’t plan to introduce the existing GR products,” responded Nancy Hubbell, senior manager of Toyota Product Communications.

We have a minor issue with that. Toyota Racing Development (TRD) has been analogous with off-roading for almost as long as anyone can remember. Its catalog reflects this perfectly, as the number of parts available for trucks absolutely trumps what’s on offer for cars. This doesn’t mean Toyota can’t bring GR models over to America as TRD variants, but we’re wondering if it would bother.

It’s not a hopeless situation, though. The brand is bending over backwards to deliver on its performance promise for the rest of the world. Toyoda was even spotted cruising around in the back of a prototype Century GR Sport two months ago, which is about as crazy and good as ideas come. This was followed by talk of a return of the MR2, even as the new Supra is readied for mass production, and there are supposed to be TRD versions of the Camry and Avalon appearing at the LA Auto Show at the end of this month.

Toyota is clearly committed to this performance mindset and a return to glory. We’re just worried it won’t extend its vision to North America. Those souped-up GR models are enticing. But an Avalon TRD? We’re not so sure. It might just bring some ground effects and new wheels.

[Images: Toyota]

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9 Comments on “Sorry, Gazoo Racing Models Aren’t Coming to the United States...”

  • avatar

    TRD was a small sponsor on Dan Gurney’s Eagles in IMSA competiton. However, yes they are primarily an off-road tuning department.

  • avatar


    I’m glad you want fun-to-drive cars. Toyota/Lexus cars should be more than four-wheeled appliances.

    However, I’m wondering what “fun-to-drive” translates to in Japanese because, to my eyes, ugly is NOT the same as fun-to-drive. Is it because your designers have no input into suspension tuning that they decide that ghastly, overwrought… frankly, juvenile… styling cues need to be plastered all over your newest cars. I mean, your legion of Avalon owners… did they really demand the new Avalon look like Darth Vader? I’m not mentioning Lexus as I don’t want my spine pulled out of my back.

    You can do better. Perhaps you should start by buying some Italian design house. Or, even easier to do, find a dictionary and tell your designers look up ‘elegant’, ‘graceful’ and, above all else, ‘restrained’. My eyes would greatly appreciate it. Thanks.

    • 0 avatar

      This. Times fifty-leven.

    • 0 avatar

      Good point on buying a design house. KIA went out and got Peter Schreyer from AUDI and it turned them around. Toyota though, may be the most proud of companies and that culture can stifle, or lead down the wrong roads. It’s not like they haven’t made cool cars, Supra, MR2, Celica (and I like to think my 2000 GS is pretty cool-looking). But those were a long time ago. Maybe Akio needs to go the John DeLorean route and go rogue.

    • 0 avatar

      Well stated James2. Most (all?) new Toyotas are becoming absolutely ghastly. I pine for the days of when Toyota had their “boring” family cars (read: tastefully styled) and then legitimate sporty cars that were more interesting looking and had the performance to back it up.

  • avatar

    GRMN Yaris is awesome. Makes me want a GRMN Yaris. If it said TRD Yaris I’d want it just as much.
    Toyota has the ability and resources to bring 1000 or 5000 or 10000 of these performance tuned models to the North American market.
    Just do it.
    You are so boring and vanilla Toyota.

  • avatar

    “You want fun cars?”

    “Yes, please.”


  • avatar

    Toyota branding committee:

    We’ve got to build some excitement in our brands!

    Did you say excrement? We could make a TuRD edition!

    No, no, no. Excitement! Fun! Like cartoons!

    How about naming something after a 60 year old cartoon character! The Gazoo edition!


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