Sorry, Gazoo Racing Models Aren't Coming to the United States

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

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]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • JohnTaurus JohnTaurus on Nov 08, 2018

    "You want fun cars?" "Yes, please." "NO GAZOO FOR YOU!"

  • Deanst Deanst on Nov 08, 2018

    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! Awesome....

    • TDIGuy TDIGuy on Nov 09, 2018

      Perhaps they are only meant for dum dums. (Oh, Harvey Korman. What a funny guy)

  • ToolGuy First picture: I realize that opinions vary on the height of modern trucks, but that entry door on the building is 80 inches tall and hits just below the headlights. Does anyone really believe this is reasonable?Second picture: I do not believe that is a good parking spot to be able to access the bed storage. More specifically, how do you plan to unload topsoil with the truck parked like that? Maybe you kids are taller than me.
  • ToolGuy The other day I attempted to check the engine oil in one of my old embarrassing vehicles and I guess the red shop towel I used wasn't genuine Snap-on (lots of counterfeits floating around) plus my driveway isn't completely level and long story short, the engine seized 3 minutes later.No more used cars for me, and nothing but dealer service from here on in (the journalists were right).
  • Doughboy Wow, Merc knocks it out of the park with their naming convention… again. /s
  • Doughboy I’ve seen car bras before, but never car beards. ZZ Top would be proud.
  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.