Live or Die: What's the Real Deal With the Toyobaru Twins?

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
live or die whats the real deal with the toyobaru twins

January was peppered with claims that the Subaru BRZ And Toyota 86 aren’t long for this world. Rumors, which began spreading last year, stated the models weren’t selling well enough for either brand to rationalize continued sales, and those rumblings came to a head during the North American International Auto Show. There, seemingly every outlet asked engineers and executives what’s to become of them.

This week, outlets began reporting that Japanese automotive tabloid Best Car is preparing an article for its upcoming February issue explaining that Subaru and Toyota have “deviated on their development policies” and plan to break their collaboration on the Toyobaru twins.

It makes sense. Both models, each in production since 2012 (and largely unchanged since), have underperformed in terms of sales, especially lately. But things aren’t as simple as they might seem. Subaru has already said that Toyota pulling out wouldn’t mean an “immediate death sentence” for the BRZ. Toyota clarified a few things since then, too.

Hoping to debunk rumors of the 86 coupe’s demise, CarScoops reached out to Toyota’s U.S. spokesperson, Nancy Hubbell. “As [Toyota CEO] Akio Toyoda said at the reveal of the 2020 Supra, Toyota is committed to building exciting vehicles, including sports cars,” she explained. “The 86 has been in the Toyota family since 2013 and the plan is that it will continue to be a part of Toyota’s sports car line-up.”

It’s a very similar answer to what we’ve heard from Subaru — reassuring, without being terribly committal. But we’re inclined to believe both Toyobaru models will exist for at least another year.

Still, that doesn’t disprove the claim from Japanese Nostalgia Car, drawn from insider knowledge, that the February issue of Best Car will cite reliable sources who will ultimately verify the future cancellation of both sports cars.

There’s also growing speculation that the smaller engine offerings in the Japanese-spec Supra make the existence of the 86 problematic in Asia. Meanwhile, Automotive News reports that the older coupe had a snowball’s chance in hell of surviving into a second generation — despite claims that both automakers were working on developing a successor just last spring. Add in some confirmation from Toyota that it is considering bringing back the MR2, possibly as the 86’s replacement, and sketchy rumors that Subaru may have a mid-engined secret in the works, and you can see where all of this could be going.

Akio Toyoda has previously referred to the Supra, Celica, and MR2 as the “Three Brothers,” noting that he’d like to see them all return if a proper business case can be made. That’s a lot harder for Toyota to do with the 86 in its lineup. However, were the model to be replaced by something similarly lightweight and fun (cough, MR2), maybe Akio’s business acumen will be satisfied.

[Images: Toyota; Subaru]

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  • HelloWorld HelloWorld on Feb 01, 2019

    Toyota and Subaru had the right idea in 2012, but they ****** up the design of these things. They look like toys. Next time they go and try to come up with an exciting affordable sports car design, they oughtta ask Mazda's designers or hire some Italian design company.

    • Sportyaccordy Sportyaccordy on Feb 01, 2019

      I think they look great. The sad reality is the form factor of these just doesn't lend itself to big sales. These cars demand commitment that just isn't feasible for many or necessary for driving enjoyment.

  • APaGttH APaGttH on Feb 01, 2019

    Really no "meaningful" update since 2012 (I didn't say no updates, I said meaningful updates - don't get hurt fanbois), and launch delayed as it was. It's a nice platform but including development and launch delays it's pushing a decade old. Toyota already declared it a flop...globally...including in mother Japan. Most automakers would have taken it out back and shot it by now. No way on earth Toyota/Subaru recovered their development costs.

  • BklynPete So let's get this straight: Ford hyped up the Bronco for 3 years, yet couldn't launch it to match the crazy initial demand. They released it with numerous QC issues, made hay for its greedy dealers, and burned customers in the process. After all that, they lose money on warranties. The vehicles turn out to be a worse ownership experience than the Jeep Wrangler, which hasn't been a paragon of reliability for 50 years. The same was true of the Aviator, Explorer, several F-150 variants, and other recent product launches. The Maverick is the only thing they got right. Yet this company that's been at it for 120 years. Just Brilliant. Jim Farley's non-PR speak: "You don't get to call me an idiot. I get to call myself an idiot first."Farley truly seems hapless, like the characters his late cousin played. Bill Ford is a nice guy but more than a bit slow on the uptake too. They have not had anything resembling a quality CEO since Alan Mulally turned the keys over to Mark Fields - the mulleted glamor boy who got canned after 3 years when the PowerShi(f)t transaxles exploded. He more recently helped run Hertz into the ground with bad QC and a faulty database that had them arresting customers. Ford is starting to resemble Chrysler in the mid-Seventies Sales Bank era. Well, at least VW has cash and envies Ford's distribution reach and potential profitability.
  • Mike Beranek This guy called and wants his business model back.
  • SCE to AUX The solid state battery is vaporware.As for software-limited pack capacity: Batteries are obviously the most expensive component of an EV, so on the rare occasion that pack capacity is dramatically limited (as in your 6-year-old example), it's because economies of scale briefly made sense at the time.Mfrs are not in the habit of overbuilding pack capacity just for fun, and then charging the customer less.Since then, pack capacities have been slightly increased via software because the mfr decides they can sacrifice a little bit of the normal safety/wear margin in the interest of range. We're talking single-digit percentages, not the 60/75 kWh jump in your example.Every pack has maybe 10% margin built into it, so eating into that today (via range increases) means it's not available to make up for battery degradation tomorrow. My 4-year-old EV still has its original range(s) and 100% SOH, but that's surely because it is slowly consuming the margin built into the pack.@Matt Posky: Not everything is a conspiracy to get your credit card account, and the lengthy editorial about this has nothing to do with solid state batteries.
  • JLGOLDEN In order for this total newcomer to grab and hold attention in the US market, the products MUST be an exceptional value. Not many people will pay name-brand money for the pretty mystery. I can appreciate the ambition of selling $50K+ crossovers, but I think they will go farther with their $30K-$40K offerings.
  • Dukeisduke They're where Tesla was when it started - a complete unknown. I haven't heard anything about a dealer network. How are they going to sell these? Direct like Tesla? Franchises picked up by existing new car dealers?