By on January 17, 2019

Image: Subaru

News of the Toyota Supra’s four-cylinder engine, currently relegated to the Japanese market, bolstered media assumptions that the base model could eventually replace the 86 coupe in North America. While that’s a bit of a stretch, especially considering The Japan Times says a second-generation 86 is rumored to in the works for 2021, sales of the model sank nearly 40 percent in the United States last year. Toyota has also suggested it is considering paring its North American lineup.

Like the Supra, Toyota’s 86 is shared with a manufacturer that sells it under a different name, with its own unique flair. It may not sell as well, but the Subaru BRZ is essentially the same vehicle and its manufacturer doesn’t want you to worry about Toyota. It would like to continue building the lightweight sports coupe even if the 86 goes extinct. However, wanting to and doing so are two completely different things. 

“The car has been great for the brand, certainly one of the halo vehicles from a performance perspective,” Subaru’s head of North American communications, Ron Kiino, told CarBuzz at the 2019 North American International Auto Show. “As far as giving customers a Subaru feel, a lightweight sports car, the boxer engine is a big part of that. For our brand we think the BRZ makes sense and we feel there’s a demand.”

When asked if a decision by Toyota not to do a new 86 would result in the elimination of the BRZ, Kiino said “it’s not an immediate death sentence,” without elaborating further.

While it would be hard to imagine the BRZ without the 86, Subaru could theoretically go it alone. Both models are manufactured at its Gunma assembly plant, smack dab in the middle of Japan, without much aid from Toyota. Sure, Big T designed the transmission and fuel injection system, but the rest of the flat-four powertrain is pure Subaru.

That doesn’t necessary mean fate will be kind to the BRZ without Toyota’s involvement. Last year, Subaru only managed to move 3,834 units in the U.S. and Kiino’s words are only tepidly reassuring. We’re not prepared to assume anything other than Subaru not wanting to let go of the model unless it has to — which seems probable.

Image: Subaru

[Images: Subaru]

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52 Comments on “Will the Subaru BRZ Survive If Toyota Nixes the 86?...”


  • avatar
    turbo_awd

    Well, Toyota also sold 4100+ units in 2018 of the ’86. So, that’s ~8k sales for the model. Best combined was around 20k in 2013, I think the first full year on sale, and Subaru’s sales that year were ~8500. If Subaru gets most of Toyota’s sales, they would still be around 6500-7500 units, which wouldn’t be that bad, I would think. More with a redesigned model with more power..

    It’s actually not too far off what the Miata sales are.. Plus, it gets a young buyer in the door to later look at a WRX..

  • avatar
    Lynchenstein

    Why they haven’t continued to improve the motor with more torque and HP, I’ll never know.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      The mind boggles as to why no factory turbo was fitted to this car.

      As noted if all 86 sales went into Subara’s cart they would be happy. However the 86 really doesn’t fit with their corporate AWD mindset. Given its age a redesign must be in the works. Can Subaru on its own make this car better? Can they really justify a ground up redesign in a CUV-centric world? If they kept the car as is with just a mild refresh would sales completely dry up? Too many questions here thus I would sadly expect it to die.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I’d support going full electric on the BRZ/86 just as an easy way to get some dang torque (and with a flat torque curve too.)

        • 0 avatar
          EAF

          I’d support Toyota’s 2GR or 8AR installed in the 86, oil consuming & lethargic boxers are a no go.

        • 0 avatar
          MoparRocker74

          “Electric” and “driver’s car” do NOT mix.

          What looks great on a computer spreadsheet doesn’t translate into the visceral experience that a car like this is expected to deliver. Electrics and hybrids at best will overtake in the vanilla appliances where the consumers either don’t know or don’t care what powers their little silver blob.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            *FOR ME*, “Electric” and “driver’s car” do NOT mix.

            There, fixed it for you. People are allowed to decide what they like and don’t like in a car for themselves.

          • 0 avatar
            MoparRocker74

            People already HAVE decided. ‘Sporty’ electrics/hybrids are all dismal failures.

            If you don’t know the difference between a car that’s engaging to drive vs something that does everything for you, Im not explaining it.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            Electric motorcycles are picking up steam (Ducati is rumored to have one coming soon), and as someone who regularly races electric go karts I can say that in the context of “thing you use to go fast” the method of propulsion is irrelevant.

            Now for he visceral/sensory stuff obviously there is a difference, but for many that doesn’t matter. I’d be happy with an electric commuter for example as most of my commute is spent cruising at 75-80MPH, as I imagine is the case for many people.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Doesn’t even need to be a lot of HP. Get it up to around 250 on each (more or less) and we’d have something fun to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      MoparRocker74

      The execution of this car reeks of GM-grade hubris….

      The idea was ALWAYS here, its the execution that’s halfassed. The market for this car has repeatedly demanded a factory turbo/more power only to be told ‘you don’t need that, you’re stupid and we know better than you’ by the engineers. Being conservative with vanilla people movers is smart, but with image building halo cars it’s suicide. Gee whiz, wonder why this car didn’t take off?

      What would I have done? Id have capitalized on how easily the 86 and BRZ could have been two VERY distinct cars. The body styles could stay just like they are. Over at Toyota, use a high revving inline 4 of at least 230 hp, rwd and revive the Celica name. Over at Subaru, use the Imprezas AWD system with either a n/a boxer as a base volume builder and/or WRX grade power as a mid level with the STI power plant sitting at the top. Basically a straight up sportscar STI for those of us who don’t need 4-doors and/or are put off by the frumpy sedan look.

      There IS a market for these cars. But only selling mild mannered powerplants isnt what it wants. Way I see it, Toyobaru has 3 options:

      —Give up.

      —Double down on the we-know-best idiocy that clearly is failing.

      —Invest in fixing this car’s shortcomings and giving buyers what you already know they want.

  • avatar
    gasser

    There has to be a certain minimum number of units to keep an assembly line open and a supply chain up and running (not to mention a minimum number to justify continued product investment). I don’t know that number, but product planners must have been pessimistic to split develpment and production costs with another manufacturer. A number that makes Mazda and Subaru happy may only be a rounding error to a large company like Toyota, which is seeking to simplify product lines.

  • avatar
    notwhoithink

    More importantly, will anyone over the age of 26 care, or even notice?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Will the Subaru BRZ Survive If Toyota Nixes the 86?”

    No, and only 4000 potential customers will care.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    The BRZ and 86 are nearly identical. I guess the question is how many 86 buyers would settle for a BRZ from the Subaru store if Toyota abandoned the car.

  • avatar
    James2

    If Akio cared (really) about Toyota being a sports-car maker, he would suck it up and tell his minions to go forth with a second-generation 86… call it a Celica, this time… address all the criticisms of the first car… then see how sales fare. Maybe 40 *thousand* people wanted more power and looked elsewhere for it.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Better brakes too.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Agreed. When it comes to sports cars, Toyota acts as though it’s a small company with insufficient funds to build a great one, so they partner with Subaru and BMW. Two manufacturers, mind you, that dont immediately come to mind when you think of affordable RWD sporty cars.

      Hell, even Mazda manages to design and build the Miata on it’s own. It certainly isnt their breadwinner, but it is iconic for the brand and sets the tone for the rest of their lineup. Would that money be better spent on building a Camry? I dont think so. The sales may be minuscule in the grand scheme of things, but the value it gives to the brand as a whole is immeasurable.

      Toyota could take notice, IF, as you say, they were actually serious about having sports cars in their bag. Right now, true enthusiasts (who do read up on such things) are not impressed with their odd partnerships in building sporty cars, nor the gaping maws and TuRD packages on their boring sedans that supposedly make them sporty.

  • avatar

    I do not see what the problem is. It is the same car sold under two brands. Killing one 86 will make life easier for Toyota and will not change a damn thing. Every single person who would buy 86 know perfectly well that he would be better off with BRZ.

  • avatar
    justathought

    I’d hope they kill off the 86, it hopefully could reignite the light under the butt of Subaru and allow them the room to put a more powerful engine in place (ie. Turbo) without cannibalizing sales of another platform-mate and perhaps actually creating a STI trim… possibly make it AWD if the platform can handle it.

    Would be cool.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    As others have alluded to, without a power increase it honestly doesn’t even matter.

    A real shame, as the chassis is BRILLIANT, and as a package would shame cars 2x its price with about 50% more horsepower. An extra 2 cylinders tacked on would have turned this into a REAL Supra.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I like the Toyobaru, but I don’t see what it brings to Subaru. With just a $1400 difference between that and the WRX, I don’t see the dedicated sports car body being enough to thrive with the sort of changes it apparently just needs. Say it gets that turbo engine everyone’s convinced it needs. Inevitably, they’d price it at $29,995 or so, and then it’d put on a couple hundred pounds with the turbo hardware and driveline reinforcement, and then you’re left with something that’s smaller, more expensive, and no more involving than said WRX. Nissan can barely sell the Z car (a cheap sports car with a big thrusty V6), the Miata (standard bearer it is) only sells well in fits and spurts, but mostly lags behind the Toyobaru’s combined sales, and I wonder how much of the Mustang and Camaro are driven by fleet sales (and maybe Boomer nostalgia since enough of them actually have disposable income for a toy car).

    I’d almost think it’d make more sense to build another Impreza coupe – not to say it’s a brilliant idea and Subaru needs to quit because they didn’t come up with it already, but it’d be easier to amortize something with a usable back seat, and might bring back the small handful of BRZ intenders who won’t consider a sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      The buzzo bolts in a blender standard engine is the FA20, home of the torque dip and lifeless city and suburban driving.

      Now there is an FA24 turbo pulling the Ascent around. Remove the turbo, adjust the resultant atmo engine to 90% of the FA20’s current peaky tune, then you could have 220 hp at 6600 rpm and decent midrange, same power peak rpm as the Camry engine, and that makes 203 hp with mild cams from 125cc more. The FA24 is identical in size to the FA20 and might weigh a couple pounds less due to thinner internal castings for the cylinder sidewalls because of the larger bore. Toyota fans of the 86mm bore can weep, but Subaru could make money.

      20% more displacement would transform the midrange and remove the low rpm lethargy. You heard it here first. Cost them nothing much to do, and perhaps the thing might appeal to more regular people on a test drive. Rest of the car is decent, so why not? As it is, the thing is dying on the vine and as others have said, it’s not like it requires a genius to figure out why it doesn’t sell.

      If it isn’t eager and lively on the test drive at low speeds, Joe Public cannot associate the look of the thing with the dull reality. Who is going to rev the current thing out to 7K on a test drive with a salesman there? Few people indeed. Match the looks with at least some grunt. It’s no lightweight at 2800 lbs despite squawkz from fanboyz. A Miata is light.

      C’mon Subaru, try it.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’ll echo the same thing that’s been said about this car a million times now: it needed more power from day one. Otherwise, people who wanted a two-seater that didn’t go terribly fast bought a Miata instead, and people who wanted to go fast bought pony cars (and they didn’t even have to pop for the V-8 versions – a Camaro or Mustang with the turbo four offers superior performance at the same price).

  • avatar
    ajla

    Even if it doesn’t offer a manual transmission, I think a 255hp turbo-4 Supra and a price that starts with a “3” will be much more successful.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I’m a fan of the BRZ/86 as well but what might increase sales is a roadster and shooting brake versions plus some special trim packages.

  • avatar
    darex

    Make a second generation, and call it “Celica”: New buzz!

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Don’t you have to cut any Supra’s price roughly in half to sell it at the price point of the 86/BR-Z? I’m not sure just dropping a 4 cylinder in fixes that. Plus a second-gen 86 spawning a new Supra is the right answer, not the other way around.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I’ve often said that there’s nothing wrong with these cars that couldn’t be fix with an application of LS (or LT) V8 power.

    I love how some folks on this very site were claiming this was the Second Coming, too bad it wasn’t.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    if the twins go away I do hope the 8k shoppers or so find their way into a Miata.Mazda deserves their business, for continuing to update and refine their product even if popularity can sometimes wane

  • avatar
    seth1065

    For everyone who is shouting for a bigger engine / turbo and other fixes Please do not bitch and moan if you get your wish But with a pretty decent price hike/ weight added side dish. Maybe just maybe the US market at this time does not support having 2/12-3 lightweight 2 door cars, these 2 and a Mazda. Yes you could kill one of the twins but does 7,000 sales a year make sense for either of the company that keeps one of the twins?

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Toyota can’t do sporty cars anymore. Just rebadge a V6 Mustang or Camaro and be done with it. They are as lost as GM trying to do small cars.

  • avatar
    SuperCarEnthusiast

    Doubt it! It built in the same assembly plant as the 86 and the 86 sells 20% more cars then the BRZ.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Conspiracy theory time: Didn’t Toyota tell use this vehicle would be short-lived just by the name? “Klinger, 86 the 86, would ya?”


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