Featured Article - Akio Toyoda's Sports Car (and FT-1 Supra) Problem

Discussion in 'General Supra Topics' started by Supra93, Feb 16, 2015.

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  1. Supra93

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    toyota-ft-1-concept-front-three-quarters-view.jpg

    Toyota has a fascinating history when it comes to sports cars. The 2000GT of the 1960s was powered by a Yamaha-developed twin-cam straight-six and styled with enough sex appeal that a topless version -- one of two built -- earned a supporting role in the 007 classic "You Only Live Twice." The original MR2 was a bijou mid-engine Ferrari for the masses, faster than a Porsche 914 and more reliable than a Fiat X1/9. The 1987 Celica -- the one with the 3S-GE engine -- set a new benchmark for front-drive handling.And then there was the Supra. Originally little more than a big-engined Celica, by the mid-'80s the Supra had become Toyota's flagship sports car, and by the '90s it boasted a 320-hp twin-turbo straight-six (in top-spec models), aluminum-intensive control-arm suspension all round, and even hollow-fiber carpet to reduce weight. Disable the speed limiter and the biggest, baddest Toyota of them all would blow Corollas into the weeds en route to a V-max north of 170 mph.

    1996-toyota-supra-turbo-front-three-quarter.jpg

    Make no mistake, Toyota can build great sports cars. The question is, does it really want to?News that Toyota is collaborating with BMW on a new sports car architecture -- one that will support a new-generation Z4 and the production version of the FT-1 concept that's been doing the auto show circuit -- has enthusiasts excited around the world. But history suggests this new Toyota sports car, which might bring back the Supra nameplate, will be launched with great fanfare, sell like hotcakes for a few years, then be quietly allowed to die as the company goes back to doing what it does best: building affordable, durable, and fuel-efficient cars and trucks.Mention the FT-1 to Toyota's U.S. chief Jim Lentz and it's immediately obvious he sees a problem rather than an opportunity. Lentz says sports cars suffer from an "extreme decay cycle" in terms of sales numbers. What he means, in plain English, is that they sell well for the first two years or so, but then sales numbers rapidly fall away to the point where the car generally consumes more time and effort and financial support than is worthwhile. And he has a point: Mainstream automakers, whose businesses are built around selling modestly priced vehicles with modest profit margins, struggle with affordable sports cars. Nissan's 370Z and Mazda's Miata are the exceptions that prove the rule.

    toyota-ft-1-concept-front-three-quarters-view-on-road.jpg


    That GM has managed to keep the Corvette alive for more than 60 years seems nothing short of a miracle. But its longevity, underpinned by truly impressive engineering advances over the past decade, means the Corvette has transcended conventional mainstream automaker economics and now sits in the same semi-exotic territory as Porsche's 911. The Corvette has been through good times and bad times -- just like the 911, which was almost killed off on several occasions -- but it has survived, and is now flourishing, because of passion and perseverance. Passion and perseverance at Toyota means the Prius, the antichrist automobile to many enthusiasts but arguably still the most efficient, durable, and best-packaged compact family car on the planet.

    So why bother building a new Supra? "I think Akio [Toyoda] loves sports cars," says Lentz.

    Sports cars are simply not a part of Toyota's DNA. And that's OK. They're not in Jeep's DNA, either. So why bother building a new Supra? "I think Akio [Toyoda] loves sports cars," says Lentz simply.Our conversation switches gears and we begin talking about the new Tacoma pickup that made its debut at the Detroit show. The Tacoma has owned the midsize truck segment for a decade, and now enjoys a 60 percent share of the market. Lentz points out the new Tacoma is the latest in a line of midsize Toyota pickups that dates back 50 years, and that the TRD versions accounted for about 40 percent of sales last year, with buyers tending to be younger than the rest of the Toyota line. Then he stops and says: "Tacoma is our sports car."He's probably right.

    http://blogs.motortrend.com/1502_al...yodas_sports_car_problem_the_big_picture.html
     
  2. black-supra

    black-supra Well-Known Member

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    That was a good but sobering read. Especially this: "Tacoma is our sports car."

    Don't know why they say that sports cars are not a part of Toyota's DNA though. It's had the 2000GT, Supra, Celica, MR2. That's more pure sports cars (not just sporty cars) history than companies who have a reputation of being a sportier brand, like BMW. Toyota just happens to also be really good at building affordable, durable, and fuel-efficient cars and trucks.
     
  3. Craigy

    Craigy Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, in order for the new Supra to be a lasting success as a new perennial automotive brand, it's going to need the constant attention and development that other companies give their sportscars.

    If Toyota builds a car and lets it die like they did the MkIV (and as Acura did the NSX, and as Nissan did the 300ZX, and as Mazda did the RX7....) it'll be a shame. It's as if the Japanese manufacturers only build one car and then just let it run its course. They're great cars, but they don't stay fresh.
     
  4. gymratter

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    declining sales over the years is expected. i posted some examples of higher end coupes/luxury sport/sporty cars with falling sales over the years. red, IMO is when sales start to "tank".

    (not saying these are or are not competition for FT-1, just trying to show sales declining)

    BMW 6 series
    2004-
    8,198
    2005- 9,934
    2006- 9,322
    2007- 9,033
    2008- 6,533
    2009- 3,549
    2010- 2,418

    Mercedes SL
    2002: 13,717
    2003: 13,318
    2004: 12,885
    2005: 10,080

    2006: 8,462
    2007: 6,126
    2008: 5,464
    2009: 4,025
    2010: 2,385
    2011: 1,449

    Cadillac XLR
    2003:
    875
    2004: 3,665
    2005: 3,730
    2006: 3,203
    2007: 1,750
    2008: 1,250
    2009: 787
    2010: 188
    2011: 12

    Lexus SC430
    2002: 14,462
    2003: 10,298
    2004: 9,708

    2005: 8,360
    2006: 5,847
    2007: 3,927
    2008: 1,986
    2009: 720
    2010: 328
    2011: 18
    2012: 2

    Chevrolet Corvette
    2002: 32,555
    2003: 27,974
    2004; 35,276
    2005: 32,489
    2006: 36,518
    2007; 33,685
    2008: 26,971
    2009: 13,934
    2010: 12,624
    2011: 13,164
    2012: 14,132
    2013: 17,291

    cars that have done better IMO.

    Audi R8
    2007: 240
    2008: 900
    2009: 699
    2010: 799
    2011: 1,145
    2012: 802
    2013: 813
    2014: 735

    Nissan GT-R
    2008:
    1,730
    2009: 1,534
    2010: 877
    2011: 1,294
    2012: 1,188
    2013: 1,237
    2014: 1,436
     
  5. FRS-Man

    FRS-Man Well-Known Member

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    And now we're starting to see it happen with the FR-S :( Hope this isn't a sign of things to come from Toyota when it comes to the Supra. It will wear a true Toyota badge afterall...
     
  6. kamran

    kamran Well-Known Member

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    #6 Feb 16, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2015
    Well, it's a lot more complicated than that. True a brand or model has to continually reinvent itself. Reinventing is what Honda, Toyota and Mazda did until they drove themselves out of the market...

    First generation RX7, or the first generation Supra were nothing to write home about. Performance, looks and reliability were not top notch. That was when Japanese were chasing and trying to copy the Europeans.

    By the time they learned enough to produce the more desirable RX7, or Supra MK IV, their target audience was driven out of the insurance premium affotdability.

    The day all the Japanese sports cars died was when insurance premiums had sky rocketed for their very young audience who kept crashing these cars and giving these cars bad insurance rating.

    911's had the same bad insurance rating, but their audience could afford the premiums. In fact 911's had the highest rate of single car accidents, and very few of the younger crowd could afford them.

    When I bought my 911 back in those days, I had to go through hell with many insurance companies refusing to cover me, despite my good records. This was the same for many who were looking for Japanese performance cars. Many insurance companies just refused to insure younger guys for perf cars, period!

    Times have changed, insurance rates are relatively doable, since many younger buyers have much higher salaries than the previous generation (thanks to high tech and Internet).

    So the market is there if the mfr is willing to support the model and continue improving/reinventing it...

    I think the Toyota exec was voicing his own personal opinion as to what's easier for him...or he is far too young to know the history! All he cares about is the payment on his luxury ocean cruiser!
     
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  7. gymratter

    gymratter Well-Known Member

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    agreed, he was just stating his own personal opinion. this shouldn't be treated as a press release: "Toyota wont build FT1 because future sales may decline".
     
  8. kamran

    kamran Well-Known Member

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    I'd venture a guess that a part of these declines were as a result of the mfr offering more models...so the sum of the totals may still be the same number...?

    Audi was once A4 and A6, then came the A8, then A3, then A7, on and on! Soon they'll run out of round digits and will have to offer in fractions!!! Audi 4.25, 5.28, oh wait BMW is already doing that! Lol
     
  9. gymratter

    gymratter Well-Known Member

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    yes, i kinda get what you are saying about similar models within the same company take sales from within. but sales also decline when there isn't a similar model to cross shop between (ex. FR-S, 370z, Miata). i think its safe to say that in general sales of niche products will slow down over the years.
     
  10. kamran

    kamran Well-Known Member

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    The Germans were starting to loose to the Japanese until they realized they need to reinvent every single model into several others to cover every single possibility to retain their clientele.....God only knows now how many models BMW, Benz or Audi offer when you consider all the markets across the world.
     
  11. gymratter

    gymratter Well-Known Member

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    #11 Feb 16, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2015
    well lets just forget about the Germans for a min. there are other examples of niche products declining over the years. IMO, when something first goes on sales everyone wants it because its new and fresh. however, over xx period of time the enticement and hype goes away, and along with that their sales numbers.

    i think a better question is how is Toyota going to combat declining sales of FT1 over the years. i think many feel that Toyota missed the opportunity with the 86/FRS. from what i have read on the forums and blogs people wanted a: turbo, droptop, sedan, shoot brake, and etc. will Toyota offer more versions of the FT1? will they continue to truly update the car yearly like Nissan does with their GT-R?
     
  12. AZ Wildcat

    AZ Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    Sad day when BMW is making minivans

    P90171412-highRes.jpg
     
  13. gymratter

    gymratter Well-Known Member

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    going of topic a bit, but if i recall correctly MB has been making vans for awhile.
     
  14. kamran

    kamran Well-Known Member

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    My saddest day was when Porsche made its best selling vehicle that helped pull Porsche out of a hole...."the" Porsche SUV! Then came the four door sedan! I suppose Porsche minivan will be next too...
     
  15. Supraman

    Supraman Well-Known Member

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    Sport cars in general are never going to sell in huge numbers. Obviously like most have mentioned the first few yrs of production, the car being new and all the hype will push out sells. But once those enthusiast that wanted the car have it the other competitors will come out with something better looking/performer.

    I think in order for this car to be successful for a long time Toyota needs to provide a 'best bang for your buck' car. Like what the corvette has done with it's recent car. And keep updating it through its production yrs. Keeping it fresh, like different wheels every 2 yrs, new colors, possibly a Targa option, increase HP with time even if its 10-15HP. A TRD version. Something to keep this car in mind for enthusiast.

    Another thing to keep in mind is we don't know of this car will be like the MKIV Supra that had an entry NA Supra and a Twin Turbo version which I assume can only help sales if they offer a base and a top model flagship for this car.
     
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