Toyota aims to bring fun back with "86" sports car

Sun Nov 27, 2011 6:06am EST
 
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By Chang-Ran Kim, Asia autos correspondent

OYAMA-CHO, Japan (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote) unveiled a highly anticipated sports car that it hopes will trigger the rebirth of the company as a maker of "fun" cars that it hasn't been in years.

Japan's top automaker took the wraps off the compact, rear-wheel-drive model at the Fuji Speedway circuit at the foot of Mount Fuji on Sunday, in front of thousands of racing fans, in a departure from traditional banquet-room launches.

The unveiling was moved up from the original plan to showcase the car at the Tokyo Motor Show, which opens later this week.

Toyota, however, gave away little more than it already had about the 2-liter engine car except for its final design and name, simply called "86" or "Hachi-roku" in Japan and GT86 in Europe, in a tribute to the popular AE86 generation of the Corolla Levin that took the market by storm in the 1980s.

"We've made you wait a long time for this," Toyota Chief Executive Akio Toyoda, dressed in a racing suit, told the crowd as he emerged from an orange 86. "At long last, here is a car for car lovers."

Under Toyoda, who took his post in mid-2009, Toyota is on a mission to shed its image as a manufacturer of reliable but staid cars. On TV and elsewhere, Toyota has been shelling out for high-budget adverts with the taglines "Fun to drive, again" and "Reborn," billing the 86 as a crucial first step to reach that goal.

TWIN MODEL

The lightweight four-seater 86 is the first sports car under the Toyota badge since production of the MR-S ended in 2007. It was co-developed with Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd (7270.T: Quote), which will sell a twin model as the BRZ under its sporty Subaru brand. Both cars will hit showrooms next spring.   Continued...