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BMW-Toyota Sports Car to Debut in Tokyo

The goal is to “exceed all expectations.”

by on May.21, 2013

Senior officials, including Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda and BMW Chairman Nobert Reithofer, celebrate their expanding alliance.

What do you get when BMW and Toyota set down to develop a sports car? We’re apparently about to find out, their joint effort reportedly set to make its eagerly awaited debut at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show.

The midsize sports car is one of several projects that the German and Japanese automaker have announced as part of a growing alliance first announced in 2011. Among other things, the two makers plan to work on fuel cells, lithium-ion batteries and hybrid technology, while BMW is now providing diesel engines for Toyota to use in its European line-up.

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“I get so excited thinking about the cars that will result from this relationship,” Toyota chief Akio Toyoda said in January.

So do a lot of industry observers waiting to find out precisely what the two partners have in store.

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Mazda, Fiat Team to Develop Next-Gen Roadster

Alfa Romeo to get version of next Mazda MX-5 Miata.

by on May.23, 2012

The MOU will create new roadsters for both Alfa Romeo and Mazda based on the next-generation, rear-drive Miata platform.

The push to partner up continues to sweep through the global auto industry, Mazda and Fiat signing a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding that will let them share in the development and production of an all-new roadster.

The MOU means Fiat’s Alfa Romeo brand will get its own 2-seater based on Mazda’s next-generation MX-5 Miata rear-wheel-drive architecture.  In a jointly released statement, the two manufacturers said the project is aimed at developing “two differentiated, distinctly styled, iconic and brand-specific light weight, roadsters featuring rear-wheel drive. The Mazda and Alfa Romeo variants will each be powered by specific proprietary engines unique to each brand.”

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The news from Fiat and Mazda underscores a dramatic shift in the global auto industry, even the largest and most well-funded manufacturers, such as the Renault/Nissan Alliance and Daimler AG, looking for joint opportunities to expand their product lines and improve economies of scale. The timing also coincides with the launch of new sports coupes developed through a partnership between Toyota and Subaru.

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New RAV4-EV Shows Toyota No Longer Willing to Go it Alone

Japanese giant increasingly dependent upon alliances.

by on May.07, 2012

Toyota will build the RAV4 EV on the same Ontario assembly line producing the conventional version of the crossover.

Toyota today launched its all-new battery-electric vehicle, the RAV4-EV, at the annual International Electric Vehicle Symposium, in Los Angeles.  Based on the maker’s conventionally powered compact ute, the vehicle is intended to test the U.S. market’s interest in electric propulsion.

But it will also be a test of the budding relationship between the Japanese giant and the small California start-up Tesla Motors.  The guts of the RAV4-EV, its lithium-ion driveline, will come from Tesla, a company in which Toyota has so far invested more than $50 million and dangled millions more in contracts like the new electric vehicle.

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More broadly, it’s a test of a significant shift in strategy by the Japanese maker.  For most of its existence, the company – currently the world’s fourth-largest automaker – steadfastly did things on its own.  While other manufacturers frequently partnered with erstwhile rivals to fill gaps in their product and powertrain line-ups, Toyota reached into its vast treasury to fund its own programs or worked with a very small and select group of suppliers – known as a keiretsu — in which it usually held a significant financial stake.

No longer.  Toyota is rapidly lining up an assortment of alliances with not only some of the world’s most prestigious auto manufacturers but also some of its fiercest competitors.

“No one can handle it all by themselves,” acknowledged Yoshi Inaba, president and COO of Toyota Motor North America.

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It’s Official This Time: Subaru Reveals the Production BRZ

Is racing in the new sports car’s future?

by on Nov.30, 2011

Subaru's new sports car, the BRZ, gets its long-awaited introduction.

It may not have been the longest gestation in automotive history but it was beginning to feel like it, both Subaru and Toyota staging seemingly endless advance looks at the new sports car they’ve been jointly developing.

Now, the long wait has finally come to an end, the two Japanese makers staging separate news conferences at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show to reveal what their efforts have wrought.

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Despite some earlier indications, there’s relatively little difference between the Subaru BRZ and its step-sibling the Toyota 86 (which will be called the GT-86 in Europe and Scion FR-S in the States).  Stretch and you’ll spot some modest tweaks that offer slight distinctions between the two models.  But there isn’t much else to differentiate them – if that matters – beyond the Subaru’s bumpers and a side air intake that replaces an “86” badge on the Toyota.

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First Look: Toyota 86

Americans will see the results of new alliance with Subaru marketed as the Scion FR-S.

by on Nov.30, 2011

Toyota finally reveals the production version of its new sports car - to be called 86 in Japan and Scion FR-S in the States.

Nearly four years in the making, Toyota has finally pulled the wraps off the 2-seat sports car it has developed as part of a joint venture with the smaller Japanese automaker Subaru.

Targeted at the small, affordable sports car niche now dominated by the long-lived Mazda Miata, Toyota will call the new model the Toyota 86, a reference to the maker’s legendary AE86 Corolla of the 1980s.  The sports car will actually go by a variety of different names.  The Japanese will also know it as the Hachiroku, while it will go with the moniker Toyota GT-86 in Europe — and appear under the Scion FR-S badge in the States.

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Whatever you prefer, the 2-seater is a low-slung design that was developed as part of a tandem effort that appears to have put the emphasis on Toyota design and Subaru technology – such as the so-called 2.0-liter boxer inline-four engine both manufacturers will share.  But the lines are a bit blurry, insiders stress, Toyota, for example, reportedly kicking in its fuel delivery system.

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First Look: Subaru BRZ Concept

Subaru provides peak at its part of the Toyobaru project.

by on Nov.01, 2011

Subaru will lift the covers on the new BRZ - STI sports car concept at the LA Auto Show.

Little Subaru is finally lifting the covers on its part of what has become known as the “Toyobaru” project – a sports car it has been developing with automotive giant Toyota.

The Subaru BRZ Concept – STI will make its debut at the upcoming LA Auto Show, with a production version expected to appear soon afterwards.  Toyota, meanwhile, is getting ready to roll out its version of the little sports car, which will go on sale in the U.S. through the maker’s Scion division.

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The long-anticipated Subaru BRZ is a subcompact, rear-wheel-drive 2-seater aimed at competing in the affordable sports car segment currently dominated by the Mazda Miata.  Due to be the only model in the Subaru line-up that won’t feature all-wheel-drive, it will make use of the smaller partner’slow-mounted horizontally-opposed Boxer engine.

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Toyota To Shift Camry Production to U.S.

Maker will end imports from Japan.

by on Sep.07, 2011

Going foward, Toyota plants in the U.S. will supply all Camry sedans sold in North America.

As part of a strategy to give the North American market as much autonomy as possible, Toyota will soon cease importing Camry sedans from Japan, relying solely on two U.S. plants to provide more than a third of a million copies of the midsize model annually.

The move roughly coincides with the upcoming launch of the 2012 Toyota Camry.  Though it is only one of about 10 new products the maker is launching in the months ahead the remake may be considered both the most important and the most challenging.

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The Camry has long dominated the American sales charts, grabbing the top spot among passenger cars for the last 9 years running and 13 of the last 14 years.  But in recent months, as Toyota – like many of its Japanese rivals – has struggled with product shortages triggered by that country’s devastating March earthquake and tsunami – the Camry has fallen behind the Chevrolet Cruze and will have a battle ahead to hold onto its crown for all of 2011.

The shift to a fully U.S. production base comes as Toyota’s North American operations gain increasing autonomy.  But the move also reflects the devastating impact of the strong yen, which has slashed Toyota’s profit margins.

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First Look: Scion FRS-86 Concept

“Friggin’ really sweet,” suggests Scion chief Hollis.

by on Apr.20, 2011

Scion boss Jack Hollis reveals the FRS-86 Concept.

There’s no denying Scion General Manager Jack Hollis is one very enthusiastic executive, so it took the corporate legal beagles from letting him write the press release explaining the logic behind the name of the maker’s new FRS-86 Concept.

“Friggin’ Really Sweet,” Hollis proclaimed during the Scion sport car’s unveiling.  Oops, never mind, he quickly said.  The barristers prefer the more officious Front-engine, Rear-drive Sport, with the “86” borrowed from the legendary Toyota AE-86 Corolla of a quarter century ago.

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The FRS-86 is no retro-mobile.  It’s a decidedly edgy show car that might take by surprise skeptics who expect plain vanilla design out of Toyota and its various brands.  Visually, the sports car boasts a gull-wing shaped roof, a trapezxoidal rear end and striking, almost sci-fi style headlamps.  The 20-inch wheels are eight inches wide up front and 10 in the rear, and incorporate the brake rotors.

Developed in a joint venture with Subaru – which Toyota holds a major share in – the sports car is aimed at rebuilding the market effectively left to Mazda’s little Miata, these days.  The FRS-86 takes advantage of the smaller maker’s low-slung boxer engine, which permit the powertrain to be mounted low and rearward.

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Toyota, Subaru to Reveal Jointly-Developed Sports Car in Geneva

A "reborn passion" for sports cars.

by on Jan.26, 2011

Toyota hints at what's to come in Geneva.

Struggling to overcome not only its safety-related problems but a reputation for building boring appliances, Toyota hopes to demonstrate a “reborn passion” with the roll-out of its FT-86 sports car at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show.

For those who think of the automaker in terms of models like the Sienna minivan and Camary sedan the unveiling could deliver some surprises – especially considering that the FT-86 is the product of a significant new joint venture with smaller Japanese maker Subaru.

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That company will also view for the attention of a harried press corps, on media preview day, with its own version of the new rear-drive model, which it recently referred to as the tongue-tiring, “Subaru Rear-Wheel-Drive Sports Car Technology Concept.”  (Insiders promise the production version will adopt a name that can fit on a badge.

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FT-86 Concept as Toyota or Scion in U.S.?

Sporty coupe is joint Toyota/Subaru effort.

by on Oct.21, 2009

Versions of the FT-86 will show up in both Toyota and Subaru showrooms, though in the U.S., it might be badged Scion.

Versions of the FT-86 will show up in both Toyota and Subaru showrooms, though in the U.S., it might be badged Scion.

In an otherwise lackluster 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, there’ll be a lot of attention paid to the few new products of any serious merit – and one of those is the eagerly-awaited Toyota FT-86, the rebirth of one of the Japanese giant’s most heralded nameplates.

Officially, the prototype going on display today at Makuhari Messe is nothing more than a show car, but unlike some of the wild and wacky models that have a way of popping up at the biennial Japanese event, then vanishing, never to be seen again, our sources confirm that the FT-86 will reappear in the not-too-distant future, though one of the unanswered questions is which badge it will wear in the U.S.

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It’s possible it will make the jump across the Pacific as a Toyota, but it is also possible, we’re told, that the FT-86 concept could show up as the replacement for the Scion tC, the youth-oriented marque’s most sporty model.

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