by Jared Rosenholtz
We covered the death of Scion and continuation of the FR-S. Now rebadged as the Toyota 86, the facelifted FR-S gains a five horsepower bump and updates such as new bumpers and lights. While none of this changes the car drastically, together they may add up to something special. The FR-S was immediately loved by journalists, but hasn't sold in amazing numbers. We think that the latest updates will fix this. Scion in general didn't have strong sales, so a switch to the Toyota brand will certainly help the car's image.
Toyota isn't known for being the sportiest brand, but it is well respected for reliability and quality. This is an image that Toyota's youth brand was never able to fully replicate. Name change aside, the 2017 Toyota 86 will get some nice everyday features like steering wheel-mounted controls and hill-start assist. The FR-S was never the most practical car, so perhaps these small improvements will be seen as concessions to make the car more livable. Enthusiasts may not like it, but in order for cars like the 86 to live on, "normal" people need to buy it in large numbers. If you make an impractical car that doesn't make sense for this large demographic, sales will definitely suffer. Toyota's marketing department really needs to step up here.
For the 86 to succeed, Toyota needs to make the car appeal to the younger demographic. This age group needs a practical car that's cheap and fun to drive. The 86 needs to be seen as the cheapest way to get the most smiles per dollar. Perhaps a better way to go would have been for Toyota to call this car the Celica and advertise it was ready to make fun, cheap cars again. The Celica has a cult following in America. Although there's a small group of people who bought Toyota badges for their FR-S, this group is too small to really boost sales of the new 86. Only time will tell if the new batch will help the 86 sell more in the US. If not, after recently driving the FR-S, we pointed out how Toyota could improve the next-gen model and make it a solid selling car.