Time to get things moving along here.
In January 2014, Toyota revealed its absolutely stunning FT-1 concept at the Detroit Auto Show. It immediately spurred talk of a reborn Supra and exactly five years later at the same show the production version will finally be unveiled. But five years is a really long time even for a vehicle whose platform was jointly developed with the BMW. The new BMW Z4 didn’t appear in concept form until over a year ago at Pebble Beach and the production car debuted this past August.
So if BMW can move things along at a decent pace, why can’t Toyota? Top Gear spoke with the Japanese automaker’s European CEO, Dr. Johan van Zyl, in Paris last week and asked him that very question.
“We started from scratch, right from the beginning,” Zyl said. “The new Supra is not a changed product, it’s a completely new product. The outcome is going to be very exciting.” Which is great and we’re very excited, but again, why the half a decade wait? “I think one of the things that’s driving us is how to be more agile (as a brand), and how to shorten these lead times,” he added. “In the future, we think we will be able to reduce some of the development time. But not just that: in Europe, we’re focusing on model-based design and development. But of course, it takes a certain amount of time to make a good quality car. And of course, (the Supra) was a joint venture.”
Toyota President Akio Toyoda, as we’ve long known, issued a directive several years ago to build more emotional cars and move away from plain vanilla. Of course, that takes some time to make happen. The right engineers and designers need to be hired. Managers also need to fully understand and appreciate why emotion is vital in today’s car industry. Take the 86, for example. It’s been a success for Toyota's image but its sales have never been stellar. Will there be a successor? “For the GT86, it would have to be developed with Subaru”, van Zyl said. “It depends on the product and the circumstances. Some we might go alone, some we do in joint venture when it suits us.”
And that, everyone, is exactly the right mentality. Yes, the 86 and Supra both had development partners, but this doesn’t always have to be the case going forward. For example, there was some recent talk about a revived Celica or MR2. If this turns out to be true, here’s hoping we won’t have to wait ten years to see it happen.