It just might happen this time.
Enthusiasts are extremely picky when it comes to getting into a car. Unlike regular drivers, enthusiasts look at reviews, compare stats and bat an eye at usability by picking a car that speaks to them. That’s why cars like the Scion FR-S (now being called the Toyota 86) and Subaru BRZ are heralded as some of the best affordable sports cars. While sales for both have been appallingly low over the past few years, I have a feeling that things are on the way up for both of them.
Call it a hunch, but now that Toyota has finally brought the 86 under its roof in the US, I think it'll help the automaker's sales. As a whole, Scion was a failure. The smaller, youth-oriented brand was just a way for Toyota to try out new cars without losing sales, profits and loyal customers. Nothing good came out of Scion, except for one thing—the confusingly badged FR-S. Sales were never high for the soon-to-be FR-S but, despite what Toyota said, the automaker didn’t really care. Since Scion is its own brand, its lack of sales and disappointing vehicles doesn’t necessarily reflect on Toyota. Now that the 86 is a part of the overarching company that hopes to stay as the world’s largest automaker, Toyota can’t keep a rotten egg in the lineup.
And Toyota knows this. The automaker sold over 10 million cars last year and to ensure that it is still at the forefront of sales, it’s going to have to make the 86 a little more appealing to enthusiasts and regular customers alike. As soon as the automaker put the FR-S under its wings, the brand decided to give the newly named 86 a minor power increase and a visual refresh. This won’t be enough to get an enthusiast in the door, but it might be enough to get a regular customer interested. And, even more interestingly, immediately after Toyota revealed that its 86 would have more power and that refresh, someone captured pictures of a facelifted Subaru BRZ in the works. Coincidence? I definitely don’t think so.
We’re sure the revised BRZ will only get a modest power bump as well, but still, it’s exactly what every enthusiast has been crying for. Better yet, this will give both automakers more competition, which is never a bad thing. Once Toyota realizes that a minor horsepower bump and new face won’t increase sales for the 86, the automaker can only do one thing—make a high-performance version that we’ve all been craving for. Toyota has stated that there isn’t a market for a high-performance 86 and that’s just wrong. What about the Ford Focus RS? Or the Subaru WRX STI? There is a market for high-performance cars and if Toyota wants to increase future 86 sales, it has to go to town on the sports car.
Since the two automakers are working in tandem on the 86 and BRZ, a high-performance Toyota will surely make Subaru reconsider a STI-badged BRZ. The FR-S may be dead, but I think it’s just the beginning for a bright future for the 86. Despite the fact that Toyota makes insanely boring cars, it knows what it's doing. The FR-S and BRZ weren’t cutting the mustard and both automakers have to change something to get enthusiasts excited again. What better way to do that than with a high-performance model? Either that or plug on the sports car. And if that happens, we’ll surely see one last hurrah that offers more than just a modest power bump. Don’t give up on the 86 or the BRZ just yet. Good things are in store and Toyota’s reputation is on the line.