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Toyota 86, Subaru BRZ enter production

Join the line: The Subaru plant producing the co-developed BRZ and Toyota 86 coupes will also assemble Imprezas by this time next year.

Subaru factory starts pumping out coupes as Oz arrival for Toyota BRZ and 86 nears

19 Mar 2012

SUBARU and Toyota are officially back in the sports car game after the first showroom examples of their co-developed BRZ and 86 coupes started rolling off the production line at Subaru’s Gunma Main Plant 80km north-west of Tokyo on Friday.

Both Toyota and Subaru versions of the car will be produced side-by-side at the factory, which has been refitted to provide the extra capacity required to build the new models.

By this time next year Subaru also plans to be producing Imprezas at the plant, which has been used to assemble the brand’s ultra-compact ‘Kei’ cars for the Japanese market.

Subaru plans to increase its production capacity by boosting output at its plants in Japan and the US, and is exploring the addition of further facilities in places such as China and Thailand to help realise its goal of producing 900,000 vehicles per year by 2016.

The company is also aiming to reduce production costs by 20 per cent as it forges ahead with a plan to release one full model update every year for the next five years.

2 center imageLeft:Toyota 86. Below: Subaru BRZ.

Attending a ceremony to mark the start of production for the highly anticipated sports car duo were Toyota president Akio Toyoda and his counterpart from Subaru parent company Fuji Heavy Industries, Yasuyuki Yoshinaga.

Mr Yoshinaga said the BRZ/86 “symbolises our corporate strategy in two significant aspects: good progress in our alliance and advancement of our ‘select and focus’ approach”.

He described the start of production as a huge step, but promised that both Subaru and Toyota would be “constantly refining” the product and hope to “nourish each model to be loved by customers all over the world for a long time to come”.

Mr Toyoda said the BRZ and 86 could not have been developed without the collaboration between the two companies.

“We started the alliance for mutual growth in 2005,” said Mr Toyoda. “Now I’m delighted to see that our alliance bore fruit.”

However, the alliance has not been without its difficult patches, as proved when Tetsuya Tada, Toyota’s chief engineer on the sports car program, publicly hit back at comments made by Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior at last year’s Tokyo motor show that the BRZ “is a Subaru through-and-through”.

Mr Tada said Subaru was initially resistant to the coupe project and that the companies clashed over the use of Toyota’s direct-injection technology on the Subaru boxer engine.

He said he commissioned a proof-of-concept mule based on a shortened Liberty sedan converted to rear-wheel drive in order to get Subaru on board.

In the end, Toyota initiated, largely funded and contributed styling, direct injection and transmission components to the project, while Subaru provided the flat-four engine architecture, engineering and production capacity.

Toyota has been gaining publicity since 2009 for its version of the coupe, through several iterations of its FT-86 concept, while Subaru offered the first two glimpses of its BRZ at the Geneva and Frankfurt motor shows last year, with transparent teasers displaying only car’s the drivetrain and chassis.

Subaru eventually previewed the car in beefed-up STI concept form at the Los Angeles show in November before finally unveiling the production model – after Toyota revealed the showroom-ready 86 – at Tokyo a month later.

The 86 and BRZ are scheduled to arrive in Australia mid-year, with two variants of the Toyota expected and Subaru having confirmed only a single, highly-specified version of the BRZ will be sold here.

Toyota is hoping to pitch its version of the car at less than $40,000 here but is fearful it may be forced to breach that price barrier when the ex-factory price is announced.

In other markets, low-cost, stripped-out versions of both cars will be offered, aimed at enthusiasts and tuners.

The Toyota version even has unpainted bumpers, ready to be replaced by aftermarket items, and both come with plain black steel wheels to suit the target market that will fit their own choice of alloy rims.

According to overseas reports, a convertible version of the 86 has also been confirmed by engineers.

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