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RZ experiment heralds more sporty Toyotas

Hi-po herald: Toyota's 86 rear-drive coupe was an instant success when it launched in 2012, but the company says there is a demand for more sporty models.

More driver-focused Toyotas on the way to target younger customers

Toyota logo13 May 2015

TOYOTA'S tricked-up RZ Corolla and Camry pair were an “experiment” to test demand for sportier models, and their warm reception will herald more driver-focused models from the Japanese car-maker.

Launched last year, the RZ twins were styling exercises and mechanically identical to other variants in the range, but Toyota says their larger wheels, flashy colours and RZ trimmings attracted significant interest from buyers.

With the RZ experiment's success, the car-maker has introduced a chassis-tweaked version of the new Camry – dubbed the SX – and says the sportier car will be followed by other Toyotas that target more enthusiastic drivers.

Speaking at the launch of the 2015 Camry, Toyota Australia executive director of sales and marketing Tony Cramb told GoAuto more sporty Toyota's will follow the RZ.

“It was a very successful experiment for us,” he said “We learned a lot out of it and there’s clearly a demand there for that kind of thing.

“That concept is definitely going to expand based on what we learned out of Camry.” Mr Cramb would not elaborate on which models would get the RZ treatment next or if there would be more extensively enhanced vehicles that go further than the driver-focused Camry SX.

Possibilities include a sharpened versions of the Corolla and Yaris hatchbacks or even a limited run of fettled 86 sportscars.

The company's only pure performance car has proved that Australian car enthusiasts will welcome driver-engaging Toyota's, with 4257 local sales in 2014 – more than any other sportscar.

Mr Cramb pointed out that a special limited edition version of the popular HiLux pick-up, named the Black, was also part of the strategy to test demand in the Australian market for sportier vehicles.

Such is the importance of the new Camry that the president of Toyota's Californian design hub Calty Design Research, Kevin Hunter, flew to Australia to be present for its launch.

Mr Hunter headed-up the radical FT-1 supercar concept project that aired at the Detroit motor show last year and told GoAuto sporty vehicles are more of a focus for Toyota.

“One thing we are doing is trying to attract younger buyers and also a big direction we are heading in is more driver-engaged cars,” he said. “That all speaks to sportiness and a little bit more aggressive styling depending on the car.

“Sedans are somewhere where you can't go too crazy, but also the buyers are expecting more out of that segment and more exciting cars instead of the typical boring stiff sedans that we've seen in the past.” Mr Hunter also said the company's high-performance TRD nameplate was being increasingly utilised in the United States market.

“In the US we are trying to leverage TRD a lot and I think it's a really good brand,” he said “We're doing it more in trucks and cars so I think you'll see it sprout out amongst the line-up a little bit more. It's a strong brand.” While nothing has been confirmed for the Australian market at this stage, the resurgence of the Toyota Racing Development in America could ultimately spur new high-performance vehicles for the Australian market.

In local market research, Toyota scores well in ownership and customer satisfaction, but the company admits its weakest areas are in “emotion” and “styling”.

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