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Toyota keen for mid-engined MR2 successor

Supra-star: The man behind the A90 Supra and 86, Toyota Motor Corporation chief product specialist Tetsuya Tada, would like to add a third sportscar to the company’s model line-up.

Gazoo Racing model line-up to expand soon as Toyota considers mid-ship sportscar

3 Sep 2019

TOYOTA Motor Corporation (TMC) might soon resurrect the MR2 nameplate for a new mid-engined sportscar that would form part of its emerging Gazoo Racing (GR) performance model line-up.


With the first member of the GR range, the A90 Supra, now in showrooms, TMC chief product specialist Tetsuya Tada has expressed his interest in heading a third sportscar project that could result in a production model to join it, one that might use a mid-ship layout not seen on a TMC model since the W20 MR2 that was discontinued in 2007.


“Fortunately, I have made two FR sportscars (front engine with rear-wheel drive) already. I was really lucky to make two,” he told GoAuto this week at the A90 Supra national media launch in Phillip Island, Victoria.


“But a third sportscar? Mid-ship, maybe.”


Asked whether such a model would resurrect the MR2 nameplate that debuted in 1984, Mr Tada said he was unsure whether or not that would be the case.


The first FR sportscar project that Mr Tada headed was the 86, which is widely viewed as the spiritual successor to the 1967-1970 2000GT, while his second was the A90 Supra that brought back the famous nameplate from 1978-2002, so it could easily go either way.


As reported, the former and latter FR sportscar projects saw TMC team with Subaru and BMW respectively, although Mr Tada said he would prefer to work on a potential mid-engined model internally, rather than find another partner.


“It’s much less stress if I can make it with just Toyota and not with another company,” he said.


Nonetheless, Mr Tada indicated that if TMC did give him approval to develop a mid-ship sportscar, it would almost certainly come with the condition that one or more partners would need to be found for it.


“It’s not just sportscars. If you make something in-house, you can’t actually make anything exciting,” he said.


“For instance, smartphones. For every company, the best technology (from other companies) is integrated in there and that’s the excitement.


“It’s the same for cars. If you want to make something exciting and suited to each era, you have to find which company has the best technology and generate new value (via collaboration).”


Asked if this meant that TMC would have to specifically partner with another automotive company that is either planning to develop or already has a mid-engined platform, such as Porsche, Mr Tada said some thinking outside of the box may be required.


“It maybe doesn’t have to be a car manufacturer,” he said. “It could be Google, Microsoft, Panasonic. It could be from a different industry. Nobody will know (that way).”


While time will tell if a mid-ship sportscar will come to fruition under Mr Tada’s watchful eye, Toyota Australia has confirmed its interest in any GR model that joins TMC’s line-up in the future.


The company’s vice-president of sales and marketing, Sean Hanley, told journalists that the A90 Supra is “the first GR model in what I promise will be a comprehensive line-up of both sporty and outright sportscars”.


“GR elevates Toyota’s sportscar credentials and embodies Toyota’s commitment to making ever-better cars precision engineered to provide the best possible driving experience,” he said.


“GR means ‘inspired by motorsport and engineered for the road’. It means we are capturing what we are doing in motorsport and making that experience accessible to all of our customers.


“And by building cars that people love to drive, we can also create fans and public enthusiasm for the broader Toyota brand, attracting people we haven’t been able to reach in the past. That’s the true meaning of GR.”


Mr Hanley added that “it’s our full intention to explore the maximum potential of GR in the Australian market”, which “could go across a lot of different models in the future”.


“We haven’t confirmed any other products at this stage,” he said. “But certainly, in development going forward, if the potential for other models becomes available in the Australian domestic market, given the exceptional enthusiasm towards (the A90 Supra), we would be more than willing to explore the opportunities.”


Two key mainstream models that could be in line for a GR makeover are the HiLux ute and Corolla small car, both of which present significant volume opportunities.

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