Toyota and Subaru at the 2011 Geneva Auto Show: what to expect

With January 2011’s Detroit Auto Show relegated to history and next week’s Chicago Auto Show expected to reveal little news except for the Lexus Five Axis Project CT 200h Concept, we look forward to March and the Geneva (Switzerland) Auto Show, which should be more compelling in terms of new model debuts.

The big news, of course, is the debut of the final concept versions of the “Toyobaru twins” before the expected debut of the production versions at the 2011 Tokyo Auto Show in December. The much-discussed and anticipated collaboration between Toyota and Subaru on a (hopefully) lightweight rear-wheel-drive Subaru-powered sports coupe will see a second, presumably closer-to-reality Toyota FT86 II as well as Subaru’s first concept preview, the lengthily-titled Subaru Rear-Wheel Drive Sports Car Technology Concept.

Now, via a Toyota Europe press release comes word on the rest of Toyota’s agenda at Geneva. Given the 3rd-generation Toyota Vitz (Japan’s Yaris counterpart, and Toyota’s largest-selling model in Europe via its assembly in Valenciennes, France) debut last December, something Yaris-related was certainly to be expected. Toyota has now confirmed the Toyota Yaris HSD Concept that “anticipates Toyota’s intention to bring full hybrid technology to the B segment, the biggest volume segment in Europe… Incorporating several hybrid-specific styling cues, the Yaris HSD concept introduces a new, forward-looking design execution”. Expect this “concept”, then, to be a barely-disguised version of the upcoming French-built 3rd-generation Yaris and its Yaris HSD variant. That Yaris HSD, by the way, may well be Europe’s sole Toyota B-segment hybrid, since some British pundits rightfully predict that the production version of Detroit’s smaller Prius c concept will not be sold in the Old Continent because the current strong yen/weak Euro exchange would make importing Prius c from Japan a money-losing proposition.

The third officially-announced Toyota debut is no real surprise, either. The Toyota Prius+ is essentially the larger Prius v that debuted last month in Detroit with the third-row +2 seat it deserved all along. As such, Toyota Europe proudly notes that “The Prius+ is the first car to offer European customers the versatility of 7 seats combined with a full hybrid powertrain (and) the lowest fuel consumption of any 7-seat MPV on the market”. As to why the third row is unavailable in North America, we can only guess that our general intolerance of vehicles with sub-10 second 0-60 mph acceleration times is at least partly to blame, as that third seat may add another hundred or two pounds to the curb weight and burden its 1.8-liter hybrid powertrain.

As to Subaru, in addition to the Rear-Wheel Drive Sports Car Concept, it will mark the European debuts of the Subaru Impreza Design Concept that first appeared at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November 2010 and is hailed as a predictor for the next-generation Impreza due around the 2013 model year; and of the Subaru Trezia, a rebadged Toyota Ractis/Verso S that marks a rare export outing for one of the many small Japanese Domestic Market front-wheel-drive Subarus that are, in reality, renamed Toyotas and Daihatsus. The Euro Subaru Trezia even shares the Toyota Verso S choice of 1.3-liter gasoline or 1.4-liter turbo diesel engines.

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