Tetsuya Tada rekindles more Toyota sports car talk

Recently, Top Gear Philippines’ Editor-in-Chief Vernon B. Sarne (whom we were privileged to meet at the 2010 Paris Motor Show) was fortunate enough to interview Tetsuya Tada, Toyota’s chief engineer for the joint Toyota/Subaru sports car project that led to the widely acclaimed Subaru BRZ and its Toyota iterations variously badged as Scion FR-S, Toyota GT 86 or, simply, Toyota 86. Their conversation brought to light a couple of interesting revelations.

The first of these is Tada-san’s claim that

…the 86 is just the first of three sports cars that Toyota is planning to roll out, and that the 86 is the middle of the two in terms of market positioning. The first is more mass-market and cheaper than the 86, and the third is more upmarket than the 86.

The notion of a smaller and cheaper than 86 sports car is something that we at Kaizen Factor wrote about over 2 years ago as a derivative of Toyota’s sole remaining small and inexpensive rear-wheel-drive platform underpinning the SUVs sold under the Daihatsu Be‣go, Daihatsu Terios and Toyota Rush badges. In fact, enthusiastic Toyota engineers cobbled together what could be construed as a development mule for this idea in the Gazoo Racing/MN FR Hot hatch , a neo-KP61 Starlet of sorts unveiled at the 2010 Tokyo Auto Salon. One year later, the carmaker took the idea several steps further with a preliminary concept for just such a sub-86 sports car, the front-mid-engined TES Concept T-Sports built by the Toyota Engineering Society and shown below right. This seminal vehicle was amply discussed as part of our 2011 Tokyo Auto Salon coverage.

What about the “more upmarket than 86” sports car? The last Toyota concept that addressed this segment was 2007’s FT-HS, powered by a variant of the Lexus GS 450h’s 2GR-FXE 3.5-liter V6 hybrid powertrain. This was widely touted as a predictor for a production Mark V Toyota Supra that, as of this writing, has yet to see the light of day. Fueling fans’ hopes, Toyota renewed the Supra trademark on 16 July 2010. Trademarks carry a “use-it-or-lose-it” provision for a period of time after its filing. This author was always under the impression that it was 5 years, but Car and Driver‘s Justin Berkowitz swears that it is, in fact, 3 years. So, should we raise our hopes of seeing a reborn Supra next year? Not so fast, for, as the second revelation of the Top Gear Philippines interview informs us,

Tada said…that nothing is sure yet since his team is still in the process of conceptualizing the two other Toyota sports cars. He also noted that it takes five years to develop a sports car from conceptualization to production, as compared with the three years it normally takes to develop a regular vehicle.

Given that time frame, might Toyota once again lose the Supra trademark? Not necessarily, for Toyota can either renew it or, perhaps, slap the Supra badge on a concept predictor for the eventual production car and thus safeguard it that way.

Would a 21st-century Toyota Supra be built on the new rear-wheel-drive N-platform that debuted on the 4th-generation Lexus GS? Perhaps. Or it could be a lower-priced, Toyota-badged offshoot of the rumored production version of the Lexus LF-LC concept. Or it may be the joint BMW/Toyota “future sports vehicle” touted in the memorandum of understanding the 2 carmakers signed on Monday 25 June 2012.

A final noteworthy observation is the implicit promise that Tetsuya Tada will be an integral part of the development of the 2 new Toyota sports cars. Might Toyota be grooming Tada-san to be the successor of the late, great Hiromu Naruse?

Photo Credit 1: Joel Strickland

EXCLUSIVE! The First Scion FR-S in North America Delivered At Longo Scion!

May 3, 2012 – El Monte, CA – It’s been a long wait, but history has been made. The first Scion FR-S (a.k.a. Toyota 86 & GT 86 outside of North America & Subaru BRZ globally) has been delivered to the first lucky enthusiast of the “First 86 Program”. Earlier this year at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show, Scion USA announced a program where enthusiasts had a chance to be selected as one of the “First “86” to purchase an FR-S. Well, the time has come, and the first of the lucky “First 86 Program” has taken delivery at the #1 Scion dealership, Longo Scion in Southern California.

A little presentation was held before the “First 86” owner was handed the keys. Tom Rundai, President and General Manager of Longo Toyota, Lexus & Scion presented the First 86 owner a few gifts including  a special carbon fiber plaque by Five Axis commemorating the “First 86” delivery, a special “First 86” gift pack which included a numbered carbon fiber FR-S license plate frame, an FR-S pen and a few other goodies.

Shortly thereafter, the fitted black FR-S cover was pulled off to reveal the first production Scion FR-S available for sale. The lucky owner had selected the pearl white exterior known as Whiteout (37J) mated with a proper Aisin TL70 6 speed manual transmission. After the keys were handed to the first FR-S owner, everyone gathered around to watch him get in the car and start it up for the first time. Shortly thereafter, the barrage of photographers surrounded the new FR-S owner to document the moment. A video crew was also on hand to interview the first Scion FR-S owner ever. Congratulations to the first Scion FR-S owner and his new delivery!

For those anxiously waiting to get their hands on this hot new Scion, get in line because the “First 86” are receiving their FR-S as we speak! The 2013 Scion FR-S will be available to the general public this Summer at your local Scion dealer.

Special thanks goes out to Jeffrey Chang of Longo Scion, Tom Rudnai, President of Longo Toyota/Lexus/Scion and the folks at Scion USA for the opportunity to witness this historic event.


Article & Photos by: Flipside909

Were we (and Aisin) wrong about the BRZ / FR-S / GT 86 manual transmission? Or is Scion?

Almost 2½ months ago, Kaizen Factor indulged in some of our much-loved Informed Speculation and attempted to delve into the specifics of The BRZ / FR-S / GT 86 transmissions and driveline. No sooner had we posted it, however, that Paul Williamsen, National Manager of Lexus College (this being the brand’s product training division, and an integral part of new model long lead press previews) made the following observations:

…we’re still getting contradictory info out of TMC (Toyota Motor Corporation) on which 6-spd Aisin tranny we’ll have in the FT86, FR-S, & BRZ.

One of the obvious differences between the old IS 200/Altezza box (TMC type J160) and the current IS 250/Cadillac/Porsche box (TMC type RA6X) is that the former has gear reduction on the input side, while the latter has its reduction at the output end. We’ve seen references to both types.

Perhaps, then, things weren’t as clear-cut as they first appeared.

Flash-forward to Wednesday 25 April and the end of the press embargo on the Scion FR-S long lead preview. Although we at Kaizen Factor were not blessed with an invitation, FT-86Club.com‘s stellar coverage was the next best thing to being there. Their correspondent Ichitaka went as far as scanning and posting the Long Lead Press Presentation Outline, in a format familiar to this author from multiple Lexus press previews. Curious over the transmission information contained therein, we were gratified that our prediction of the Lexus IS 250-sourced A960E 6-speed automatic with upgrades such as earlier torque converter lockup, faster upshift and downshift times and throttle blips accompanying downshifts was spot-on. This author did a stunned double-take, however, to see the 6-speed manual identified as an RA62 – just like the less-than-stellar Lexus IS 250 Manual’s transmission – in both the Page 2 index and Page 26, as shown below.

A quick primer on Toyota’s 6-speed manual RWD transmissions
Although our earlier article covered this ground in far greater detail, a recap on Toyota’s 6-speed manual rear-wheel-drive-centric transmissions is in order. In essence, there are only three of them: The Getrag 233 / Toyota V160/V161 used in the legendary Supra Mark IV Twin Turbo; the Aisin AY6 / Toyota/Lexus RA60 series and the Aisin AZ6 / Toyota/Lexus J160. The AY6/RA60 series is, essentially, a beefy truck transmission whose vague shift feel is decidedly subpar for a rear-wheel-drive transmission. Except for RA62 (Lexus IS 250 and, allegedly, Scion FR-S and its derivatives) and RA63 (Europe’s Lexus IS 200d and IS 220d diesels), its other Toyota applications are in Tacoma and FJ Cruiser. The AZ6/J160, on the other hand, is a far more logical basis for the so-called Toyobaru coupe’s manual, having graced not only Toyota Altezza and 1st-generation Lexus IS 200 manual models, but such legendary sports cars as the Honda S2000, Mazda RX-8, 2nd-gen (NB) Mazda MX-5 Miata and the final S15 Nissan Silvia Spec-R. Frankly, we thought that the picture below (from the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show), as featured in our prior article, had settled the issue.

Were we (and Aisin) wrong, then? This skeptical author investigates
Although we’ve never seen such an egregious error in any Toyota/Lexus/Scion press preview printout, this author remained deeply skeptical. Another of the Scion FR-S long lead press materials, the “86” Development Story brochure delves into the transmission issue on page 14, as shown below. This starts out with by noting that “…transmission development began with an effort to shorten the stroke of the 6-speed manual transmission used in the Altezza…” – an implicit admission that they started out with the Aisin AZ6/Toyota J160 transmission. Beyond that, the story twists and turns, and informs us how engineers from Toyota, Subaru and Aisin AI engineers came together and brought in Takeshi Kaino, a researcher specializing in shift feel to help implement the ideal 6-speed manual transmission. They go on to say that

After creating five different prototypes and executing a final, daring overall design change, the team finally succeeded in creating the ideal 6-speed manual transmission for a sports car…

(Tomohiro) Ishikawa (6-speed manual transmission development director): “Perhaps 80% of the design had changed. More than that, if you look at blueprints for individual parts. Most of the parts were changed I bet.”

No word one way or the other, however, on whether or not at some point they changed from the J160 to the RA62 as a basis for the FR-S / BRZ / GT 86 manual transmission.

Mild skepticism morphed into full-on raging doubt, however, when comparing the Scion FR-S “RA62” individual gear ratios as shown in the second illustration above to those of the undoubtedly RA62 Lexus IS 250 Manual (as shown in a PDF document linked to the Lexus USA Newsroom’s 2012 Lexus IS 250/350 Product Information page). Except for a direct 1.000 5th-gear ratio, none of the individual gear ratios (not even reverse!) are shared by the two so-called RA62 iterations! And, given past Toyota history, when the slightest changes to an individual gear ratio or two warranted a new transmission denomination (see the RA60, RA60F, RA61, RA62 and RA63 family, or, going further back, the W55, W56, W57, W58, and W59 family of RWD 5-speed manual transmissions, which are externally and internally very similar aside from the gear ratios), we doubt that 2 transmissions that share but one of 7 gear ratios would carry the same code.

Paul Williamsen sets the record straight
Beyond his impressive talents that include Product Engineering, Design, & Development and Curriculum Design & Development, Mr. Williamsen is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to all things Toyota. Thus, he seemed to be a natural source to shed some light on the murky subject of the Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ / Toyota (GT) 86 manual transmission. And his reply certainly did just that:

Preliminary info from TMC Engineering Div. did not allow us to make a positive identification of origins of the 6-speed manual transmission used in the the FT-86/FR-S/BRZ.

Newer, more thorough, information from TMC identifies the FR-S/BRZ transmission as an all-new type, the TL70.

A technical drawing of the TL70 shows that the order of the gears on the shafts (below) DOES NOT MATCH the RA60: the TL70 does match the sequence of the Aisin AZ6 (TMC type J160) 6-spd manual gearbox fitted to the original Toyota Altezza 2.0 (in Japan) and IS 200 (for Europe).

Similarly, illustrations of the TL70 internal shift linkage indicate that it is more like the J160 than the RA60 series. The ratios are unique to the TL70, with a closer overall spread of ratios than the RA62 of the current IS 250.

I have not been able to personally inspect any of these parts out of the new car and compare them to the earlier models.

There you have it, then. In summary, Toyota, Subaru and Aisin engineers started with the AZ6/J160 manual from the Toyota Altezza/Lexus IS 200, changed at least 80% of it in the quest for improved shift quality and came up with the AZ6-derived TL70 manual that graces the Subaru BRZ and its Toyota-badged stablemates. The only connection to the AY6/RA62 was the one erroneously made by whoever put together the Scion FR-S Long Lead Press Presentation Outline. Thus, we can accurately state that we and Aisin were closest to the truth.

The Forester factor: an unexpected reason why BRZ / FR-S / GT 86 production capacity is limited

As the universally rave reviews come in and hoopla builds over the Subaru BRZ and its Toyota and Scion 86 / GT 86 / FR-S stablemates, the flip side of this popular acclaim becomes evident: a high demand/low supply situation. On March 6, Reuters reported that the first month’s worth of orders for the Japanese domestic market Toyota 86 totalled roughly 7000 vehicles, or 7 times the 1000 unit per month JDM sales target. Three weeks later, a news release from Subaru corporate parent Fuji Heavy Industries reports 3551 BRZs sold in Japan in the nearly 2-month period between February 3 and March 27, nearly quadruple the JDM target of 450 BRZs per month. And, on Friday 13 April, FT-86Club‘s blog cited a Nikkei report that due to the huge backlog of orders, Japanese market deliveries of the Subaru BRZ will be pushed back to January 2013.

Does that mean that Subaru is prioritizing export BRZs? Maybe, but don’t expect a much brighter supply-and-demand situation here in the United States. As Diana T. Kurylko of Automotive News reported on April 2,

…only about 500 (BRZ) units will be available each month for the U.S. market.

That means that some of Subaru’s 620 U.S. dealers won’t have a BRZ at launch and most will get only one car a month.

It is unlikely the United States will receive more than about 6,000 of the rear-wheel-drive coupes a year even in a full-year of production, said Michael McHale, Subaru of America’s director of corporate communications.

“The only way we get more is if another market doesn’t sell its share,” he said.

Subaru will produce 100,000 units annually of the BRZ and its two sister cars, the Scion FR-S and Toyota 86, at its Gunma factory in Japan. The worldwide allocation for the three brands has not been disclosed.

McHale said Subaru of America asked for only 6,000 annually. He said the U.S. sales arm made a conservative request because little was known about the car during most of its joint development with Toyota.

Earlier this year, Scion boss Jack Hollis said his brand expects to sell 10,000 to 15,000 units of the FR-S in 2012.

Those 100,000 units of annual joint BRZ / FR-S / GT 86 production, by the way, are an increase versus original plans for 60,000 cars per year, and were officially confirmed by Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, president of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. on March 16. As to Michael McHale’s contention that “the U.S. sales arm made a conservative request because little was known about the car during most of its joint development with Toyota”, at least one pundit has suggested that it was skepticism over the salability of a rear-wheel-drive Subaru in a corporate culture so ingrained with “the beauty of all-wheel-drive” that led to the low BRZ take rate by Subaru USA.

The Gunma five
As we were reminded a few paragraphs above, and as hardcore Toyobaru coupe fans fully well know, the sports cars are built at a Subaru facility in Japan’s Gunma prefecture (the equivalent of a state or province). More precisely, they are located in the vicinity of Ota city. And, yes, we use “they” advisedly, for, as the official Fuji Heavy Industries Corporate website’s Domestic Facilities page informs us, there are, in fact, 5 distinct Gunma plants: Ota North and Isesaki manufacture automotive parts; Oizumi is the powertrain (automobile engines and transmissions) facility; and then come the two actual carmaking plants: Yajima, which builds Legacy, Exiga, Impreza and Forester (and, presumably, their Outback and XV Crosstrek offshoots); and the Gunma Main Plant, which, according to that page, builds R2, R1, Pleo, Sambar and Stella kei microcars.

Outdated info and an unexpected revelation
Needless to say, copyright 2012 at the bottom of the page notwithstanding, the above information begs for some serious updating. Besides the obviously-missing BRZ and its Toyota/Scion siblings from the Gunma Main Plant information, none of the Subaru models listed above are currently built at Gunma Main. The R2 kei 5-door hatchback and its even shorter R1 3-door sibling were discontinued in March 2010. The original, Subaru-engineered-and-built Pleo ceased production in December 2009, replaced in April 2010 by a rebadged Daihatsu Mira built at the Oita (Nakatsu) Plant No. 1 of Daihatsu Motor Kyushu. Similarly, the original, Subaru-engineered-and-built Stella was replaced in May 2011 by a rebadged Daihatsu Move built at the latter’s Shiga (Ryuo) Plant. Subaru’s last surviving self-engineered kei vehicle, the Sambar microvan ended production on 29 February 2012, as shown above right.

Doesn’t this mean, then, that the Gunma Main Plant is free and clear to build nothing but BRZs and its Toyota and Scion variants? Apparently not, according to Dominick Infante, National Manager, Product Communications at Subaru of America. At the second New York Auto Show press day, he informed this author that, because worldwide sales of the Forester compact crossover SUV had barely dropped off even after the current, 3rd-generation (SH)’s fifth year in production, a number of them are produced at the Gunma Main Plant to supplement the majority that is built at the Gunma Yajima Plant. A surprising and unexpected revelation, then, that suggests some potential Forester vs BRZ conflict in allocating Subaru resources and production capacity.

We should note, however, that in the United States, 2011 calendar year Forester sales totaled 76,196, a 10.44% decrease from 2010’s 85,080 units, a decline undoubtedly fueled by the aftermath of the 3/11 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. As for 2012 sales thus far, January saw sales of 5117 Foresters, a steeper 11.87% decline versus January 2011’s 5806 units sold. Similarly, February saw 5565 Foresters sold, a 12% drop compared to February 2011’s 6334 units moved.

Looming large: the Impreza factor
If the notion of some Foresters being built at Gunma Main potentially curtailing BRZ / FR-S / GT 86 production concerns you, you may be downright troubled by a passage from the fifth Subaru USA March 2012 News Archive entry that has also been echoed in a number of Fuji Heavy Industries English language news releases:

Subaru Gunma Main Plant, where minicars were previously manufactured, was recently renewed for the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 production. FHI plans to produce the Impreza at the same plant by March 2013.

The new 4th-generation Impreza (GP/GJ) has certainly been an unequivocal success, with an almost 87% U.S. sales increase in December 2011 versus year-earlier numbers, and 2012 increases soaring into the triple digits, including a 175.51% jump in January 2012 vs January 2011. And don’t even get us started on what might happen when the successor to the current GE/GH/GR WRX and STI emerges some time next year.

What about Subaru’s Indiana facility in the U.S.?
With all this potential jostling over capacity at Gunma Main, we can’t help but wonder if Subaru’s major production facility outside Japan, the United States’ Subaru of Indiana Automotive facility in Lafayette can’t help somehow. It would certainly bolster FHI’s bottom line by building more in a weak dollar locale as opposed to the less profitable strong yen Japan. Yet, here, too, production capacity constraints collide, with U.S. 2011 Legacy and Outback sales having increased 9.49% and 12.09%, respectively, over 2010, and 2012 thus far also showing year-on-year increases for the two lines versus year-ago figures.

With Toyota Camry maintaining its lock as the United States’ best-selling car, we wouldn’t bet on them surrendering capacity to their factory “landlord” in Indiana, either. As Wikipedia informs us, Toyota began producing 30,000 to 40,000 Camrys per year at SIA in 2007, with plans to gradually increase this to 100,000 units per year.

One logical suggestion would be to discontinue the Indiana-only sourced Tribeca mid-size crossover SUV and free up that capacity for something else. After all, the Tribeca isn’t even sold in Japan. Yet, U.S. sales of the largest Subaru increased almost 13% in 2011 (for a total of 2791 units), and an even higher 15.15% in January 2012. February’s 21% year-over-year dip, however, may well be a more typical Tribeca sales pattern.

Should Subaru eliminate the Exiga?
Similarly lackluster (if not more so) numbers are probably posted, we’re willing to bet, by the fourth Subaru line built at Subaru’s Gunma Yajima facility, the Exiga. This is a marginally shorter and narrower 3-row boxier 4-cylinder Tribeca alternative on the same 108.2″ wheelbase that is only offered in Japan and some nearby right-hand-drive markets such as Australia and Singapore.

What should Subaru do? Kaizen Factor suggests…
Tight production capacity may certainly appear to be an enviable problem, especially if you’re a volume European carmaker with excess capacity such as General Motors’ Opel, Fiat or Peugeot/Citroën. Nonetheless, juggling all these successful car lines at Subaru facilities in Japan and the United States in order to meet demand and maximize profitability is a task not to be taken lightly. It is at this point that this Kaizen Factor author plays armchair quarterback, indulges in informed speculation and suggests the following:

Kill off Tribeca and Exiga. If there’s one niche in which Subaru has seen marginal success, it’s in the 3-row crossover SUV/wagon segment. Neither Tribeca nor Exiga will be particularly missed if discontinued, and their demise will open up some production capacity at Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA) and at the Gunma Yajima Plant, respectively. And what if Subaru dealers clamor for an entry in this segment? With all the rebadged Toyotas and Daihatsus sitting below Impreza in Subaru’s Japanese domestic market lineup, one more large one wouldn’t be a big deal. Europe has also seen a handful of those, powered by their inline engines of origin. A Subaru-badged version of, say, the Toyota Verso small minivan (itself the foundation for the Prius v) would be a viable solution, and might even finally give the Mazda5 some long-overdue competition in the United States. Plus, it wouldn’t be the first time Subaru goes down this route. Under General Motors’ partial ownership, Subaru offered the Traviq (a rebadged 1st-generation Opel Zafira 7-seat compact MPV). Of course, if Subaru did something like this and offered a rebadged vehicle in North America with an inline or vee cylinder configuration instead of the company’s signature flat (horizontally-opposed) engines, we can already hear the cries of bloody murder from Subie loyalists already up in arms over the BRZ’s lack of all-wheel-drive…

Bring all Legacy and Outback production to the United States. A number of Toyota models that sell primarily or exclusively in North America are only built here, namely Matrix, Avalon, Venza, Sienna, Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia, with Highlander set to join the list in late 2013. Honda and Nissan (including their luxury brands) also offer a number of North America-only built models, as has Mitsubishi in the past, so why shouldn’t Subaru do the same with its now quite large Legacy sedan and Outback wagon? We’d imagine that the U.S. is by far the largest market for those models, anyway, so building them all here sounds like a good way to increase Subaru production capacity back in Japan for all the fun, sporty, truly Subaru stuff. And we say that advisedly, since the company in the U.S. has just discontinued for 2013 its last link to Legacy’s enthusiast-friendly past: the 2.5GT turbo manual sedan. A shame, for the line that in the past included such tantalizing variants as the spec.B sedan and 2.5GT wagons now signals its new mission as just an all-wheel-drive Camry/Accord/Altima alternative.

Bringing all Legacy and Outback production to the States also means that those sporting spec.B Legacys, available in sedan and wagon versions that still have a following in Japan and Australia even in their current BM/BR 5th-generation would also be built here. And, given that fact, perhaps Subaru can be persuaded to leave and sell a few of them over here…

As to a potential Legacy/Outback vs Camry fight for capacity at SIA, maybe Toyota could be persuaded to give up a smidge of Camry output in favor of Subaru if it means more capacity at Gunma Main for potential Toyota or Lexus-badged FR-S / GT 86 spinoffs. Wishful thinking, I know…

Keep most if not all Forester and Impreza production away from the Gumna Main Plant. With Exiga gone and Legacy/Outback coming exclusively from the U.S., that would leave the Gunma Yajima plant building just Forester and Impreza/XV Crosstrek. As such, any need for Gunma Main to produce overflow Foresters and Imprezas would be minimized, or even curtailed altogether, in turn maximizing production of BRZ / FR-S / GT 86 and any future variants thereof.

What about a new factory or production location?
The suggestions above are seemingly the least disruptive and most cost and time-effective solutions to an apparent capacity crunch facing Subaru (and, by extension, Toyota). There are always, of course, a myriad of other alternatives, from further, more elaborate juggling among or between the five Subaru Gunma facilities in Japan and SIA in the U.S. to building an all-new Subaru factory (such as a rumored Russian assembly plant by 2015) to the flip side of the current SIA Camry arrangement: setting up a Subaru or “Toyobaru” line in one of Toyota’s North American production facilities. With most of the world’s excess carmaking production capacity centered in Europe, the Old Continent could also provide alternatives. Given the strong Japanese production presence throughout Great Britain (think Toyota, Honda and Nissan) and a likely strong Japanese supplier base there, buying and repurposing General Motors’ endangered Ellesmere Port facility in northwest England is but one possibility that comes to mind.

These options, however, are far more involved, convoluted and time and money consuming. Needless to say, this is an area of expertise far above this humble scribe’s capabilities, and we’ll leave it to the corporate honchos, bean counters and production engineers to determine if, ultimately, Subaru might be on a growth spurt beyond what its six current major production facilities can handle.

A hardcore enthusiast’s ultimate dream goal: meeting demand, and creating a BRZ / 86 family
Toyota and Subaru’s short and mid-term goal, we’re sure, is meeting burgeoning demand for the current 4-cylinder, 2-liter naturally aspirated FA20-powered 86, GT 86, BRZ and Scion FR-S 2+2 sports coupes. Longer-term, though, this author believes, as many car forum posters and blogosphere denizens do, that the creation of Tetsuya Tada, Yoshio Hirakawa and Toshio Masuda is simply too good to confine to that single coupe. And, indeed, beyond the obvious more powerful version of that coupe, all sorts of additional body styles have been suggested and rendered, from a 4-door sports sedan (one we hope doesn’t look like the Best Car illustration above right with its fussy side sculpturing and odd Toyota badge/Lexus spindle grille mashup) to a convertible to speedster to the fanciful illustrations by FT86Club.com member Ichitaka05 that include targa and shooting break body styles, not to mention a Lexus-badged small 2-seater.

A final, parting thought
Perhaps, though, Subaru and Toyota have more downbeat and levelheaded notions of BRZ’s and FR-S/86’s long-term sales potential, with our wishful flights of fancy shot down by the numbers crunchers. Maybe, beyond the convertible shown above (as famously rendered by Germany’s Auto Bild) and go-faster powertrain tweaks, there won’t be any spinoffs or derivatives. In that case, the carmakers might be sobered by the traditional trendiness and brief shelf life of many past sports coupes. Perhaps adding some Forester and Impreza capacity at Gunma Main could, instead, turn out to be a visionary move.

BRZ, FR-S and GT 86 as a one or two-year wonder whose sales will then fizzle out faster than a bum firecracker? Heaven forbid things turn out that way…

Does Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ sharing even extend to exterior colors?

During the years-long gestation of the so-called Toyobaru coupe, one of the favorite guessing games was how much or how little differentiation there would be between the Toyota/Scion and Subaru versions. As both were finally unveiled, we learned that there is far less distinction between the two than there was between the old-school Detroit 3 ponycar siblings (Ford Mustang/Mercury Cougar, Chevrolet Camaro/Pontiac Firebird and Dodge Challenger/Plymouth Barracuda). Heck, even the later Diamond-Star triplets (Mitsubishi Eclipse/Plymouth Laser/Eagle Talon) showed a bit more differentiation among themselves than the Toyota/Subaru collaboration coupes. Yet, when the carmakers invited the press to the Friday 16 March production launch ceremony of the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ at Subaru’s Gunma Main Plant in Ota City, Gunma Prefecture, the two companies strived for maximum distinction by showcasing a Subaru BRZ in the brand’s signature WR Blue Pearl and a Toyota 86 in their exclusive Hot Lava orange hue, as shown above. What about the rest of the color palette, though? Is Subaru’s Dark Gray Metallic any different from Scion’s Asphalt hue? Does Scion’s Whiteout imply a “refrigerator white” as opposed to Subaru’s Satin White Pearl?

The surest way to answer these and other similar questions is to seek out the all-important 3-character alphanumeric paint code for each individual color and see whether or not they are common across both brands. Traditionally, Toyota and Lexus’ official Japanese websites identify exterior colors by that code. Sure enough, Toyota Japan’s Toyota 86 Exterior Bodycolor Index page does not disappoint. In contrast, official Subaru sites are not as forthcoming with this information. Fortunately, there are plentiful other Internet sources, such as the Automotive Touchup site. Following is what we’ve gathered and learned from those sources.

The unequivocably shared colors
Of the seven exterior colors available for each brand (Scion/Toyota and Subaru), four emerge as unequivocably and undoubtedly shared, and use Subaru-sourced paint codes, even in their Toyota/Scion applications. They are:

Dark Gray / 61K / Asphalt (Scion) / Dark Gray Metallic (Subaru)
Red / C7P / Firestorm (Scion) / Lightning Red (Subaru)
Black / D4S / Raven (Scion) / Crystal Black Silica (Subaru)
White / 37J / Whiteout (Scion) / Satin White Pearl (Subaru)

Thus, fans of “refrigerator”, non-pearlescent whites will be disappointed, since, at least for the 2013 model year, this will be the only shade of white to be offered for both brands.

Dark blue and silver. Shared or not?
Figuring out whether or not the dark blue and silver hues are shared between Toyota and Subaru took a bit more detective work, since their respective D6S and E8H color codes do not appear on the 2012 Automotive Touchup site. It turns out that the silver is the equivalent of a throwback jersey or a revived Nike shoe style, since D6S Sterling Silver Metallic was last offered by Subaru outside of North America in 2009 and 2010. Confusingly, in 2009 Subaru used both the Sterling Silver Metallic and Platinum Silver Metallic monikers to describe D6S. Thus, we can add

Silver / D6S / Argento (Scion) / Sterling Silver Metallic (Subaru)

Similarly E8H dark blue was last offered by Subaru outside of North America in 2010, discontinued for the 2011 and 2012 model years and brought back for the 2013 BRZ.

Dark Blue / E8H / Ultramarine (Scion) / Galaxy Blue Silica (Subaru)

WR Blue Pearl, yes, but which one?
Beyond the D6S Sterling Silver Metallic / Platinum Silver Metallic example we quoted earlier, Subaru color name / paint code alignment can be a bit convoluted. For instance, 37J, 925 and 926 paint codes all bear the Satin White Pearl name. And two separate paint codes (02C and 42C) both share the WR (World Rally) Blue Pearl denomination. What is the precise difference between the two? And which one does the BRZ use?

Page 3 of an official Japanese Subaru BRZ Options chart is inconclusive, for it only lists the last two characters of the three-character Subaru paint code, and 2C can equally refer to 02C or 42C. We know for a fact, however, that the current U.S. market WRX and STI use the 02C iteration of WR Blue Pearl. Further confusing matters, some sources outside the U.S., such as Pro-Spray Automotive Finishes list Subaru paint code 42C as Jet Silver Metallic. Fortunately, a visit to the 2012 New York Auto Show during press previews clarified matters, for the sole BRZ on the Subaru stand just happened to be WR Blue Pearl, and opening the passenger-side door revealed the 02C color code.

Two different color codes for Hot Lava? What’s up with that?
After ragging on Subaru for applying the same name to 2 or 3 different color codes, we must note that Scion has seemingly done something similar with the Hot Lava color name. While the signature 86/FR-S orange bears the H8R color code on Toyota Japan’s Toyota 86 Exterior Bodycolor Index page, on other Scion applications, namely the just-launched iQ, 2004 xB Release Series 1.0, 2008 xD Release Series 1.0 and 2012 xB Release Series 9.0, the color code is 4R8.

Why the two different codes (4R8 and H8R) for Hot Lava? We have a couple of possible educated guesses:

1) There is some sort of subtle difference between the FR-S Hot Lava and the version on iQ plus the myriad Release Series models that justifies the two separate color codes.

2) The Hot Lava hue itself is identical on FR-S and the FWD Scions but, given that the other GT 86 / FR-S exterior colors use Subaru paint codes (not to mention the Subaru-only WR Blue Pearl), then the H8R is a Subaru paint code for what is, at heart, a Toyota/Scion paint color.

The answer is something of an “all of the above”. Given that the Toyota/Scion is built in Subaru’s Gunma assembly plant (and, indeed, the inside door jamb/sill information labels clearly state that the vehicle is built by Subaru parent Fuji Heavy Industries even for Toyota and Scion-branded versions), it is only natural that FR-S Hot Lava would use a Subaru-specific color code in line with all the other exterior hues. Yet, as luck would have it, the Scion stand at the 2012 New York Auto Show had a Hot Lava iQ and a Hot Lava FR-S not even 50 feet from each other, and consensus was that the FR-S H8R hue is a bit lighter and brighter than the iQ and previous Release Series models’ 4R8.

Coming to Geneva: Toyota’s FT-Bh concept and more…

Just as the 2012 Chicago Auto Show (whose Toyota-centic highlights were the U.S. debut of the facelifted Land Cruiser that is becoming ever more redundant versus the Lexus LX 570; pricing for the new Prius c; plans to bring all Toyota Highlander and Highlander Hybrid production to Princeton, Indiana in time for the expected 3rd-generation’s late 2013 debut; a speech by Toyota Motor North America President & COO Yoshi Inaba; and a Monopoly board game-inspired Hybrid Ride Experience) opens to the public, Toyota and Lexus’ European arms are looking forward to the next major stop on the international auto show calendar: Geneva.

The centerpiece (and, to date, only unexpected surprise) of the show for the Toyota brand revolves around the enigmatic sketch you see at the top of the story: a teaser for the FT-Bh concept. This author, quite frankly, is still grappling with the disconnect between the long, sleek lines of the teaser sketch that recall the recent NS4 and FCV-R concepts (pictured at upper right and lower right, respectively) that will make their European debuts at Geneva and a Toyota Europe press release that describes FT-Bh as

demonstrating a total vehicle approach to reducing emissions for an affordable compact city car (and) is an ultra-lightweight, full hybrid vehicle study, designed to achieve low emissions within an economically viable production framework. The techniques and thought processes demonstrated in the concept avoid the use of exotic and expensive materials or complex procedures, using only those already commonplace in the automotive industry.

The “B” in the concept car’s name suggests a B-segment (think Toyota Yaris) vehicle, while AutoGuide‘s Colum Wood notes that the “compact city car” description might make it even smaller, say, Toyota/Scion iQ size. FT-Bh’s avoidance of exotic and expensive materials in favor of the commonplace implies a realistic, rather than pie-in-the-sky concept, oddball sketch notwithstanding.

Speaking of Yaris, the second Toyota world debut at Geneva 2012 besides the FT-Bh concept is the Yaris Hybrid shown at left. The European market’s counterpart to Japan’s Toyota Aqua and North America’s Prius c combines the slightly shorter 4-door 3rd-generation Yaris body with Aqua/Prius c‘s powertrain (a reworked version of the 2nd-gen Prius’ 1NZ-FXE 1.5-liter 4 cylinder engine) and space saving (and center of gravity-lowering) batteries and gas tank that reside under the rear seat. Combating the strong yen/weak euro exchange rate that is slaughtering Toyota’s profits, the Yaris Hybrid (or Yaris HSD) will be built alongside its non-hybrid sibling in Valenciennes, France with hybrid components brought in from Deeside, Wales in the United Kingdom.

Completing Toyota’s European debuts are the enigmatic Fun-Vii from the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show now renamed Toyota diji, and the highly acclaimed GT 86 sports coupe going on sale in Europe this summer. The Toyota press conference will be held on Tuesday 6 March at 10:15 AM Central European Time (which works out to 4:15 AM Eastern Time / 1:15 AM Pacific Time).

…and what about Lexus?
Judging by Lexus Europe’s media site, the 2012 Geneva Motor Show appears to be almost as quiet as Chicago for Toyota’s luxury marque. There’s the European debut of the LF-LC concept, and a reminder that the newest GS 450h which already had its world and European debut at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show in September goes on sale this summer. Yet, the press release also mentions an “Expanded F SPORT Model Range” including two new vehicles to be launched in 2012. In our recent Informed Speculation: the 19 new Toyota, Lexus and Scion models to launch during 2012 article, we noted Lexus USA comments of three new F Sport models, with GS being the first. Might this be a hint that a facelifted 3rd-gen RX and RX Hybrid, including a much-rumored new F Sport variant will be unveiled in Geneva? We’ll know for sure right after the Toyota press conference, when Lexus Europe Vice President Andy Pfeiffenberger ends the suspense and speculation at 10:30 AM Central European Time / 4:30 AM Eastern Time / 1:30 AM Pacific Time.

Is a Toyota 86 / Scion FR-S sedan derivative worthy of reviving the Toyota Altezza badge?

As the final production iterations of the so-called “Toyobaru coupe” triplets (Toyota GT-86 [or, simply, 86], Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ) are finally rolled out for sampling by the world’s automotive press, the reviews are unanimous in their praise, and there is a clear consensus that the hard work of Subaru and Toyota engineers in kick-starting the revival of the no-frills rear-wheel-drive affordable sports coupe is, simply, too good to be confined to a single 2+2 two-door model. This author has long lobbied for a 2-seat roadster Lexus-badged derivative to rival the Audi TT, BMW Z4, Mercedes SLK and Porsche Boxster. Many others, however, have been moved to suggest (and render, as is evident in this article) stretched 4-door sports sedan versions of the new 86.

Speculation on an 86 sedan version hit a fever pitch back in autumn 2010, starting with Peter Lyon of Autocar‘s suggestion that Toyota made plans to spin a new small sports saloon (sedan to us Yanks) off the rear-drive platform as an “insurance policy” if the coupé never made it into production or failed to meet sales expectations. This author was certainly no stranger to the frenzy back then, penning related articles both for Kaizen Factor and my.IS, the latter shooting down Sam Mitani’s ridiculous notion that the “FT-86 sedan” would become the 3rd-generation Lexus IS.

In our Kaizen Factor piece, meanwhile, we mused that

…the notion of a 4-door sedan sibling for the FT-86 is a very tantalizing one as a “son-of-Toyota Altezza” (and Lexus IS 200), the Toyota brand’s last unqualified sport sedan hit.

Taking this one step further, if Toyota were, indeed, to build an 86-derived sedan, would it be worthy of bringing back the Altezza badge, not only in Japan but throughout the world? Please, no Scion-badging nonsense for this sedan in North America, they’ve already got their coupe. Given the number of Altezza-badged Lexus IS 300s this author sees as part of the active Florida my.IS / Club Lexus community, perhaps the world is ready for a proper sequel to the smaller, lighter and more agile 1st-generation Lexus IS for those who feel let down by the heavier and more luxury-oriented current 2nd-gen version. Or do you feel that there can only be one true, worthy, deserving Altezza, and that the notion of slapping that hallowed badge on a Toyota 86 sedan is almost sacrilegious? Perhaps the imitation-is-the-sincerest-form-of-flattery trend of slapping “Altezza taillights” on all manner of old Hondas and beyond has tainted the name in your mind forever? How do you feel about this notion?

Illustration credits:
1) Theophilus Chin via Paul Tan’s Automotive News
2) Best Car
3) CarsGuide.com.au