• Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

Toyota CEO hints more GR-branded sports cars are in the pipeline

Bynewsmagzines

May 1, 2023
Editors’ Picks March 2023 | Hot hatch galore and some great luxury SUVs

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Toyota will launch an electric-car offensive in the second half of the 2020s under new CEO Koji Sato, but it’s not forgetting about enthusiasts. The firm announced that investing more resources into EVs won’t spell the end of its performance-focused Gazoo Racing (GR) sub-brand.

“The Gazoo brand will be acknowledged for the future — and maybe we can even speed it up,” Sato told British magazine Autocar on the sidelines of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) race held on Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps circuit. “Our Master Driver was also president of the company at the same time as he had a steering wheel in his hand for Gazoo. Now he is only chairman, maybe he will have a lot more time to develop cars for them?,” he added, referring to now-retired CEO Akio Toyoda, who spearheaded the sub-brand’s launch.

One point worth noting is that his comments contradict statements made by Yasunori Suezawa, the GR86’s chief engineer, last October. “There is [sic] none left, actually, so [the GR86] is the last,” he announced. Sato is in charge, so he presumably gets the last word.

It’s too early to tell how Toyota will expand its GR-branded range of sports cars. As of writing, the global lineup includes some seriously exciting models including the GR Yaris (the only true rally homologation special available new in 2023), the GR Corolla (which shares its basic drivetrain with the Yaris; pictured), the GR86 (mind the gap), and the GR Supra. Its covering more segments than most of its rivals.

None of this is official, but it’s difficult to imagine a Toyota sports car positioned above the Supra. One of the voids in the GR range is a truck — high-performance, off-road-ready pickups are in hot demand, and GR could be well positioned to steer Toyota into this segment. How about a GR-developed version of the next-generation Tacoma to take on the upcoming Ford Ranger Raptor? Another option is a born-again MR2, though we’ve heard rumors outlining the car for over a decade and they’ve never materialized. And, buyers in the market for a high-performance crossover with a relatively affordable price tag won’t find one in a Toyota showroom — that’s another hole to fill.

GR could also either develop a battery-powered model or create its own variant of an upcoming EV. An unverified rumor published in February 2023 claims that the next-generation Supra will switch to battery power. And, yet another possibility is a GR-branded model equipped with the hydrogen-burning three-cylinder engine that Toyota has been testing on and off the track for the past couple of years.

This is all speculation, and we expect more details about Toyota’s plans for the future will emerge in the coming months. In the meantime, one thing is seemingly certain: The brand that unexpectedly became the enthusiast community’s darling isn’t going to give up this status.

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