RE: Be glad the Supra exists at all | PH Footnote

RE: Be glad the Supra exists at all | PH Footnote

Sunday 9th June

Be glad the Supra exists at all | PH Footnote

Despite sports cars being harder to justify than ever, Dan P reckons we're in a golden period



You'll be sick to your back teeth of reading about the new Toyota GR Supra not being a real Supra, about platform sharing and the amortisation of development costs and all the rest of it. I know I am. With this piece I don't mean to stoke the not-a-real-Supra debate just as the embers are beginning to fade. Instead, I want to share a little insight into exactly why it's so difficult for a vast car maker like Toyota to embark upon a sports car project in 2019.

The insight isn't mine, but that of Tetsuya Tada, chief engineer of the both the new Supra and the GT86 before it. A man who knows exactly what it takes to bring a sports car to life, in other words. During the Supra launch in Madrid last month Tada-san explained to a small group of journalists - while nursing a 1965 Glenlivet, no less - that no sports car project can lose money. In fact, if any individual model of any type is forecast to drop into the red, it'll be canned. Halo effect? When a project loses money, it has no value whatsoever. That's just how huge OEMs like Toyota operate.

"You have to stay in the black even if it's just a little bit," he explained. "Only then can you talk about brand awareness or halo effect." Tada-san said it was a senior Mazda MX-5 engineer who taught him that. And it was the same engineer who admonished him, in the very early days of the GT86's gestation, for daring to be excited about his forthcoming sports car project. The enormous pressure to keep development costs down would soon snuff out any excitement...


Seven years after its launch, says Tada-san, the GT86 is considered a successful model among Toyota command only by the slimmest margin. And that's a car whose development costs were shared with Subaru. Had it cost only a little more to develop and build, or had sales been only a little weaker, the GT86 would have been classified a failure for ever more. It probably isn't unreasonable to suggest Toyota might never have built a bespoke combustion engine sports car again.

The pressure for any sports car project to more than wash its own face probably isn't new. But what has changed over the past couple of decades, according to Tada-san, is the number of mainstream models that could in some way be adapted into a sports car. He says there just aren't as many rear-wheel drive platforms or suspension architectures nowadays that can be tweaked or fiddled with and used to underpin a genuine sports car. So you have to start from scratch.


What's more, emissions regulations, pass-by noise restrictions and crash legislation have all made the development of a sports car a far costlier and much more demanding process than it ever was. Bring all of those factors together and you're left with many OEMs choosing not to bother with purpose-built sports car at all, and those that do buddying up with another car maker to divide the expense the way Toyota has done with BMW.

I came away from that brief discussion with Tada-san feeling not only that I really must try a 1965 Glenlivet, but also that a minor miracle and a huge amount of board-level wrangling is what it takes for any sports car to make production these days. (It also made me adore the Alpine A110 even more, too, because although it shares its engine with the Renaultsport Megane and certain interior components with other Renaults, it's built on an aluminium platform that isn't shared with any other car. And its double wishbone suspension is bespoke as well. Both must have been very tough decisions that might well have gone the other way.)

It really is a wonder that any sports car - particularly in or around the £50,000 price bracket - gets signed off at all. And yet, when was the sports car market as vibrant and as varied as it is today? With the Toyota GR Supra, BMW Z4, Porsche 718 Cayman and Boxster, BMW M2 Competition and Alpine A110, I'm not sure we've ever had it so good.


 



Author
Discussion

robemcdonald

Original Poster:

4,187 posts

138 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
Car enthusiasts will never be happy.

Manufacturers like BMW churn out monstrosities like the X7 because they appeal to the mass market. The people who will actually spend the think end of £100k on a 4x4 status symbol.
We moan because no one is listening to what the enthusiast wants.
A manufacturer like Toyota decide to build something for the enthusiast and gets a largely negative response.

You can see why most marques are not too worried about “halo” models.

bozzy.

162 posts

20 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
Well said that man!

P.S I’ve got half a day at Thruxton with the car this month. Looking forward to going would be an understatement.

Edited by bozzy. on Sunday 9th June 08:07

kambites

56,709 posts

163 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
robemcdonald said:
Car enthusiasts will never be happy.
yes It's not unique to cars, either. "Enthusiasts" in general will never all be happy because by their very nature they care; and by human nature they care about different things.

Addymk2

270 posts

114 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
I picked up a 2017 BRZ 3 weeks ago. A GT86 in drag.

Within a week I'd put it around the Nurburgring, drove through Switzerland, almost got wiped out in an avalanche mid Alpine Pass and by week 3 added 4,500 miles to the clock.

It really is a fantastic car, comfy enough for a long journey whilst light enough to be responsive. It's 100bhp down on my previous car and has a 150lb torque deficit. It's perfectly fast enough for the road and just about passes on the ring thanks to the awesome chassis. Cornering it held with some impressive machinery, on the straights? Less so.

I'm smitten.

Thanks Toyota.

Nerdherder

685 posts

39 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
I’m not reading anything unexpected in this article, but it’s very welcome to get some insider views on sportscar development. Have enjoyed the article.

P.s. I’ll have a dram of that ‘livet too please.
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sidesauce

925 posts

160 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
robemcdonald said:
Car enthusiasts will never be happy.

Manufacturers like BMW churn out monstrosities like the X7 because they appeal to the mass market. The people who will actually spend the thick end of £100k on a 4x4 status symbol.
We moan because no one is listening to what the enthusiast wants.
A manufacturer like Toyota decide to build something for the enthusiast and gets a largely negative response.

You can see why most marques are not too worried about “halo” models.
Absolutely agree. Enthusiasts seem to forget that manufacturers are primarily motivated and interested in making money and as it's their number one priority, pretty much every decision they make is based upon that fact.

Flyinv

10 posts

2 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
Agreed, I've actually been getting a recent hankering for the GT86. Thoughts are slowly starting to gestate on mods, tuning and ideal spec.....

It's weird how our tastes change and it takes time to appreciate some cars

s m

17,503 posts

145 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
Like the idea of the GT86 but it just isn’t realistic for my needs ( more than 1 passenger of a certain size )

A 1 coupe is just a bit roomier in the back after trying both

Both good bases for simple mods and have manual boxes which I prefer

Good to have the choice

Not a fan of autos so most of the new stuff passes under my radar

cerb4.5lee

11,554 posts

122 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
The GT86 was on my radar when I was looking to buy my 370Z and I'm a really big fan of the GT86/BRZ recipe. They are cars that I would love to have one day for sure. If the Supra eventually gets offered with a manual gearbox then that would be in with a shout too in the future.

Schmed

978 posts

14 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
State owned Renault are used to huge losses...

I will be test driving a Supra however.

CABC

2,530 posts

43 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
agree.
good article and good thread so far - early sunday morning though....

i think enthusiasts should also tolerate, show interest even, in all aspects of their hobby and display less negativity.
After all, there is no car that's anywhere close to perfect. they're all a compromise. The GT86 compromised too much for most people in its 25k package shows where most people's priorities lie. All the good journos rate the Supra highly, the main criticisms being that greatness is close and a few tweaks away (manual a big one), but PH was a little more damming along with making huge incorrect assumptions.

Japanese are our best friends for low cost sports cars.

EDLT

15,138 posts

148 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
If it's so difficult then how do Mazda and Nissan do it?

SOL111

276 posts

74 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
kambites said:
robemcdonald said:
Car enthusiasts will never be happy.
yes It's not unique to cars, either. "Enthusiasts" in general will never all be happy because by their very nature they care; and by human nature they care about different things.
That's a very diplomatic way of putting it.

Personally I think it goes way beyond that on here. It's like an episode of grumpy old men mixed with one foot in the grave hehe

wab172uk

1,313 posts

169 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
Sadly, as it's been said before, the fact this car doesn't have a manual option means it'll never be on my radar. If one car was crying out for a manual, this is it.

The editors piece in Evo this month sums it up perfectly. People buy Auto's in dull boring cars, which makes manufacturers think we all want auto gearboxes. Make the manual the once `DSG option` and allow those of us who want to change gear ourselves, the option.

I owned a 370Z years ago, and this would have been a natural rival / purchase consideration. What's not to like about a powerful engine up front, 2 seats, and RWD? Oh yes, the gearbox.

Same can be said for the Alpine A110. That car deserves the option of a manual.

I'm currently looking at second hand 991 Carrera 4 GTS's. But finding the right spec which has a manual box is proving hard. Just a waiting game, but could be a long wait.

Nerdherder

685 posts

39 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
Schmed said:
State owned Renault are used to huge losses...

I will be test driving a Supra however.
The French in general are used to huge losses.

I’ll have an A110 though. Fabulous thing.

Nerdherder

685 posts

39 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
wab172uk said:
Sadly, as it's been said before, the fact this car doesn't have a manual option means it'll never be on my radar. If one car was crying out for a manual, this is it.

The editors piece in Evo this month sums it up perfectly. People buy Auto's in dull boring cars, which makes manufacturers think we all want auto gearboxes. Make the manual the once `DSG option` and allow those of us who want to change gear ourselves, the option.

I owned a 370Z years ago, and this would have been a natural rival / purchase consideration. What's not to like about a powerful engine up front, 2 seats, and RWD? Oh yes, the gearbox.

Same can be said for the Alpine A110. That car deserves the option of a manual.

I'm currently looking at second hand 991 Carrera 4 GTS's. But finding the right spec which has a manual box is proving hard. Just a waiting game, but could be a long wait.
RHD probably is. In due time (given added taxes that decrease over time in NL for instance) manual box USA 991 specimens will become interesting for us to import.

Itsallicanafford

1,964 posts

101 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
I can understand all this hard nose economics but essentially I think it is short sighted. I know it sounds bad, but my current family bus is a Lexus ES 300h FSport. A car which is pretty much as far removed from an LFA as you can get. But I like the fast they have a similar sliding taco and use the same graphics on the taco. Chalk up 2 sales to Toyota as this was also a reason i bought my IS before the ES.

leglessAlex

3,116 posts

83 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
wab172uk said:
The editors piece in Evo this month sums it up perfectly. People buy Auto's in dull boring cars, which makes manufacturers think we all want auto gearboxes. Make the manual the once `DSG option` and allow those of us who want to change gear ourselves, the option.
I could be wrong, but I was sure that the automatic option was also the most commonly selected one for many sports cars such as the 911 and M2/M4?


rockin

6,479 posts

187 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
All we need to hear now from the PH oracles and gurus is,
  • where's that new TVR? and
  • where's that new Lotus?

ocrx8

737 posts

138 months

Sunday 9th June
quotequote all
cerb4.5lee said:
The GT86 was on my radar when I was looking to buy my 370Z and I'm a really big fan of the GT86/BRZ recipe. They are cars that I would love to have one day for sure. If the Supra eventually gets offered with a manual gearbox then that would be in with a shout too in the future.
Lee, considering you thought the S54 and S65 lacked grunt, I don’t think a GT86 is for you!