Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Toyota Motor Corp.’s upcoming new “affordable” sports car alluded to by President and CEO Akio Toyoda in a speech here today will be branded either a Toyota or Scion, a top U.S. official says.

The sports car is the famed “Toyobaru” rear-wheel-drive model Toyota is co-developing with Subaru-maker Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., Jim Lentz, president-Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. reveals in a media roundtable at the 2009 Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars.

“I think it’s going to be great for sales and great for the Toyota image,” Lentz says of the car, which Toyota is fast-tracking for production in a “few years,” as it tries to inject some vigor into its lineup.

Lentz says the model has been on a short-list for production, but Toyota prioritized the Venza cross/utility vehicle ahead of the sports car.

"I can’t say if we would have been better off bringing a sports car forward as opposed to the Venza,” Lentz says. “I think (the) Venza was the better decision to make.

“Global limited resources” hampered an earlier debut of the sporty model, he says, declining to say if it’s more of a “sports car” or “sports coupe.”

In February, Toyota-brand Group Vice President Bob Carter told Ward’s a sports car was desired but not a priority given tight product-development resources.

Toyota models, Lentz admits, “could be more passionate and could have better styling,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean the car will be branded a Toyota. Scion is due for a next-generation tC sport coupe, on sale in its current form since 2004.

Lentz says if the new model were to be branded a Toyota, there likely would be some market cannibalization from the tC. He says unequivocally the tC will have a next generation.

Pricing for the new sports car has yet to be determined, but Lentz says it will be important to price it within reach of Generation-Y buyers.

Volume targets also are unclear, but “high-volume and sports car are often difficult to use in the same sentence.”

Meanwhile, the Lexus LF-A supercar that Toyoda announced earlier today would go into production will be retailed in the U.S.

Whether the model will be available in both coupe and convertible form is still to be determined, as is pricing and its target demographic.

It is possible Toyota will be able to conquest Italian exotics with the LF-A, but officials say it also could appeal to current Lexus owners. The ideal buyer would be a person with a Lexus LS and an Italian exotic already in the garage.

While it will be a very low-volume model, bringing the LF-A to market will be important for Lexus to showcase its technological prowess, Lentz says.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com