GENEVA -- Toyota said it will use its Supra sports car to act as a halo model to bring more emotional appeal to the brand.
The automaker unveiled the GR Supra Racing Concept at the Geneva auto show here on Tuesday, previewing a racing version.
The concept's GR letters stand for Gazoo Racing after Toyota’s motorsports brand. It is fitted out as track-ready a racecar with roll-cage, driver’s race harness, quick-release steering wheel, and center-fixed racing wheels. The exterior of the car included a large rear spoiler and diffuser for downforce.
Toyota wants to create a stronger link to its race activities to increase the appeal of its cars. “We believe we can create better cars with what we learn from motorsports,” Toyota Europe CEO Johan van Zyl said.
The production car will have a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout will cost about 50,000 to 60,000 euros in Europe, where it will challenge cars such as the Renault Alpine and Porsche Cayman. The Supra will go on sale in the first half of next year.
Sales will be relatively small at less than 10,000 a year, said Toyota Europe sales and marketing boss Matthew Harrison. “Volume or profit is not the motivation for the vehicle,” he said.
"We have quality credibility but have lacked a bit in terms of emotional appeal and excitement," Harrison added. "We can bring that back with cars on Toyota New Generation Architecture (TNGA) platforms, but I think the brand needs aspirational models.”
To reduce costs for such a low-volume car, Toyota developed the Supra with BMW, which will show its Z4 version in the summer.
Toyota’s Supra badge is still widely known among performance car enthusiasts. Toyota built four generations of the model running from 1979 to 2002, gaining a strong following, but the company has largely withdrawn from sports cars since. Currently, the company only offers the lower-cost GT86 coupe, a highly praised but slow-selling model developed with Subaru, which also markets a version.
The challenge for Toyota, known for affordable cars that keep their value, is to win over car buyer also looking for power and speed, said Tim Urquhart, an analyst with IHS Automotive in London. "The last Supra was a bit of a performance icon in its own right -- but that was 20 years ago," Urquhart said. "So, the question now is whether the market is hugely receptive to a very fast, nimble, sporty Toyota."
Bloomberg contributed to this report