After a long hiatus, Toyota is getting back into the fast lane. As part of a synchronised global launch, the 2-litre 86 is being rolled out to what the carmaker and its local dealership believe will win over sports car enthusiasts.
To do so, the 86 is the first Toyota sports car — and developed in alliance with Subaru — in many years to come with a manual transmission.
While the showroom prices for the model will be announced after the launch this week, followers on social media reckon the three model variants will be between Dh95,000 and Dh125,000.
But for the brand and its local dealership, Al Futtaim Motors, the 86 — which will be shipped in from Japan — is about reclaiming the brand's heritage in the sports car category and, by doing so, strike a chord with its intended audience.Bringing back emotion
"It comes with the full works of what an authentic sports car should be — a rear-wheel drive, four-cylinder Boxer engine, and built around the driver," Simon Frith, managing director at Al Futtaim Motors, said.
"It's about bringing back emotion to the branding rather than just QDR, which is quality, durability and reliability.
"Mind you, Toyota is great at QDR. But the emotional factor — we missed it a little bit. We are now getting that back."
For sure, Toyota did have a lineage in bringing out sports cars that have proved popular in their times. There was the 2000 GT, the AE 86, the Celica and the Supra. The last two did have a committed following in the UAE.
"For the better part of the last decade, Toyota had focused on other areas of its business and globally, it was a successful strategy in terms of volumes and global domination," Frith said.
"The 86 is a return to our heritage and an opportunity to pull emotion back into the brand."
Local pre-orders have been going well for the three versions available. (In Japan, pre-order bookings in a single month earlier this year totalled more than 7,000, according to auto websites.)
Depending on how one defines the genre, the sports car category typically accounts for a few thousand units in the UAE on a yearly basis.
Young at heart
The 86, if it makes it into the few hundreds, would then be doing quite well. The model is intended to appeal to the young and the young at heart and will be priced accordingly, Frith added.
"Some of the early production will go to fulfill the early orders," Frith said.
"We will also have units available to sell. There will not be a great deal of pre-launch marketing as we have been talking about the car for some time. It has got an enormous deal of interest.
"It's not super-charged, nor is it turbo-charged and it's not an all-wheel drive. It's a raw car and that's what we believe would make it an authentic sports car.
There are plenty of buyers looking for those kinds of specs."
Cheap, compact cars for emerging markets
Tokyo:Toyota said on Friday that it will roll out a number of new compact cars priced around $12,500 (Dh45,913) in developing nations, targeting sales of more than one million of the models annually in emerging markets by 2015.
Japan's biggest automaker said it would make eight new cars at plants in Thailand, Indonesia, India and Brazil, priced at "about 1 million yen [$12,500] or more."
"We don't sell cars priced at 500,000 yen," Toyota executive vice-president Yukitoshi Funo told reporters at its Tokyo headquarters.
While the new models are squarely aimed at emerging nations, including China, Indonesia and Brazil, "if customers in the United States or Europe like them, I will flexibly think about [selling them there]," Funo added.
In 2010, the firm launched its Etios compact to the Indian market with a base price of about $10,000, still far higher than domestic rivals such as Tata Motors, whose Nano sells for as little as $2,900.
Total sales of Etios have surpassed 100,000 vehicles in India since its debut, the company said on Friday.
Etios is part of a broader plan to see half of Toyota's worldwide vehicle sales come from emerging markets, up from 45 per cent in 2011, as global automakers rush to emerging nations amid stuttering sales in their developed markets.
The automaker sold 7.35 million vehicles globally in the year to March.
Funo offered few details about the new Toyota models, but said they will have an "excitement" factor.
"Cars need to have a factor of excitement — when a father buys a car, he must draw respect from his family who should say ‘Daddy, well done,' and the family should enjoy going on a picnic on a weekend in that car," he said.
Toyota regained its position as the world's number one automaker in the first quarter, stealing back the lead from US giant General Motors, according to manufacturers' figures.
It's a good time for local auto enthusiasts to go shopping for a hot set of wheels. Every auto brand worth its torque has a flashy glass-and-chrome contender at their local dealer showrooms.
The 2012 Roush Stage 3 Mustang recently landed at Al Tayer Motors' (ATM) Ford showrooms. The cars, priced at Dh260,000, carry a wallop with its improved 540 HP.
"This year, the added horse power of the new-look car will appeal to motoring enthusiasts who like to do more with their car in their leisure time," said Ashok Khanna, CEO at ATM.