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Toyota launches new "GR" sports car series in Japan with seven-model lineup




With the new sports car series, Toyota is attempting to refresh its image as driver focused and aspirational, rather than just utilitarian.

IHS Markit perspective

  • Significance: Toyota Motor Corporation has unveiled the new "GR" sports car series in the Japanese market. The new performance lineup includes the top-level GRMN, the mid-range GR, and the entry-level GR Sport. In addition to Japan, the new performance car series will also be gradually rolled out in overseas markets.
  • Implications: The automaker has released seven variants under the new high-performance series featuring several aesthetic and mechanical upgrades and plans to expand the lineup further later this year. The seven variants include models such as the Prius plug-in hybrid (PHV) GR Sport, Vitz GR Sport, Noah GR Sport, Voxy GR Sport, Harrier GR Sport, Mark X GR Sport, and Vitz GR. Upcoming variants include the 86 car GR variant, Aqua GR Sport, and Prius Alpha GR Sport by the end of this year, followed by the Vitz GRMN variant in early 2018.
  • Outlook: Toyota's renewed interest in performance cars comes as the company is trying to reinvigorate its image as emotional and aspirational, rather than just functional. The new sports series, spanning several vehicle segments, will appeal to young car enthusiasts who prefer high-performance models, as well as to regular customers. According to IHS Markit's light-vehicle data, the sports car segment in Japan will record total sales of 35,328 units in 2017, with a market share of 0.69%.

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) today (19 September) announced the launch of the new "GR" sports car series in the Japanese market. The new GR series was developed using the knowledge and know-how acquired by activities under Toyota's Gazoo Racing motorsport arm. Gazoo Racing already sells modified Toyota models in Japan and handles the brand's activities in the World Rally Championship and World Endurance Championship. It sells limited-edition models under two banners: GRMN (Gazoo Racing Masters of Nürburgring) and G Sports (G's). The new performance lineup, essentially a rebranding of the G's banner, will include the top-level GRMN, the mid-range GR, and the entry-level GR Sport. The limited-release GRMN-badge variants will feature a tuned engine, while the GR-badge variants will incorporate additional features and will be mass produced. The company will also offer minivans under the GR-Sport badge for a casual sports car driving experience. In addition to this, an aftermarket GR Parts will be provided so ordinary drivers can customize their own cars.

The automaker has released seven variants under the new high-performance series featuring several aesthetic and mechanical upgrades and plans to expand the lineup further later this year. The seven variants include models such as the Prius plug-in hybrid (PHV) GR Sport, Vitz GR Sport, Noah GR Sport, Voxy GR Sport, Harrier GR Sport, Mark X GR Sport, and Vitz GR. Sales of the models have begun at Toyota's dealerships across the country.

The Prius PHV is powered by a 1.8-litre engine combined with a Toyota Hybrid System II (THS-II). The model is available in two trims – S GR Sport and S Navi Package/GR Sport – priced at JPY3.71 million (USD33,327.6) and JPY4.11 million, respectively. The Harrier sport utility vehicle (SUV) is fitted with either a 2.0-litre engine combined with a Super Continuously Variable Transmission-intelligent transmission (Super CVT-i) or a 2.0-litre direct injection turbo engine with an automatic 6-speed Super Electronically Controlled Transmission (ECT). The price of the two trims has been kept in the range of JPY3.39–3.99 million. The Mark X luxury sedan's two trims – 350RDS GR Sport and 250S GR Sport – will be fitted with a 3.5- and 2.5-litre engine, respectively. Both the engines will be combined with a 6-speed Super ECT and will be priced at JPY3.80–4.42 million.

The Voxy and Noah will come in one performance trim each, called the ZS GR Sport and Si GR Sport, respectively. The multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) will be powered by 2.0-litre engines mated to a Super CVT-i transmission and with a price tag of JPY3.25 million. The Vitz hatchback will be equipped with a 1.5-litre engine and combined with either a 5-speed manual transmission (5-MT) or Super CVT-i. The model's two trims, the GR Sport "GR" and GR Sport, are priced in the range of JPY2.08–2.32 million. All variants come with a front-wheel-drive option, except for the Mark X, which comes with rear-wheel-drive option. The Harrier SUV also offers a four-wheel-drive option. In terms of seating, the Prius PHV has a four-seat arrangement; the Vitz, Harrier, and Mark X have a five-seat arrangement, while the Voxy and Noah have a seven-seat arrangement. Key upgrades in all the performance variants include special tuned suspension, brace addition, aluminium pedals, and a small diameter steering wheel. Some grades of the Vitz also come with a 10-speed sequential sport shift and spot welding points. The Prius PHV offers a special tachometer and shift knob, while the Harrier is fitted with a special exhaust system and special meter.

Toyota has revealed details of the models to be launched in the coming months. The automaker will expand the new performance lineup with the 86 car GR variant, Aqua GR Sport, Prius α (also known as Prius v) GR Sport by the end of this year, followed by the Vitz GRMN variant in early 2018. The upcoming variants' key upgrades would include shock absorbers made by SACHS, brace addition, special tuned suspension, aluminium pedals, a small diameter steering wheel, special sports seats, limited-slip differential (LSD), and BBS forged aluminium wheels, among others. Toyota has confirmed that the new GR series will eventually be rolled out in markets outside Japan.

Outlook and implications

Toyota's renewed interest in performance cars comes as the company is trying to reinvigorate its image as emotional and aspirational, rather than just functional. The new sports series, spanning several vehicle segments, will appeal to young car enthusiasts who prefer high-performance models, as well as to regular customers.

Toyota already offers a host of performance models from its Toyota Racing Development (TRD) sub-brand in North America. This year at the Geneva Motor Show, the automaker introduced a supercharged-Gazoo Racing Masters of Nürburgring (GRMN) version of its Yaris subcompact as its entry into the hot hatch segment. The automaker previously said that it is considering transforming its Gazoo Racing motorsport arm into a performance road car brand to rival the BMW M and Mercedes-AMG. The latest launch arrives ahead of an expected successor to the Toyota Supra next month at the Tokyo Motor Show. That two-door coupé could debut as early as next year .

According to IHS Markit's light-vehicle data, the sports car segment in Japan gained some momentum in 2015 but has been losing its market share since then. The segment recorded sales of 45,981 units in 2016, down by 11.1% year on year, and a market share of 0.95%. We expect this figure to total 35,328 units in 2017, with a market share of 0.69%. As of 2016, over 75% of the segment's total sales were accounted for by the Honda S660, Toyota 86, Mazda Roadster, Daihatsu Copen, Audi TT, Lexus RC, and Subaru BRZ.

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The above article is from AutoIntelligence Daily by IHS Markit. AutoIntelligence Daily provides same-day analysis of automotive news, events and trends.​​​​​​ Get a free trial.