Toy­ota fi­nally shifts up

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE - By PAUL GOVER

SUR­PRISE, sur­prise, the top is coming off the Toy­ota 86.

Ac­tu­ally, it’s no sur­prise at all, since there has been talk of an 86 road­ster since the day Toy­ota con­firmed it was fi­nally get­ting se­ri­ous about mak­ing a 21st cen­tury sports car. So the only sur­prise is that Subaru cur­rently has no plan to do a fresh-air BRZ.

The coupe twins — which scooped last year’s Cars­guide Car of the Year award — have been a joint ven­ture from the first day of devel­op­ment right through to the Subaru fac­tory that cur­rently pumps out Toy­ota’s new-age hero.

But now Subaru says the open-air 86 is a Toy­ota-only project and not for the BRZ.

‘‘There is no BRZ con­vert­ible show­ing on our prod­uct plan­ning port­fo­lio. And that doc­u­ment goes out for sev­eral years,’’ the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Subaru Aus­tralia, Nick Se­nior, tells Cars­guide. ‘‘That’s not to say they are con­sid­er­ing it, but we def­i­nitely have no knowl­edge. Ob­vi­ously, we have in­sight and vis­i­bil­ity for sev­eral years to help with the plan­ning process, whether it’s tech­ni­cal, sales, mar­ket­ing or lo­gis­tics.’’

Se­nior ad­mits that Toy­ota might be con­sid­er­ing a pro­duc­tion plan out­side the ex­ist­ing as­sem­bly ar­range­ments in Ja­pan, per­haps with a third-party drop­top spe­cial­ist, but says the pos­si­bil­ity of a BRZ rag­top is tiny.

‘‘It’s a very small chance. And it’s a chance as small as the vol­ume would be likely to be,’’ he says.

Still, Toy­ota is push­ing ahead with a drop­top that’s likely for pro­duc­tion in 2014. The car is be­ing pre­viewed next month at the Geneva Mo­tor Show, where it will be badged as the FT86 Open Con­cept.

So, what’s it all about?

‘‘We can­not dis­cuss fu­ture model plans,’’ says Mike Breen of Toy­ota Aus­tralia, con­firm­ing the show car is be­ing fast-tracked to the road.

But then he back­tracks on that state­ment.

‘‘It’s only a con­cept at this stage,’’ he says.

Even so, the road­ster is a vi­tal part of the 86 plan be­cause all sports cars have a rapid rise to pop­u­lar­ity fol­lowed by a quick fall once some­thing newer ar­rives.

Toy­ota is mov­ing ahead with plans for its 86 con­vert­ible, with the road­ster likely to be pro­duced in 2014

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