Internet rumor now has the release of Toyota’s much-anticipated, front engine, rear drive FT-86 delayed by two years. According to Japanese publication “Best Car”, the delay is due to a design revision and Toyota’s concerns over the ongoing global recession. If history is any indication, the sports car segment is slower to recover than the rest of the auto industry. Toyota is hesitant to launch a car into what they perceive to be a soft market.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of the rumor is Toyota’s focus on the success of Honda’s CR-Z, the sporty-but-sensible hybrid set to launch later this year. Should the Honda hybrid prove to be a sales hit, Toyota may revise the design of the FT-86 to incorporate a hybrid power train.
Keep in mind that this is still just rumor, one that I hope proves to be false. If the FT-86 stays true to the original concept, it will be aimed at a different market than the Honda CR-Z (try drifting a CR-Z in competition). The FT-86 represents a critical product for Toyota, one that will draw in a younger buyer and (hopefully) lead to a rebirth of affordable sports cars from Toyota. They can’t afford to get it wrong the first time, but they can’t afford to delay the launch until the public loses interest, either. Stay tuned on this one.