Is Toyota Cool Again?
Depending on the generation you're a part of, you're likely to have a different answer to this question. For some people, Toyota is the part of the new wave of Asian automakers that came in suddenly to show all the other brands how unreliable they were; for others the name brings up an image of vehicles that are more of an appliance than anything sitting in your kitchen right now. But, if you're a part of a certain generation, or you were paying attention at the right times, Toyota exuded not only flashes of brilliance, but it was like Ken Jennings at your local pub trivia night.
In the early days, they made their own supercar in the 2000GT, a muscle car in the original Celica, then the 80s came and the AE86 Corolla with it. The 90s brought the MR2, and the Celica All-Trac, oh and a relatively unknown car, I'm not even sure it shows up if you google it: The MKIV Supra. For almost 30 years, Toyota had something cool or enthusiast focused, all while building up a juggernaut of an empire and becoming at one time, the world's largest automaker.
Then, one day, all of the things that made Toyota cool faded away. The MR2? A distant memory. The Celica? Redesigned as a more eco-friendly FWD coupe before fading off into obscurity. The Supra? Axed just after video games and the Fast & The Furious made it a legend to kids everywhere around the world. The Corolla had long been beigified, and that's just how it was. Sure, Toyota owned Lexus, and they would pop out an occasional F series product, but the fun side of Toyota was gone, maybe forever.
Shortly after this, the world went through the great recession, and automakers had to worry more about being in business tomorrow than having fun. Now, there wasn't a business case for fun, sporty, engaging cars anymore. They were too expensive to, and they didn't sell in the numbers that could justify the time and expense of development.
But then something changed. Toyota announced a strategic partnership with Subaru to build a lightweight, rear wheel drive, affordable sports car. The Toyota 86 (Scion FR-S) was the result of this. While it didn't sell in humongous numbers, it was enough for the companies to green light a second generation. The upcoming Subaru version has already been unveiled.
And in that time span, a lot has changed. Toyota brought back the Supra in another joint development project with BMW with 2 available engines, they're making performance minded trims of the Corolla, Avalon, and the Camry. They even created a homologation spec version of the Yaris, the GR Yaris; A 255hp turbo 3 cylinder, all wheel drive, mini rally car.
So all of this begs the question, Is Toyota cool again, or is this just like when your parents tried to use the same slang as you did? Honestly, I'm not entirely sure myself, but the fact that somebody high up in the company seems to have a pulse leaves me cautiously optimistic.