The FT-1 is a simple, beloved concept at its base: front engine, rear wheel drive, swooping body. As classic as any good sports car ever has been. Toyota has to build it, if it wants to be taken seriously again.
But it could all go wrong, like the impressive-but-unownable Lexus LFA. So here’s what Toyota needs to do to make sure the FT-1 is a hit.
Give it a classic name. Am I hoping they’ll call it a Supra? You bet, it has heritage. But I certainly wouldn’t mind if they revived the 2000GT nameplate, because the FT-1 is promising to be straight-up boss just like the Toyota’s first sports car. Giving it a new name won’t help make it a memorable venture.
Fight the GTR, not the Aventador. No, being as good as an Evo X or STi isn’t good enough - that’s for $40K cars. If the FT-1 is priced upmarket as we expect it to be, it has to compete with Nissan’s GTR and the new Corvette Z06. But Toyota also shouldn’t make another Lexus LFA, an astronomically priced hypercar that Toyota didn’t actually let customers own. Hypercars are fantastic dream cars, but the market needs something more accessible than a $375K Lexus. If the FT-1 is slotted in the $60-80K range, it’ll be a winner (and undercut the GTR in the process).
Market it like the FRS. Toyota made the FRS’s commercial all about drifting and racing heritage. Hey, they slid the car around a mountain for 30 seconds -- that’s what it's supposed to be all about. Advertising for the FT-1 needs to focus on the raw power and the attitude the car has -- the old Supra was always known to be a powerful beast. Give a test car to The Stig and film the ensuing chaos. That’s the only video Toyota needs to cement the FT-1’s reputation.
Make it a Toyota. This seems like such a simple detail, but really it isn’t. Scion was created to sell cheap cars. The FT-1 is not supposed to be cheap. But don’t make it a Lexus, either. The Lexus brand is even more synonymous with curmudgeonry and bingo than the Toyota Avalon. The last time Lexus had a sports car was 2004, the first generation IS300 (the aforementioned LFA doesn’t count - it was a hypercar). A Lexus badge on the FT-1 would do nothing positive, since Lexus’s demographic won’t cross-shop any of the brand’s existing models. It isn’t similar at all, past the name of its parent company.
Actually build it. An obvious point? Perhaps. But if Toyota doesn’t want to continue its fall into a giant vat of vanilla pudding and beige trousers, the FT-1 needs to actually happen.