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Inspired by racing, Toyota roars ahead with GR sports car brand

by

Staff Writer

Amid heated global competition over developing next-generation cars such as self-driving automobiles and electric vehicles, Toyota Motor Corp. unveiled Tuesday a new sports car brand inspired by its expertise in motor sports.

Under the brand name GR, which comes from Toyota’s motor sports brand Toyota Gazoo Racing, the auto giant unveiled seven cars remodeled as sports editions, including the Vitz compact, Voxy and Noah minivans, and the Prius and Mark X sedans. They hit Toyota’s retail outlets Tuesday.

The main target of the new brand is younger customers, who are often said to have lost their passion for driving their own cars, Gazoo Racing President Shigeki Tomoyama said.

“What constitutes the heart of the Gazoo brand is a desire for challenges to make innovations by breaking through barriers existing inside Toyota and set by Toyota,” Tomoyama, who heads Toyota’s in-house company launched in April, said at carmaker’s Mega Web showroom in Tokyo’s Odaiba waterfront area, adding that the company also plans to sell GR-branded cars in the European Union.

Toyota’s launch of the sports car brand apparently runs counter to the global focus on next-generation vehicles such as EVs.

In July, Volvo Cars announced it will produce only electric or hybrid vehicles starting in 2019. China also said this month it plans to ban the production of diesel- and gasoline-powered cars, following similar moves already declared by France and Great Britain.

“Even though cars are integrated with information technologies or become electric, the most important thing is to keep developing a car that fascinates not only drivers but also us developers,” Tomoyama said.

At a talk session held after the unveiling, Toyota President Akio Toyoda appeared as a surprise guest and said he has high hopes for GR becoming a norm breaker for the automobile giant.

“The word ‘move’ does not only mean to make a movement, but it also means to impress others, which is what we want to pursue,” he said.

Toyota has been participating in the FIA World Rally Championship since January, returning from an absence of 18 years in the international motor racing competition.

Toyota’s sales for the April-June quarter increased 7 percent from the previous year, with net profit rising 11 percent, the company said in August.

It predicts sales will reach ¥28.5 trillion, up 3.3 percent, for the current business year through March 31, although net profit may drop 4.4 percent due to a stronger yen.