When the Scion FR-S, aka FT-86 in other markets, was launched, car magazines and fans of small, agile sports cars took notice and gave the car rave reviews. Not since the 2006 Mazda Miata had a new car that was so fun to drive and affordable come to market. Then everyone who wanted one bought one. Now what? Although some headline grabbers will say that the 2013 sales of the car doubled over 2012, the truth is that it wasn’t really available for all of 2012. In December, the sales rate of the FR-S declined by about a third to just over 1,000 cars in the US. Subaru sold just 700 BRZs. Is the car dying on the vine?
What usually comes to pass when a sporty car is introduced, or pretty much any car for that matter, is the car is launched with a certain drivetrain. Then the drivetrain is boosted a bit to give loyal fans a reason to upgrade, or to capture the fans that sat out the initial rush. Time marches on in the auto industry so more power is expected as the years pass. Toyota and Subaru have made a lot of excuses for not giving the FR-S and BRZ more power, despite the fact that the Subaru WRX has a turbocharged version of the 2.0 boxer in the Toyabaru twins. It does not look like more torque and power is on tap for 2014, maybe not even for 2015. In a recent interview with Wards Auto, Toyota executive Bill Fay said that Toyota would not discuss specifics on the FR-S until 2015. Which means that there would not be any big changes until the 2016 model year.
For 2014 Toyota did introduce a more plush version of the FR-S called the Monogram Series. If there were potential buyers of the most elemental sports car in the world sitting on sidelines waiting for an options package that made the car a little more livable, their wish has been granted.
What most fans talk about wanting is a convertible. Subaru is dead set against a convertible BRZ. The company cites safety concerns about the car. Not to cast doubt the company’s sincerity, we will note that Subaru has of late become all about safety in its mainstream movers and likely is not interested in headlines saying “Subaru (BRZ) rates poorly in new crash test.” The company has found a successful way to differentiate itself in the small crossover market and is not keen to lose that market perception in order to sell a couple thousand convertibles at a loss.
Toyota would be interested in selling a couple thousand convertibles at a loss. However, Subaru builds these cars, so it needs to make a case for both cars going forward. Another sad reality is that a convertible would weigh more than a coupe and the cars are already so torque deprived they may not get the welcome reception by the auto press everyone expects. That said, Toyota did show off a convertible FT-86 at a car show last year. Just teasing?
There is no doubt that until the Lexus RC 350 debut last month and then the amazing RC F, the Scion FR-S was the most exciting sports coupe in the Toyota family. However, with details of the 2014 already set in stone and the company saying “ask us in 2015” about improvements to the car it seems fans of the Scion and Subaru sports coupes will have to be patient.