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Gazoo Racing Chief Admits Brand Needs Performance SUV To Expand

by | May 27, 2024

Gazoo Racing’s CEO admits that the brand needs an SUV entry to help it get a bigger piece of the sales pie.

GR CEO says that the brand needs utility vehicles and other models to help expand its sales reach

Toyota’s Gazoo Racing (GR) brand has made a strong name for itself when it comes to offering consumers an enviable crop of performance vehicles. The GR86 and the GR Supra up their game in the coupe segment while the GR Corolla is the brand’s attempt at penetrating the hot hatch market.

However, going fast can only get you so far and the one thing that’s quicker than a 0 to 60 time is how much money GR vehicles can get in sales for the broader Toyota vehicle empire. Gazoo currently has no performance SUVs in its lineup, but that might soon change based on recent remarks by Gazoo Racing CEO Tomoya Takahashi.

New SUV model will break the ice in GR’s lineup

GR’s current lineup is restricted exclusively to car models which hampers sales

Takahashi made the stunning admission during a recent interview with the Australian publication Drive “To expand the GR brand, maybe [SUVs] are needed as well.” Takahashi was also quick to clarify that the brand won’t be offering one in the immediate scheme of things, but that will eventually change in the distant future.

SUVs are proven cash cows for many automakers (Toyota included) and the addition of a performance SUV to the brand’s lineup would allow the brand to reach out to more customers including those that might want a performance vehicle but can’t fit a current GR vehicle into their lives due to the needs of a growing family. This future offering would also be a notable step up from some of the GR-branded trucks and SUVs that it already offers in international markets. Those models are purely cosmetic add-on packages that enhance styling but don’t do anything to enhance formal performance whatsoever.

What other model could benefit from the GR treatment?

2024 Toyota Tacome TRD Off-Road Hybrid - bed

GR could also apply there magic to other models like the Tacoma pickup

With GR admitting that it needs to expand into other segments, what are some potential vehicles that could benefit from GR’s magic? While we don’t expect budget-minded models like the Corolla Cross to make the cut, the scene changes when you start to think about pickups like the Toyota Tacoma.

The Tacoma is the segment leader in the mid-size pickup segment and recently benefitted from a major revamp that gave it new styling, a better interior, and turbocharged performance for the first time ever. The truck also comes in a multitude of trim levels but while models like the TRD Pro and the Trailhunter are designed to dominate the trail, the Japanese auto giant once offered a model called the X-Runner.

The X-Runner was produced from 2005 to 2008 and was supposed to be a performance truck for the street. A large hood scoop and bigger wheels and tires helped improve its street presence while a ground effects package gave the truck a sporty ground-hugging silhouette. The X-Runner was powered by a 4.0-liter V6 but Toyota offered a TRD sourced Roots supercharger that booted power to 300 hp. A six-speed manual was the only transmission available. Assuming GR makes a street-focused version of the Tacoma, it could channel some of the X-Runner’s spirit and put its performance character into a new package that would benefit from advanced performance technology, with the supercharger giving way for a beefier turbocharged engine.

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Could a GR-badged SUV overcome perception?

A prominent challenge for a new performance SUV will be perception

While an SUV may seem like the proverbial ticket to the land of profits for GR, the art of promoting it to customers is not as trivial as it seems. Rival automaker Hyundai learned this with the Kona N which benefitted from the N brand’s performance upgrades but didn’t generate enough interest with buyers. The current generation Kona didn’t bring the N model back as part of its updates and Hyundai has so far remained quiet on if it’s ever coming back.

If GR is to avoid that similar scenario from playing out, the brand would not only need to be very selective about what SUV it chooses but also the way it markets the model to customers both in advertising as well as how it’s presented to customers in dealerships to show them how it could be a solid balance of both worlds.



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