Global Marketing

Why Toyota’s New Supra Was a Flop

So much for hyping up the legendary brand that has been absent for two decades.

Toyota's new Supra debuts at Detroit Auto Show - Automotive Purchasing and  Supply Chain
“Without Supra, I couldn't be a master driver.” – Akio Toyoda's infamous quote during his speech as he presents the new Supra at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show.

Reviving a legendary brand is no easy task, even for big name automakers like Toyota. In the 2010's, Toyota shocked the automotive world when it announced the return of the Supra name, then it subsequently showed off its concept car in 2014, the FT-1, which was met with positive reception from the fans and journalists, who were eagerly anticipating the arrival of the legendary brand. Then, in 2019, at the Detroit Auto Show, Toyota finally unveiled the long-awaited Supra. Receptions from fans and journalists were extremely negative, and as such, the audience wasn't pleased. How can Toyota, one of the largest car companies, which is known for producing reliable and some of the iconic sports cars, fail to deliver? In this blog post, we find out why.


Toyota Supra Evolution | Toyota supra, Toyota, Supra
Toyota Supra evolution over the years.

The Supra brand name began in 1978, in which the name is derived from a Latin prefix meaning “above” or “go beyond”. It started as a affordable, yet fun and reliable sports car. The Supra name peaked in the late 1990's where the car itself starred in The Fast and the Furious as a hero car in 2001. Coupling with a bulletproof 2JZ engine, which can handle up to a 1000 horses and its iconic looks, it gained significant cult following and will be regarded as a future classic by fans and critics alike. However, in 2002, production of the 4th generation Supra stopped worldwide, leaving fans to wait for the next Supra to arrive in the next 18 years.

The failed revival of the iconic Japanese brand

2020 Supra vs M2 Competition - Page 6 - BMW M2 Forum
Above: Toyota FT-1 Concept, Below: Toyota GR Supra (A90)

Shortly after the car was unveiled, angry car enthusiasts took to the internet and social media to vent their frustration. “It's a rebadged BMW Z4, I'm not impressed.” or “This car is NOT worthy of the Supra name!”, were few of the handful of negative comments on the car itself. So why the negative comments instead of the opposite especially for die-hard fans? The reason is simple: bad global marketing strategy and Toyota simply did not deliver.

“Listen to its legendary 3.0 litre in line six cylinder engine.” Really Toyota? Really?

This 30-second advertisement by Toyota UK is a prime example of bad marketing because they thought they can fool people, especially car enthusiasts. The caption reads “Listen to its legendary 3 liter inline six cylinder engine”. Apparently, the engine itself isn't legendary after all since the engine itself is straight out of the BMW Z4 (make no mistake, BMW produces some of the finest engines for its road cars, but to put it on a Supra is just pure sacrilege) and is not built from the same heritage from Toyota's legendary in-house 2JZ engine. Seems like the marketing department doesn't care about the Supra heritage and decided to tarnish its legacy by playing dumb and fooling the fans, especially the newer generation.

As mentioned earlier, the Supra name is meant to evoke the emotion and pleasure of being a cut above the rest. The problem is, the new Supra cannot even hold a candle to the previous generation and there is nothing that is “Supra” for the new Supra. With only a 10 horsepower increase from the previous JZA80 Supra from the late nineties, an engine supplied by BMW, and with a price tag almost shy of $60,000 is a huge red flag for car shoppers. For instance, BMW cars are notorious for its reliable issues, and few can justify on buying a Toyota that costs almost $60,000. At that price, people would be better off buying a Lexus instead, or any other luxury cars. As for the name, maybe if Toyota were to market the brand as anything but a Supra, then it would receive a more positive reception given the legacy of the 4th generation Supra.

All of these translated to ultra low sales figures. Worldwide, Toyota has sold 2,884 Supra in 2019 and 5,887 in 2020. Not impressive at all for a halo car. Also not surprisingly, the A90 Supra shares many similarities with the Z4 besides the engine. The interior, in particular, totally screams BMW. The center console and the infotainment system were brought to you by none other than BMW. It's a shame, really, since sports car fanatics had high expectations on the new Supra, yet Toyota decided to save the development costs by using many original parts provided BMW in hopes of fooling the fans. Although dealers worldwide are offering deep discounts to restore the interest in the Supra, the damage has been done from the get-go, all because it is simply a rebadged BMW Z4.

Toyota, please go back to the dictionary and understand what the word “heritage” really means.