Subaru has started design work on its own version of the co-developed 'Toyobaru' coupé.
These sketches are from inside Subaru and show various proposals for the car, but sign-off and production plans are apparently far more uncertain. Subaru has nothing like the cash and manpower of Toyota.
Some would say that for Subaru the whole project raises more questions than answers.
The company has built its brand around boxer engine technology and its Symmetrical 4WD. It has never built a small rear-drive coupé before, and the idea of sharing part of its core technology with Toyota is also controversial within the company.
Some see definite benefits, however. The ‘Toyobaru’ takes Subaru out of its normal orbit, represents something new, funky and fresh in the market and should in theory bring in a raft of new, young, enthusiast buyers.
By sharing its engine technology with Toyota, Subaru should also be able to achieve some reductions in its high engine costs, although as this is going to be a niche product these savings may be nominal.
Some have speculated that Subaru will eventually make a four-wheel-drive version of the car, in order to differentiate it from the Toyota. But that will add weight and complexity, and doesn’t sit happily with its billing as a simple, lightweight sports car.
Subaru is definitely supplying the 2.0-litre naturally aspirated flat four, and the company seems on cue to provide the basic platform, suspension and brakes as well. Both cars - Toyota and Subaru - will be made at Subaru’s factory in Japan.
In the bigger picture, the 'Toyobaru' is a test case — a first step towards Subaru collaborating with Toyota and, in the long term, more Toyota cars appearing with Subaru technology under the skin.