Toyota plans to spin a new small sports saloon off the rear-drive platform that will underpin its FT-86 as an “insurance policy” if the coupé never makes it into production.
The FT-86, co-developed with Subaru, has been postponed until 2013 due to “economic reasons”.
Toyota is looking at ways of applying the FT-86’s platform to a sports saloon to cover any shortfall in FT-86 sales while, at the same time, making the most of the rare rear-wheel drive platform.
Industry figures in Japan have suggested that the sports saloon project is a safety net, just in case the FT-86 fails.
One source told Autocar that the saloon would get the same 197bhp Subaru 2.0-litre boxer engine and six-speed manual transmission (or CVT) as the coupé.
The saloon is expected to slot between the BMW 1-series and 3-series in size. It should cost about £20,000 in Japan when sales start in 2013.
Toyota also has the option of bringing the Subaru Outback’s 3.6-litre flat six engine to the saloon.
But by the time the sports saloon and FT-86 appear in 2013, Subaru will have launched its own hybrid boxer powertrain.
This will create yet another opportunity for Toyota. Petrol-electric versions of the RWD pair would be far more exciting to drive than any of Toyota’s current hybrids.