TOYOTA is making a statement, and it wants Australia’s performance-hungry car buyers to pay attention.
The statement is that the company has its mojo back, and it’s called Gazoo. Forget the daggy whitegoods Toyota of the last decade, Gazoo stands for the iconic performance heroes of the ‘90s like the JZA80 Supra and Celica GT-Four.
Gazoo is the performance arm of the international juggernaut that is Toyota – think Mercedes-AMG and BMW’s M division.
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To help Aussies get on board with the oddly named sub-division, and transition from the TRD brand most already know, Toyota Australia has returned to the local motorsport scene with the factory-backed Gazoo Racing Australia rally team.
Modern motorsport at its core is a marketing tool, and that’s exactly what Toyota Australia is using the Australian Rally Championship (ARC) for next year, with the Gazoo Racing Australia team essentially working as a billboard to help introduce Aussies to the brand.
Wayne Gabriel is the chief marketing officer at Toyota Australia, and says the push for a local factory racing presence is backed by Toyota’s motorsport-obsessed president, Akio Toyoda.
“It is actually coming from global,” Gabriel told Wheels. “Akio Toyoda has a big passion for motorsport. He believes motorsport builds more exciting motor vehicles, and that is something the brand can always aspire to improve on.
“A performance brand needs credibility, and needs motorsport heritage. You can see that the credibility that we will get out of the motorsport arm will substantiate the GR road vehicles when they come.”
Gabriel told us the Supra is set to be the first Gazoo branded road car to be sold in Australia, and will likely arrive on our shores in late-2019.
Nissan launched its own performance arm Nismo in Australia early last year, introducing performance variants of the GT-R, 370Z, and Juke since then. Nissan Australia has repeatedly publicly stated it would only add Nismo products if they offer a genuine performance improvement over standard models – no sticker packs and body kits here.
Gabriel says this is something Toyota would “definitely” mimic.
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“There will be some structure to what can and can’t wear Gazoo, because you need to have that authenticity and credibility in that category,” he explained.
Gazoo road cars are only expected to arrive in Australia during mid-life updates or all-new product launches for existing models. Toyota Australia has remained tight-lipped on what Gazoo products could be joining the Supra.
“[Toyota Motor Corporation] is talking about a lot of product options that are still at this point in time theoretical, and things that I can’t comment on,” Gabriel added. “However, if those things do become a reality, we’ve said we’d love for them to come to Australia.
“We want product that adds to our brand. It has to be authentic and credible in the performance area.”
Many Australian Toyota fans would be aware of the TRD brand, which stands for Toyota Racing Development. Gazoo ostensibly replaces TRD locally, with GR-branded cars the more subtly tuned products, while GRMN vehicles being more hardcore track-focused cars.
“[Gazoo] is a global brand for us, so we get a lot more support, a lot more assets, and a lot more leverage through that, whereas the TRD brand is more of an aftermarket brand. We will definitely see this as being our hero brand in the future,” Gabriel told us.
The current deal with Neal Bates to run Gazoo Racing Australia only lasts for a single year, with an option to extend – which Gabriel says Toyota is likely to take.