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Volume 21 No. 26
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Toyota bringing Supra to Xfinity

Toyota plans to introduce its fifth-generation Supra model to NASCAR’s Xfinity Series next year, according to sources, the latest switch by a NASCAR manufacturer from a sedan to a sports car.

The Japanese manufacturer currently runs its top-selling Camry sedan in both the premier Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the secondary Xfinity Series, while it runs its Tundra model in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Toyota plans to shift from its Camry sedan to the Supra sports car for next season’s Xfinity Series.
Photo: getty images

Toyota’s plan follows Chevrolet’s decision to introduce its Camaro coupe to the Monster Energy Series this season, and Ford’s plan to take its Mustang to NASCAR’s top level in 2019. It was confirmed by more than a half a dozen people informed of Toyota’s intentions. Toyota, however, did not comment.

The move comes as sedan sales drop sharply in the U.S., mostly at the expense of SUVs, which continue to gain market share. The Wall Street Journal reported this month that the three big Japanese automakers — Toyota, Nissan and Honda — all saw declining sales in the U.S. in April, with dropping sedan sales seen as the chief culprit. Toyota’s sedan sales for the month of April dropped nearly 5 percent, the Journal reported.

“Demographically, the automakers realize they need to strengthen the relationship between consumers and their cars; instead of looking at it as commodities, the automakers would like consumers to look at their car as something very special and exciting,” said Ken Ungar, founder and president of marketing agency Charge and a longtime motorsports branding expert, when told of Toyota’s plans.

“So that’s why from a cycle perspective we’re seeing the pendulum shift to branding objectives [from sales goals], and you’re seeing more reliance on sports car models because those are the models that inject excitement or a halo around the brand,” Ungar said.

Toyota announced in March that it was bringing back the Supra, which was last produced in 2002. The two-door, rear-wheel-drive coupe, which first appeared in 1978, has a sizable fan base due to its affordability relative to most sports cars and to its storied past. The Supra has a rich racing heritage in both Japanese and American sports car racing, and it became something of a cultural icon thanks to appearances in “The Fast and The Furious” films and Sony’s “Gran Turismo” video game.

The last Supra model that came out cost between $30,000 and $40,000, though Toyota has hinted that the new model — which was developed in conjunction with BMW — will be pricier.

MKTG is Toyota’s motorsports agency, while Golin handles Toyota’s communications and PR in motorsports.