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Toyota to launch new range of budget sports cars

Toyota Motor Corp. Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada unveils the GRMN sports hybrid concept car at Fuji International Speedway circuit in Oyama, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Sept. 3.

(Mainichi)Toyota Motor Corp. is set to launch a new range of budget sports vehicles in a bid to stimulate stagnant car demand among young drivers.

"We want to offer more cars that are fun to drive and make people think 'Toyota is interesting,'" said Toyota Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada during a press interview held on Sept. 3, adding, "Sales performance is not our primary concern."

As eco-cars gain increasing popularity and vehicle ownership among young people continues to decline, sales of fuel-inefficient sports cars have been shrinking.

Toyota hopes to prop up the market and change its image as an "uninteresting" automaker by offering a series of low-end sports vehicles with improved driving performance.

The company released "G Sports," or "G's," sports conversion series for its "Voxy" and "Noah" minivans in June this year, for relatively cheap additional prices, ranging from 300,000 yen to 600,000 yen more expensive than its conventional models. It also plans to launch a sports edition of its popular Prius hybrid after next year, as well as the GRMN sports concept car -- which boasts a higher driving performance than the G's sports series.

Toyota also said it will promote a design-oriented development of new sports vehicles in pursuit of originality, while allowing its sports vehicle management division, which was set up in January this year, to take control over product planning.

The recent drop in the number of young drivers has apparently been caused by a lack of attractive cars that are fun to drive, as domestic automakers continue to concentrate their management resources on the development of promising eco-friendly vehicles.

With the development costs of new cars per unit soaring due to tighter safety regulations, it will be difficult for Toyota to produce its new sports vehicles in large volumes. However, the company is eager to meet the expectations of sports vehicle lovers by offering them for reasonable prices by leveraging the existing models and their high-performance components in the development of sports cars.
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