Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corp., is an avid motorsports fan, racing driver and sports car enthusiast, and he pours that passion into exciting new projects at the company. That includes standouts like the 2020 Toyota Yaris GR, a hot hatchback that benefited from his involvement, directly from the cockpit, since the very first prototype.
This isn’t just Toyoda telling stories at journalist roundtables to make himself look cool, either. This is the guy that had the global automaker he runs make a performance Century GRMN limousine for himself, you may remember. No, the company has a lot of video evidence to back up its chief leading the performance division from the hot seat (via The Drive):
Toyoda linked up with Tommi Mäkinen, chief of the Toyota Gazoo World Rally Championship team, to develop the hardcore racing version of the prototype Yaris; that racecar was later reverse-engineered into something fit for customers on the road (though not available in the U.S.). And that’s how we got the new Yaris GR.
Toyoda and Mäkinen spent actual measurable hours of seat time in the development cars, testing Toyota’s first all-new production four-wheel drive car in 20 years in the snow, on gravel and on the street. You have to respect it!
I also really respect Toyoda’s confronting the truth about many opinions on the new Toyota Supra sports car. In the video above, Toyoda says the Yaris GR was always a passion project of his, stemming from a desire for the automaker to develop a sports car purely of its own design. That’s a reference to the joint development and production of the Toyota Supra with the BMW Z4 roadster produced by Magna Steyr in Austria.
If that, and his driving and speech in the video, don’t convince you this guy isn’t the type to fuck around, he may just go and enter himself in the Le Mans 24-hour race if we’re not careful.
The result of the development work with Mäkinen is the Yaris GR hot hatch, an amazing accomplishment, reports say. It’s powered by a three-cylinder engine with 269 horsepower, 273 lb-ft of torque, with a respectably rear-biased all-wheel drive setup. It weighs just 2,822 pounds, and it even comes with a six-speed manual transmission. And it isn’t going to be sold in America.
But just know that the same energy from the company and its leadership on display here is hopefully also going into the cars we do get in America, especially the Corolla GR hot hatch that’s said to be coming.