ROME - Envy Tadashi Nakagawa, chief engineer at Toyota Motor Corp. After 30 years, he has realized a major dream.
'I have had a passion for the European market since I joined Toyota almost 30 years ago, and one particular passion has been to develop a really good sports car for Europe,' he told reporters here last month at the press rollout for the new Celica coupe.
'We at Toyota know that Europeans want a sports coupe that feels light and lively, with fast acceleration
and comfortable, quiet cruising.
'I hope with the new Celica I have achieved this.'
Indeed, Nakagawa and his team appear to have put the Celica back in the mainstream of sports coupes.
The seventh-generation Celica - the first one made its debut at the 1970 Tokyo motor show - is smaller than its predecessor, which was launched in 1993.
Though the new Celica is 90 mm shorter than the old model, it has a longer wheelbase and, Toyota claims, more interior space.
The new Celica goes on sale with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. The new engine has variable valve-timing and produces 140 hp at 6,400 rpm; the torque is 125 pounds-feet at 4,200 rpm.
Additional engines are said to be in the pipeline.
Sales of the previous Celica peaked at 12,394 units in 1994, far behind the segment-leading Opel Calibra at 21,768 but close to Ford Probe sales of 14,997.
By last year, though, Celica sales had tumbled to 6,471.
Toyota is aiming for 20,000 annual sales.