GOTEMBA, Japan -- Toyota's top executives can barely open their mouths these days without rhapsodizing about the company's new push to produce "fun to drive" cars.
The orders come straight from Akio Toyoda, the car-crazy president who has made it his mission to overhaul Toyota Motor Corp.'s reputation for bland and boring vehicles.
The strategy is showcased by the Lexus LFA, the $375,000 halo sports car. But zippier intentions are creeping into more accessible products, including the latest Scion tC and the long-awaited FT-86 sporty coupe that Toyota will produce jointly with Subaru.
Toyota, which once had a respectable lineup of sporty cars that included the MR2 and Supra, mothballed such projects because of financial constraints, staff limitations and the distraction of managing its global expansion over the past several years, Takeshi Uchiyamada, executive vice president for r&d, said during a recent event at Fuji Speedway, the Toyota-owned F1 circuit.
"With the rise of globalization, the number of projects increased faster than our manpower," he said. "Therefore, we had to give priority to advanced projects that might have bigger future potential, and sports cars didn't seem to fit this priority."