Speaking exclusively to CarAdvice at this year's Festival of 86 event in the ACT, Toyota Australia product public relations manager Stephen Coughlan said the two-door, rear-wheel-drive Toyota 86 is a vehicle the brand knows people like to “personalise”.
“Even if we offered the broadest range of genuine Toyota accessories, people want something that’s different to suit their style, their needs, their tastes – be it from a cosmetic perspective or a performance perspective,” Coughlan said.
“So, it’s one of those cars where, regardless of what you offer in your genuine line-up, people are going to want to do something themselves.”
With this acceptance and understanding front of mind, Coughlan says the local division is already looking to expand its genuine accessory line-up, including TRD-branded springs and sway bars. Though, the representative admits, this is occurring “gradually, I must say”.
Highlighting Toyota Australia’s relative open-mindedness toward the modifying scene behind the 86, vendor stalls for aftermarket businesses were invited to, and were well represented at, last weekend's Festival of 86 event – Australia’s third since 2013 – with most being key sponsors of the main Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ car clubs involved.
“We’re cool with the [aftermarket] guys coming along today [to the Festival of 86] because they’re supporters of the [Toyota 86] clubs,” Coughlan said.
“…It also adds to the sort of carnival atmosphere and gives people a bit of variety to look at.”
That said, Coughlan stresses that while Toyota Australia may be comfortable recognising its own car’s aftermarket ‘tuning’ potential, individuals must still consider the implications of modifying any new vehicle.
“There’s two trains of thoughts on it. So, from a corporate perspective, when you fit a part that’s non-genuine, if you have a failure, obviously your warranty is under scrutiny in terms of the component, and so obviously there’s the risk. And I think [those who modify their cars] are aware of [that risk].
“And our dealers make people aware if you fit an aftermarket component, a non-genuine aftermarket component, that if there’s a failure of any type and it’s attributed to this, then the warranty around that part of the vehicle or the damage that’s been caused, won’t be covered by Toyota. So that’s the corporate perspective.
“What we have today [at the Festival of 86] is different, in the sense that this is a celebration of the car… It is slightly different and removed from the corporate perspective in terms of warranty implications and the like, so I do want to draw that distinction.
“I think people understand when they buy the car – when it leaves the dealership in stock ‘OE’ (original equipment) configuration – that anything they do over and above that, with non-genuine parts, is at their own… I don’t want to say risk, but it’s at their own volition.
“You’ve got to strike a balance. You really do need to strike a balance between understanding what’s going on in the real world, and celebrating and at festivals and things like this.”
Highlighting that personal discretion and care is always paramount, Coughlan views most Toyota 86 modifiers and customisers as ‘people making informed choices’ about their unique personalisation decisions.
“I don’t think anyone’s surprised,” Coughlan said.
“If they go and fit a turbocharger or a supercharger and they blow their engine under enormous pressure… they’re not going to wander into the Toyota dealer and say, ‘Oh, something’s wrong with my engine.’ They understand that that was a component [fault].
“They [Toyota 86 modifiers] are an informed crowd of people, they’re a knowledgeable crowd of owners as well, and you know, they’re enthusiasts.
“It’s a tough one… but, you have to embrace it.”
And it’s little wonder Toyota Australia does. Its tally of 16,000 local 86 sales trounces that of Subaru’s for its more limited twin – the Pleiades-badged BRZ sitting at 3485 units sold since going on sale in July of 2012.
“It’s an enormous number of these vehicles, and the people are more passionate than I can recall for quite some time,” Coughlan said.
“Obviously it’s a platform that’s very dynamic – it’s an engaging car to start with as a base model – but I don’t think you’ll see an enormous number of just stock-standard cars out there in the car park [at the Festival of 86].
“This is a car that people want to use as a canvas to put their own little touches on. Be it a decal, be it a genuine sway bar, a genuine set of springs, or something wild from the aftermarket, or complete engine transfers where they’ve made the cars unregistrable, or for hillclimbs and things like that.”
“I think that you need to acknowledge the fact that people are going to want to do something that’s a little bit different. They want to set their car apart. And with 16,000 out there, everyone wants [theirs] to look a little bit different, right?"
Stay tuned for our 2016 Festival of 86 wrap-up coming soon and in the meantime, tell us, do you own a Toyota 86 or Subaru BRZ and have you modified yours or left it stock. Let us know in the comments section below.