With the car world in turmoil, and buyers running scared of high performance cars, most of the car makers around the world are shelving their high-end projects until things settle down. Honda has announced that it has put its NSX replacement on ice (although it is apparently still going to show it at Detroit) and other manufacturers are concentrating on their frugal products.
But Toyota is taking a different tack. It has confirmed it is staying in F1 in 2009 (unlike Honda) and has now confirmed that it is moving forward with its GT-R bashing (maybe!) Lexus LF-A.
It’s hard to fathom Toyota’s mind-set at the moment. They are running contra to whatever other manufacturers are doing, which could prove inspired or fatal, depending on how things turn out. But Toyota has a very impressive track record, and has been a dominant force in the west for some time (biggest car seller in the US – no mean feat for a Japanese maker).
But the Lexus brand has always been considered something of a failure in Europe. Good cars, well-made, but pretty soul-less. They do well in the US, but when you look at what the Americans have to put up with from their indigenous car makers its no surprise. But in Europe they’re not taken seriously.
The Lexus LF-A could change that, if they get it right. A 500bhp+ carbon-bodied, 200mph+ supercar, it could make us look at Lexus in a whole new light. Except for the price. Early feedback suggests something around the £100k mark, which makes it look very pricey next to the Nissan GT-R. But if Lexus can make it stand up to the likes of the R8, it could make a big difference to the perception of the company.
At the moment it looks like there will only be a handful of Lexus LF-As made in 2009, all for race use but not for the road. But if things improve in world markets, we could see the LF-A on the roads by the end of 2009.