When I got the idea to research/write this (25 seconds ago, as I came up with phrasing for a title), I didn’t know the answer. And since I haven’t done any of the research yet, I still don’t. I’ll let you know when I think I’ve figured it out. Update: I just end up drawing a primarily unsubstantiated conclusion. It was a fun writing exercise with some facts peppered throughout, though.
I’m vaguely interested in this issue because given the low adoption rates of the Toyobaru platform twins and the recent news about Supra re-emergence. If you put the sales trends for the BRZ and GT86 up on a graph in the winter, little kids would start running at it with toboggans. Because they all trend downward. Get it? Anyways.
With a little tracking of its resale values coupled with the fact that it probably won’t get a second generation, and given that they haven’t sold all that many to begin with (less than 40,000 units overall), I’d like to hedge my bets for whether or not it will become a collector’s item and see a spike in resale values anytime in the next 10 years. Does competition play a role in the missed sales/success of the S14?
Was the issue that the market was saturated? Some experts allege that Toyota cornered their entire market in the first two years – after that, without updates, there was no one left for whom to sell a car. By year three, nearly everyone who wanted one already had one. The main goal of this exercise is to determine whether or not the Toyobaru twins will be affected by the drift tax that has affected the 240SX, the Supra, the AE86, the Evo, and many others. Let’s meet the contestants.
Nissan 240sx (S14) “The Philosophical Grandfather”
- Sold in North America from 1995-1998
- 2.4L, naturally aspirated inline 4-cylinder rated at 155hp/160tq.
- Front-engined, rear-wheel drive layout.
- Its base model cost was $18,099 ($27,266.55 in 2012 dollars)
- In 1995, the average price of a new car in America was $15,500 ($23,351.10 in 2012 dollars)
- In 1995, the average horsepower of a car sold in America was…
- [Actually, I take that back. I couldn’t find any good source of average horsepower of new cars by year. Instead, as a sample of ‘sporty’ cars, I’m going to use the average of Car and Driver’s 10Best list from each relative year as a sample.]
- In 1995, the Car and Driver 10Best average horsepower was just over 207hp, 52 horsepower more than the 240sx.
- Between late 1994 and 1998, 38,179 units were sold in the United States.
The 240sx was not a strong seller for the duration of its shelf life in the United States. Read that again and drink it in, because it’s not common knowledge. The S14 generation was brought overseas as a shadow of its Japanese self, losing four-wheel steering and a redesigned, turbocharged engine and remaining a small, purist coupe with a confusing place in the hierarchy of competition. Sales were bad. 38,179 units over four model years that were supposed to yield upwards of 20,000 units/year, eventually falling short by 41,821 units. Its debut year (1995) accounted for over half of the American sales for the entire life of the generation. Ouch.
Its primary competitors at the time included the Acura Integra, the Ford Mustang, the Honda Prelude, and the Lexus SC300. Four of those five cars were listed on the 10Best for 1995, the 240sx was not.
Toyobaru GT86/BRZ “This is My First Lifecycle”
- Produced from 2013-2017(?)
- 2.0L naturally aspirated flat 4-cylinder rated at 200hp/156tq
- Front-engined, rear-wheel drive layout
- Its base model cost was $24,930 (in 2012 dollars)
- In 2012, the average price of a new car in America
- In 2013 (the first year of the twins’ inclusion), the Car and Driver 10Best average horsepower was just under 244hp (a 44 horsepower defecit)
- Between 2012 and 2015, 54,313 units were sold.
It almost couldn’t have been more disappointing. It was lauded by reviewers and enthusiasts alike – called a return to 80s/90s Japanese purist form (sound familiar?) – and yet received almost no mainstream appeal or reception. It didn’t find the market share it hoped to take from the aging Mustang, despite getting significantly better reviews. Part of the issue could be attributed to the stiff competition – the 370z is getting old and is priced aggressively, the Mustang is ubiquitous if not boring, the Camaro still exists, the WRX and GTI are legitimate competitors in the space with an established tuning community. It doesn’t have enough power (like the Mustang, even the V6) or bold enough styling (like the 370Z… yuck) to be an aspirational symbol, and is forced to waste away in ambiguity.
The breakdown of its key demographic becomes condensed; did you own an AE86 when you were in high school in the early 90s? Maybe you’d like a Toyobaru, it has marginally higher horsepower and a hatch. Re-live your glory days.
So what does that mean for its future potential?
The End Result
Similarities abound. Both were one of the least appreciated, slowest selling models of their respective class and years. Both have huge applications in the drift community, earning what is affectionately referred to as a “drift tax,” which is a fancy, specified way of saying ‘appreciation/over-valuation.’ Just like the admonishment that Toyota had already sold a GT86 to everyone who would potentially want one, it’s fair to allege that there will always be a limited (but fervent) market for the vehicles.
The last primary difference between the two vehicles is the inherent value of the chassis. With a soaking wet weight of 2600lbs and a weight distribution of 56/44% sitting over the front/rear axles, along with ample space in the engine bay leftover from its more potent, Japanese counterpart, the 240SX was ripe for engine swaps of all sorts of applications, both Japanese and ‘domestic’.
The GT86, on the other hand, was designed to be neutered from the beginning of its life. A flat-four, low-output engine fills up nearly its entire bay. It has no potent special editions. No dedicated racing applications. It is exactly what it is, which was disappointing to a lot of consumers. Upgraded Toyota Performance and STi models were theorized, but never materialized. It doesn’t look like it’s in the cards for the future, either.