I can’t believe they actually made this…
Last week, Toyota USA dropped an awesome new commercial called The Focus Group. The ad is supposed to get you excited for the 2022 Toyota GR86, what you might have known before as simply the Toyota 86 or the Scion FR-S. However, the commercial exposes one of the many things wrong with modern automakers, whether that was part of the point or not. It’s actually rather genius and something I watched multiple times while sending to other people so they could enjoy a good laugh.
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If you caught the Toyota Supra commercial called The Pitch released last June, this is in the same vein. It features the same two people from Toyota Gazoo Racing pitching a commercial idea for the sports car to two “suits” or Toyota executives. The executives seem to think the GR people are pitching gimmicky, cheap ideas when what they’re trying to sell in the commercial is excitement and fun. Those are the reasons people buy performance vehicles, which is why it’s so hilarious when automakers try to portray rather pedestrian, boring vehicles like the Hyundai Elantra in that light.
This time around the GR people and the executives are sitting on the other side of a one-way mirror while a focus group watches two very different Toyota GR86 commercials. One is boring and focuses on the practical features of the sports car, while the other shows it racing through an abandoned shopping mall.
Toyota certainly has been guilty of being a little too uptight in the past two decades or so. The company gets beat up for that a lot, with many enthusiasts sadly just mouthing what automotive sites and magazines have told them to think about the brand. However, they’re hardly the only ones in this industry guilty of being out of touch with what the people want.
Dodge and the other American brands owned by Stellantis are absolutely rocketing in this same direction. Sure, they might put a performance veneer on what’s coming, but in a way that’s more insulting than just admitting they’re watering their muscle cars, trucks, and off-roaders down for socio-political reasons. That’s just one example of so many more.
The point of this isn’t to pick on just one brand, because this is an industry-wide problem. Most enthusiasts don’t pay attention, but automakers are pretty incestuous, their executives and other high-level employees moving from one to another like hummingbirds visiting flowers on a spring morning. This is in part why it seems like automakers are all doing pretty much the same thing, even though most people aren’t asking for it. Sure, the companies say they’re just meeting market demand, but what’s really going on is automakers don’t really, truly have to care what you want if they all act in lockstep. After all, the auto industry has become an oligopoly in the past few decades. Less competition means consumers are pretty much forced to consume whatever the limited producers put in front of them.
And so automotive executives don’t really have to care what Joe Sixpack wants in a car. No, they can tell him what he wants and if he doesn’t like it, too bad. With every place in town offering pretty much the same thing, ol’ Joe doesn’t have much of an alternative.
It used to be in the US we had dozens of automakers. Now we have two and a half, maybe three, depending on how you want to count the Frankenstein we used to call Chrysler and Tesla. There are absolutely things which could be done about this problem, but it would involve changes those controlling things right now won’t like, even powers outside the auto industry. And that’s where the true problem really lies.
Images via Toyota