...and, in doing so, revives hopes that it will see production after all. It was barely over three months ago that <A HREF="http://www.lexusf.com/forums/showthread.php?t=549">a previous LexusF.com Front Page story</A> quoted an Autoblog article that expressed serious doubts that the LF-A would be available to the public. And, with the worldwide economic situation having further declined since late August, that story certainly seemed plausible. Don't tell that to Akio Toyoda, however, for, as part of the Toyota Motorsports Festival at the carmaker's Fuji Speedway on Monday 24 November, he personally drove an LF-A prototype for a couple of laps in the presence of 30,000 appreciative fans. Those laps surely included <A HREF="http://www.lexusf.com/forums/showthread.php?t=60">the Turn 1 / First Corner (27R) into Turn 2 (75R) straight to the beginning of Turn 3 (Coca Cola Corner 80R) segment of Fuji Speedway that inspired the design of the Lexus "F" logo.</A> This was, by the way, the very same car that last saw action at <A HREF="http://www.lexusf.com/forums/showthread.php?t=323">the Nürburgring 24 Hour race last May.</A>
Some of you might be wondering just who exactly Akio Toyoda is. As <A HREF="http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/News/articleId=136467?mktcat=enabler&AID=10364102&PID=3179980&kw=N&synpartner=edmunds&mktid=cj260233">the Edmunds' Inside Line story (presumably written by veteran Japan automotive correspondent Peter Nunn) that first reported on this event tells us:</A>
"All along, the LF-A has been pushed by Akio Toyoda, scion (pun half-intended? - Ed.) of the Toyoda family that founded the Toyota Motor Corporation, arch motorsport fan and the man widely tipped to be the next Toyota president and CEO. Without his support, the LF-A, which has always existed outside Toyota's normal production processes, would almost certainly have been canned."
Akio Toyoda, currently Toyota executive vice president and grandson of Toyota founder Kiichiro Toyoda (as <A HREF="http://www.autoweek.com/article/20081202/FREE/812029987">an AutoWeek story reminds us</A>) is shown below behind the wheel of the LF-A and signing an autograph for one of his fans.
So, does all this renewed activity increase the odds that the LF-A will finally go on sale? It certainly seems that way. The Edmunds' Inside Line article contains the following passages:
"Almost two years after the concept version's unveiling in Detroit, Toyota is still not saying when or if the LF-A will make it to production. Sources believe, however, that the production LF-A is now signed off, and this long awaited 480-horsepower, 200-mph supercoupe will appear at some strategic point in 2009, with a limited run of sales to start later, perhaps in 2010 or 2011.
The recent buzz in Tokyo has been that Toyota is thinking of a 500-unit run with an asking price that would be the equivalent of about $261,000-$313,000. Given the current economic climate, those numbers, and indeed the LF-A's whole future, could yet be revised."
Peter Nunn is officially credited as the author of <A HREF=" http://www.autocar.co.uk/News/NewsArticle.aspx?AR=236182">a brief article for Autocar magazine</A> which adds that,
"At those prices, Toyota managers are understandably nervous about committing the car to production, especially in today’s economic climate.
But LF-A watchers in Japan believe that Toyota will launch the car late next year, in time for the Tokyo show, with sales commencing in 2010.
The once-mooted hybrid version has been canned and the 200mph LF-A will run with the existing 4.8-litre V10, which produces 'over 500bhp' ”.
Lexus itself jumps into the speculative tease fray in its 2009 Lexus U.S. full-line The Pursuit of Perfection Auto Show brochure (arguably the nicest full-line one they've ever made). The LF-A makes an appearance on Page 9, where the carmaker sends mixed messages.
The end of the first paragraph reads, "Now in phase two of development, the LF-A is one step closer to becoming the second Lexus to feature the F marque on its front fenders, denoting its place in Lexus' high-performance division.
On the other hand, the last paragraph reads, "Exhilirating for our engineers, yes. And, should it be made available, promising to be even more so for our drivers."
We can't really blame Lexus for feeling some uncertainty about launching its most ambitious, exotic and expensive model ever amidst what some are calling the worst economy since the Great Depression that started in 1929 and lasted for a decade. If, on the other hand, Lexus plows ahead, the rumored debut of the production Lexus LF-A at the 2009 Tokyo Auto Show would take place during either the Wednesday 21 or Thursday 22 October Press Days. Also a possibility is the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show, whose Press Days take place during Tuesday 15 and Wednesday 16 September. And the possibility of yet another concept version at either the Detroit (January 2009) or Geneva (March 2009) Auto Shows can't be ruled out, either.