The dust is still settling from the launch of Scion’s affordable sports car, the FR-S, and its Subaru BRZ twin. While some enthusiasts wonder if more powerful versions are on the way, engineers in Japan are thinking about cutting the cars’ roof off.
The FR-S and BRZ were codeveloped by Subaru and Scion’s parent, Toyota, with convertible versions in mind. According to Toyota project engineer Tetsuya Tada, a convertible is “technically feasible.” He said he would leave that decision up to the marketing department.
Product planners at Toyota and Subaru are mum, but it is possible that at least one of the cars (BRZ, FR-S, or the overseas market Toyota 86/GT86) will go topless. Toyota hopes to keep sales momentum going by offering different variants; the company is already working on a performance package for its version. Since the FR-S was engineered to be both a hardtop and convertible, Toyota wouldn’t have to invest too much many to make a completely different variant.
A convertible may attract different buyers than a performance package. The FR-S was designed to appeal to driving enthusiasts, but people who just want a small, relatively cheap convertible may also sign up. A convertible version would also put the FR-S in closer competition with the Mazda Miata. The two cars already have similar missions: they are both small two-seaters that emphasize handling over acceleration and speed. The Miata is currently the only small, sporty convertible available; if the small and sporty FR-S becomes a convertible, it seems likely that people will cross-shop the two. The Miata’s base price is $23,985, while the FR-S stickers for $24,930.
Despite the recent introduction of the FR-S and iQ micro car, Scion needs to do something to attract attention to its showrooms. The company’s other models (xB, xD, tC) are getting long in the tooth. That’s not good for a supposedly hip, youth-oriented brand. The most fundamental thing a car company can do to attract attention is introduce new models, and the FR-S seems like a relatively easy way to introduce at least one new model.