DALLAS -- Toyota's expansion of Toyota Racing Development trims across its truck line opens the door for a sporty subbrand that could find its way onto higher-volume products such as the RAV4 and Camry as the automaker chases younger and more affluent buyers.
TRD's U.S. unit, which started as a performance parts distributor in 1979, has been associated with different parts of the business: professional racing, one-off truck trims, Scions with aftermarket springs and louder exhausts.
In the past few years, it has gelled around the truck division, with factory TRD packages for the body-on-frame Tacoma midsize pickup, the full-size Tundra, and the 4Runner and Sequoia SUVs.
But that doesn't mean its sporty DNA has to be limited to trucks.
"There are some other vehicles that we will consider," Bill Fay, Toyota Division general manager, told Automotive News. "I'm not sure exactly where yet, but we are active in NASCAR, we're racing in the Sprint Cup Series, and we've had a heavy TRD influence on that with our Camry that we race. So there might be the ability to do some of this on the car side."
The upside to the TRD name so far is its appeal to younger, more affluent, better-educated male buyers, who constitute a compelling demographic, Fay said. That's particularly true with the top-shelf TRD Pro off-road trim available on the Tacoma, Tundra and 4Runner.
"If you just look at TRD Pro, it's probably less than 1 percent of our sales, but they represent a significantly larger amount of Internet traffic and vehicle configurations once customers continue to Toyota.com," Fay said.
Potentially, some of that demographic wealth could be shared with the car side, especially now that the youth-oriented Scion division has been discontinued.
This isn't the first time Toyota has talked of spreading the TRD name to car trims. It already offers a variety of aftermarket TRD parts such as high-performance exhausts and anti-sway bars. In 2015, it showed off a TRD SEMA edition of the Corolla at the specialty parts show and raised the possibility of a raced-up Camry.
Since then, Toyota has been methodically spreading TRD trims across its trucks and SUVs to great sales success. At the Chicago Auto Show this month, Toyota revealed an on-road TRD Sport for the 2018 Tundra and Sequoia. It's the first Sequoia with a TRD trim.
Also in Chicago, it trotted out a new RAV4 Adventure trim that has the cosmetic changes familiar to the TRD line, but without the mechanical upgrades that make the TRD Sport handle better on the street and the Off-Road and Pro trims better tackle the outback.
Toyota executives said the Adventure could be the first step toward a true off-road version of the RAV4, depending on consumer acceptance. That would be a big step in TRD's evolution since the RAV4 is likely to be Toyota's best-selling vehicle this year, besting the Camry.
Jack Hollis, group vice president of Toyota marketing, said in an interview that the brand is always looking to expand its offerings to appeal to different demographic groups and hopefully have enough "flavors" for everyone.
In recent years, that has meant expanding vehicle families primarily through offering hybrid-engine options, which is a strong part of Toyota's DNA as a pioneer in the technology. RAV4 was the latest Toyota to get a hybrid option.
On the truck side, he said, "I'm trying to create a family with TRD options."
And as with Prius hybrids and the TRD trucks, Toyota families have been known to grow.
Fuente: Automotive News