Tony O'Kane | Aug 6, 2009

NEW TOYOTA PRESIDENT Akio Toyoda announced this week that the world's biggest carmaker will fast-track development of its upcoming lightweight entry-level RWD sports car.

Speaking at the 2009 Center for Automotive Research Conference, Mr Toyoda - an avid performance car enthusiast - said he personally wanted to see more driving fun injected into Toyota's model line-up.

"My hope is that I can transfer some enthusiasm from the race track to our vehicles and make driving fun for our customers around the world," Mr Toyoda said.

"And to that point, I am happy to announce this morning that Toyota plans to build an exciting, fun to drive, affordable sports car and launch it within the next few years.

"I am very excited about it, and I plan to fast-track it."

Toyoda's announcement comes as no surprise to those familiar with the 53 year-old grandson of company founder Kiichiro Toyoda. Akio Toyoda makes no secret of his fondness for fast cars and motorsports, and recently drove one of Lexus' LF-A prototypes in the Nurburgring 24-hour endurance race.

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A passionate enthusiast, Toyoda wants to see the company return to its 1990s heydey. Back then the Supra, Celica and MR2 were all part of Toyota's stable, and all have since disappeared.

akio-toyoda_profileA joint project between Toyota and Subaru, the new lightweight RWD sportscar is expected to be based upon a shortened version of the Subaru Liberty's platform and will be powered by one of Subaru's flat-four engines. A Subaru-badged and differently-styled version is also planned.

There are few definitive details available on the car, but some are speculating on an appearance at the Tokyo Motor Show in October.

Since taking the reins at Toyota in June earlier this year, Toyoda has promised to revitalise the brand with a range of new, more attractive models. He has also promised to cut costs, realign production and maximise profitability, himself taking a 30 percent pay cut for his first year as President.

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