How Stalled BMW Negotiations Nearly Killed The A90 Toyota Supra

At the launch of the new A90 Toyota GR Supra, chief engineer Tetsuya Tada detailed the car's rocky start in life
How Stalled BMW Negotiations Nearly Killed The A90 Toyota Supra

17 years after the MkIV version went out of production, there is - at last - a new Toyota Supra. But early on in the joint venture between BMW and Toyota, which has also given us a new Z4, the odds were stacked against both cars. A well-timed change in management was key to the whole endeavour, as explained by Supra chief engineer Tetsuya Tada at the launch of the car in Madrid.

The A90 Toyota GR Supra’s story can be traced back to a phone call Tada-san received during the launch of the GT86 in May 2012. He was to be dispatch to BMW’s headquarters in Munich to discuss a collaboration.

“At that time nothing was specified about what car we’d be working on - there was nothing said about it being a sports car,” he said, adding, “It was just a feasibility study.”

How Stalled BMW Negotiations Nearly Killed The A90 Toyota Supra

Tada-san, however, already had in mind exactly what the potential project could be. “On my way to Munich on the plane, I distinctively understood that this was a message for me to make the new Supra”. For him, it was all about the engine. “The heritage of the Supra is the inline-six, and at that time the only manufacturer with a high-performance inline-six engine was BMW,” he said.

While launching GT86, it was clear to Tada-san that among dealers, fans, and many others, the appetite for a new Supra was huge. Joining forces with BMW was a way to quench the thirst.

“I had a good feeling about the meeting so on the way back I wrote a really easy-going report towards [Toyota] headquarters that said we might be able to do something because it was such a nice atmosphere,” he recalled, but concluded, “Boy, that was a mistake!”

How Stalled BMW Negotiations Nearly Killed The A90 Toyota Supra

A year into the negotiations, no progress had been made, leaving BMW and Toyota at an impasse. Tetsuya Tada had committed himself to making a “pure sports car” to succeed the MkIV Supra, but the then-development boss of BMW, Dr Herbert Diess, was doubtful about the business case.

While understanding Tada-san’s urge to make a new Supra, Diess was keen to steer him away from pure sports cars to more profitable options. The key moment came went Dr Diess left BMW to joining VW.

How Stalled BMW Negotiations Nearly Killed The A90 Toyota Supra

BMW management protocol meant Diess’ subordinates went too, with replacement Klaus Frölich bringing in his own team of people. “This change had been pivotal in making this car happen because the guys under Mr Frölich had been crazy car guys,” Tada-san said. “They really took on to what we were trying to achieve…This is when it [the project] turned to the better for us.”

From here, everything “progressed quickly”. It was soon decided that BMW would make a roadster and Toyota a coupe, inspired in part by Porsche having the Boxster and Cayman siblings in its range. BMW was going to gun for the Boxster, while Toyota’s target was the Cayman.

The pair were to be built on a new, joint platform with a very short wheelbase, a wide track and a low centre-of-gravity.

The BMW Z4 and Toyota GR Supra sit on a shared platform, but the teams behind each car haven't worked together in years
The BMW Z4 and Toyota GR Supra sit on a shared platform, but the teams…

After BMW’s “extensive simulation work” showed that the intended dimensions would work, a 2-series based test mule with a shortened wheelbase and widened track dubbed ‘Full Runner’ was built. After significant testing all across Europe, the Z4/Supra in this form was given the go-ahead.

This set the platform and the “suspension elements” in stone, after which point all ties - design, R&D, the lot - were cut between BMW and Toyota, allowing the two parties to go their separate ways and create two different vehicles based on the same ingredients.

The resulting cars, the Z4 and the GR Supra, are finally here, but they almost never happened.


The magic midship (TagMeInMr2ContentOrPerishImmediately) (IL

Oh boy

05/13/2019 - 21:25 |
12 | 0

expect controversy

05/13/2019 - 22:27 |
0 | 0
andrew stevenson

It doesn’t have a manual

05/13/2019 - 21:26 |
10 | 4

The ZF 8HP is a really good auto.
The Mk4 Supra was sold in auto as well and most were such.
The manual turbo models weren’t that popular.

05/13/2019 - 21:48 |
8 | 4

thog dont caare

05/14/2019 - 00:44 |
4 | 0
Chewbacca_buddy (McLaren squad)(VW GTI Clubsport)(McLaren 60

I don’t get why people are so salty about the A90. BMW has historically made some of the best inline sixes (I’d argue the best in the business) and the best chassis the world has ever seen. It would only make sense for Toyota to go to them to make a spirts car since they’re so good at it

05/13/2019 - 21:27 |
92 | 4

I think it has more to do with the fact that it isn’t a Manual and that its pretty much a BMW with a Toyota badge.

People in general were really looking forward to a modern equivalent of what the Supra originally was.

Instead we got just another average sports car by today standards

05/13/2019 - 21:36 |
26 | 10
The magic midship (TagMeInMr2ContentOrPerishImmediately) (IL

In reply to by Chewbacca_budd…

Despite being good performance engines, Bmw can’t make an engine that’s as reliable/tunable as a Toyota engine. That’s what people are salty about.

A bmw chassis is good, but the engine and trans ruins it.

05/13/2019 - 22:32 |
6 | 2

I love BMW. It’s my favorite car manufacturer for sure, but i understand the complaints. The Supra is a JDM legend, representing Japan in the finest way possible. Toyota built a legendary engine for the MK4, and it just seems weird to not do so again - since that was what people loved. To me, the Supra represented the authentic JDM experience. I still like the A90 though, just saying that i understand both sides.

05/14/2019 - 06:16 |
2 | 0

Like people need to stop complaining. It’s a much cheaper BMW, and those engines are extremely tuneable. And due to the fact that you need to do little work to get insane power, most of the engine parts are repairable by a BMW dealer. BMW covers Dinan and Alpina cars even under warranty. Ecuador they know the engines are strong. Otherwise they would be a money pit

05/14/2019 - 13:01 |
0 | 2

People aren’t salty because the new Supra is a BMW. People are salty because its not made by Toyota.

05/15/2019 - 15:25 |
2 | 0
Anaswar Jayakumar

Pretty sure Toyota could have made the Supra themselves based on the millions of Priuses they have sold so far

05/13/2019 - 21:31 |
4 | 4

nope. They do not want that.

05/13/2019 - 23:02 |
0 | 0

Had Toyota developed the Supra themselves it would have to be priced at US$100k, according to Akio Toyoda.

05/13/2019 - 23:33 |
18 | 2

JDM-hentai-virgin fanboys are the worst.

05/13/2019 - 21:31 |
30 | 2

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

imma be real with u
u are right

05/13/2019 - 22:25 |
4 | 2

And you don’t even know half of it.

They both went for the same companies in order to make parts but in the end they wanted different things that looked the same.
The company did the design and experiment for a part that both share. Toyota would be like, that looks amazing; while BMW would be, it looks amazing but the interior has to be different.

Every part was so complicated to project that some people were having real headaches in order to finish the designs on time.

The molds were not even done when they announced the production of the car.

05/13/2019 - 23:01 |
8 | 0

It has lost it’s charm what the older Supras have.

05/14/2019 - 05:56 |
2 | 0

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

who said it had to be the same?
it’ll get its own charm, just wait

05/14/2019 - 08:45 |
2 | 2

Give it a while for the tuning market to get started

05/14/2019 - 07:22 |
0 | 0

balance the comments with the upvotes

05/14/2019 - 17:34 |
0 | 2



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