Akio Toyoda Wants You to Ask Why He’s Palling Around With ‘Mr. Celica’

Juha Kankkunen won the WRC in a Celica, and Toyoda hinted it's no coincidence why he's been promoting Gazoo Racing lately.
Former Toyota CEO, now Chairman Akio Toyoda, center, poses with Martin Jarveoja and Ott Tanak of the Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team after the 2018 Rally Finland. Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images

Rumors of the Toyota Celica’s return have not been greatly exaggerated. In fact, there’s been a steady uptick of Celica rumors in the last few years from high-ranking engineers, trademark filings, and even former Toyota President Akio Toyoda. Despite him stepping down from his executive office, Toyoda is still chairman of the Toyota board—and he wants a new Celica, damn it. He even might be teasing the sports car’s rebirth, in his own special way.

While speaking to Toyota Times, Toyoda revealed that he has been pushing hard for a new Celica. According to the interview, he even put in a “formal request” for it. But that’s no confirmation, and Toyoda was also noncommittal on whether Toyota would build the car. According to him “You’ll have to ask Toyota Motor about that. I’m not on the executive side.” He continued, “Well, I have [put in a request], but I don’t know what name it will come out under.”

But even if Toyoda doesn’t have the final say on whether a new Celica will be built, he sure isn’t shy about campaigning for it. The former chief executive has apparently been trying to revive the Celica for some time, and recently he’s invited four-time WRC champion Juha Kankkunen to Japanese rally events to promote the automaker’s efforts in the sport. Kankkunen won the 1993 championship in a Celica WRC; likewise, Toyoda has affectionately dubbed him “Mr. Celica.”

“I’m not just saying this because we’re at a rally event, but Kankkunen is ‘Mr. Celica,'” Toyoda said in the interview. “Now you can all have a think about why I’m using Kankkunen so much. See if you can guess!” That might just be as direct a hint as we could ever possibly hope to get from the man known as “Morizo.”

Still, the business case for a new Celica is tenuous at best. Toyota’s performance lineup is already three cars deep with the GR Supra, GR86, and GR Corolla. Adding a fourth would be an interesting proposition, especially given that in its playing days, the Celica treaded on the turf that now belongs to the GR Corolla and GR Yaris. Toyoda’s usage of rally to promote his cause is especially interesting, as those hatches would seem to already have the rally-based performance angle covered. 

While I’m not sure how a Celica would fit in, I’d never say no to another fabulous GR car. Bring back the MR2 while you’re at it, Mr. Toyoda. 

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