How Toyota’s TRD and GR Performance Arms Will Coexist and Bring the Fun

GR is all about cars, and TRD is all about trucks—so a GR NASCAR team doesn’t sound too implausible in the long run.

byStef Schrader|
TRD Camry road car and NASCAR race car


If any automaker has had the biggest glow-up to enthusiasts lately, it's Toyota. We've been distracted by the Prius puttering in the left lane with not one but two major performance brands from the automaker doing progressively more exciting stuff. Toyota Racing Development (the namesake of the "TRD" on so many of the brand's performance trims) has long been a mainstay in North America in everything from NASCAR to Baja. However, we're finally getting more vehicles from Toyota's global performance brand, Gazoo Racing. That's the GR in "GR Corolla" and "GR86," and the team name on Toyota's factory Le Mans and World Rally Championship efforts.

Fortunately, the future looks bright for both, albeit with a clear division in Toyota showrooms—GR is showing up on more cars, and TRD is staying put on trucks. It's what Toyota Motor North America's Executive Vice President of Sales Bob Carter confirmed when The Drive asked him about the future of fast Toyotas.

"The vision is not 100 percent crystallized, but clearly, there's room for both brands. So, I think what you'll see over time is you'll see TRD continue to evolve and even strengthen its brand in trucks, and then GR will come in to be the performance brand on a more global basis," Carter said. "As you know, the trucks that we sell here in the U.S. are primarily a North American phenomenon. There's not a large truck market in Europe, and it's of critical importance for us. So, GR will be the global brand, TRD will be a North American brand centered on trucks, and that's where we'll take those two."

TRD may have originated in Japan in the '70s, but North America has embraced it. "Out of all of our trucks—and when I say trucks, all body-on-frame, so Tacoma, Tundra, 4Runner, and Sequoia—53 to 55 percent of all of our body-on-frame trucks that we sell have a TRD package on it," Carter said. "It's got a really, really strong brand power."

Of course, internationally, you have things like the body-on-frame Land Cruiser 300 GR Sport SUV, too, so this flexibility in terms of what is branded and where seems to go both ways for now.

Both Toyota Racing Development and Gazoo Racing are longstanding performance divisions within Toyota that are still alive and well—and working closely. Toyota's North American Manager of Motorsports Special Projects Nick Miller told The Drive that the rise of GR has only been a good thing for TRD here in the States.

"GR is largely a Skunk Works with a direct connection to Akio [Toyoda, the company's racing-happy CEO]," Miller said. More GR cars coming to the States have been great for TRD, he said, as it's opened up a line of information going between GR and TRD. TRD already has the research and development capabilities to help develop and support those cars, so if anything, more GR cars coming over is an opportunity for the two performance divisions to collaborate on new, cool stuff.

That's how you get things like Toyota Racing Development (the entity) supporting a one-make GR Cup series for Toyota Gazoo Racing North America or the NHRA GR Supra supported by both TRD and GR engineers. That's a bit confusing on the branding end of things, but as Miller explained: "It's all engineering at the end of the day."

Stef Schrader

Miller noted a pretty clear divide in branding, though, saying that TRD owns off-road performance within the company, and GR is primarily concerned with on-road sports car performance—namely, by putting cars on track to learn how to make better road cars.

When we asked Carter if he thought Toyota's car-centric series like NASCAR could eventually fold into GR's purview, he said it was possible in the long run. For now, though, NASCAR remains one of TRD's most popular pursuits, running a TRD Camry body in the top-tier Cup series. Then again, in a separate interview with Motor Trend, Carter also said to "stay tuned" for a roadgoing GR sedan on the way. MT speculates that it could be a GR Camry, but an also-rumored GR Corolla four-door sedan sounds like it would be easier to pull off in the short term. When asked for further detail by The Drive, a Toyota representative declined to comment. The future is fast approaching.

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