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It wasn’t long ago that the Toyota Supra redux took the automotive world by storm. And it wasn’t long before that when the Toyota 86 was lighting up streets with its skinny rear tires and tail happy handling. But now, despite both models getting new features that cater to an elusive enthusiast market, the Supra and GR86 are starting to struggle.

Updates to the 2023 Toyota Supra should see it gaining ground

First introduced in 2019, the MK5 Toyota Supra was met with a tidal wave of press. Enthusiasts were excited to see the Supra nameplate return in the form of a true sports car. Especially after other brands tried to redefine some of their most iconic models for the modern era. The Chevy Blazer went from a boxy, tough SUV in the 90s to a soft crossover in its reboot. And let’s not even start with what Mitsubishi did to the Eclipse.

So to see the Supra remain (mostly) true to the original formula was a refreshing change of pace. Even better was the styling, which retained the curvy appeal of the original while modernizing it for today’s standards and styles.

However, there was plenty of saber-rattling against the new Supra as well. By now, it’s no secret that it’s a BMW Z4 with a fancy hat and some suspension tweaks. And it also got BMW’s 3.0-liter TwinPower straight-six turbo with, and this is the important bit, only an eight-speed automatic.

That nugget alone sent Supra enthusiasts into a tailspin. For Jalopnik, David Tracy simply said, “Excuse me?” when discussing Toyota’s decision to skip a manual Supra. Meanwhile, Autoblog, who initially confirmed the story, stated, “We have a hard time believing (Toyota engineer Tetsuya Tada) on that point”. And MotorBiscuit alum Gabrielle DeSantis wasn’t a huge fan of the first MK5 Supra either.

However, the modern Toyota sports car consistently gained ground both critically and in the greater automotive marketplace. Sales climbed every year from 2019 to 2021, before falling off in 2022. The ‘21 peak saw 6,830 Supra models leave dealer lots. The next year, Toyota sold just under 5,000.

Things are continuing a downturn in 2023, despite the introduction of the much sought-after manual transmission. So far this year, the Supra is down a staggering 39% over 2022. That follows a terrible June, where GoodCarBadCar data says Toyota sold fewer than half as many Supras as it did in May.

2023 Toyota Supra Manual sports car
2023 Toyota Supra Manual Shifter | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

A confusing sales slide for the GR86

The previously-popular GR86 is going through a similar sales slump. The smaller Toyota sports car, however, is less severe but perhaps more worrying than its big brother. While the GR86 is down nearly 15% on the year, its twin is up by over 50% so far in 2023. And in June, the Subie sports coupe nearly doubled its May sales while the Toyota fell by 10%.

Considering the two sports cars are nearly identical, the disparity in sales figures is somewhat baffling. That said, the Toyota is still outselling the Subaru by a factor of three to one.

A 2024 Toyota GR86 shows off its Trueno livery and six-speed manual transmission.
2024 Toyota GR86 Trueno Edition | Toyota

Why Toyota’s sports car sales are slumping

Explaining why Toyota’s sports cars are suddenly struggling to sell is a difficult proposition. It may be a bit more understandable for the GR86, as it enters the second year of a redesign that brought much fanfare. The initial pop of 2022 has faded as the sports car market has added some new players in the latest Z and Integra Type S.

However, the rival Mazda Miata exists in the same market conditions and has nearly doubled its sales this year. With that in mind, maybe it’s that those flat-four reliability issues are finally coming to the forefront.

Flipping over to the Supra, its sales struggles are more difficult to deduce. The manual Supra came along after years of customers demanding it, so in theory, it should be flying out of showrooms. But a global recession and a high price tag may be keeping those with auto ‘box Supras away from trading for a new version of the same car.

At the same time, anyone considering picking up Toyota’s spiciest sports car may be reconsidering that extra purchase. Economic trends often hamper sports cars in the upper-middle price range, which is exactly where the Supra sits. Notably, it shares this issue with the similar BMW 2 Series, and the two have fallen off in nearly identical fashion in 2023.

Will these 2 struggling sports cars survive?

Toyota seems pretty committed to ditching its boring reputation, so it’s unlikely that the GR86 or Supra will get the axe anytime soon. That said, enthusiast cars aren’t often prioritized when a brand needs to cut dead weight. If these sales trends continue for more than a year or two, we may be facing down the end of these popular sports cars.