Toyota isn’t immune from the light truck epidemic sweeping the globe; certainly not in North America. In October, the automaker saw light truck sales across both of its divisions rise 6.8 percent, year over year, in the United States, offsetting an 7.2 percent drop in passenger car sales. Tally that volume up over the first 10 months of 2018 and the picture’s even more stark. Year to date, trucks are up 7.7 percent, cars are down 11.1 percent.
The automaker’s North American CEO admits it’s looking at passenger car candidates for execution.
Speaking to Automotive News, Jim Lentz reiterated Toyota’s stance that cars still have a place in the North American lineup, but admitted some might have to go.
“We are taking a hard look at all of the segments that we compete in to make sure we are competing in profitable segments and that products we sell have strategic value,” Lentz said, shortly after T the release of Toyota’s quarterly earnings report. Operating profit rose 11 percent in the last fiscal quarter (to $5.09 billion), helped by growing truck sales and company-wide efficiency initiatives.
Claiming that Toyota has no intention of pulling a Ford, Lentz said models in certain segments are under consideration for discontinuation — a group that includes coupes.
Taking a gander at Toyota’s diverse line-up, there’s a few bright spots to be found in its passenger car offerings. Camry sales rose 4 percent, year over year, in October, and the Corolla line and Avalon enjoy year-to-date volume increases. There’s also wind in the redesigned Lexus LS and ES’ sails. However, there’s no shortage of models pinning the throttle on the road to irrelevancy.
Sales of the subcompact Yaris hatch are practically non-existent, down 79.4 percent since the start of the year. According to AN‘s product pipeline, it’s not due for an overhaul until 2021. Meanwhile, an imperceptibly refreshed(and renamed) Yaris Sedan — the rebadged Mazda that already collects the lion’s share of Yaris volume — appears for 2019.
While the 86 2+2 sports coupe never sold in great numbers (sales fell 40.4 percent through October), Toyota needs that model as a youthful attention grabber. Its PR value can’t be discounted. At Lexus, however, two pricier coupes exist, and only one verges on supercar status. The LC is both a prestige model and technological showpiece, commanding prices near the six-figure mark, but the seldom-thought-of RC, introduced for 2015, doesn’t have the same cachet. October RC sales weren’t even double that of the far pricier LC, and volume over the first 10 months of the year was down 52.1 percent. Last year’s RC tally was half of what the rear-drive coupe enjoyed in its first full year on the market, just two years prior.
For some time, the once-mighty GS sedan (remember those “Something Wicked This Way Comes” ads from the late ’90s?) has been considered the most likely candidate for the gallows, and there’s nothing coming out of Toyota to change anyone’s mind on the matter. While the model does return for 2019, there’s not a breath of word on a refresh or redesign. Sales are a small fraction of that of the IS and ES.