California Autos Examiner

Monday, November 02, 2009

Toyota future plans: Less trucks, fewer bucks on refreshes

FJ Cruiser is a likely candidate for the chopping block

While it has not generated the same amount of headline news as some of our domestic marques, Toyota has been shaken up by economic turmoil and it feels the need to rethink its future product plans.

View Toyota's current lineup in the slideshow below this story.

While many Bay Area residents may think Prius when they think of Toyota, the company did place a massive gamble on larger vehicles there were not as thrifty. Now Toyota executives have told Automotive News that the company is considering cutting back on its full-frame truck lineup. A quick visit to Toyota's USA website shows a healthy selection of such trucks: Tundra, Tacoma, 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, Sequoia and Land Cruiser. While the Automotive News article did not mention any names, that does not mean we cannot play our own game. Number one on the "I bet it gets axed" list would have to be the FJ Cruiser. While the retro-truck was a huge hit at launch, its sales have cooled considerably since that time. The lumbering Sequoia would also have to be suspect. The remaining trucks are probably safe, but perhaps they will lose variants. For example the Tacoma is offered in regular cab, access cab, double cab and Cabernet Sauvignon (well maybe not that one). Toyota could conceivable weed out poor selling model configurations.

Toyota also wants to cut back on minor midcycle model changes. For example, you buy a 2009 Toyota and then your neighbor shows up a month later with a 2010 that is sporting a different grille and a better looking interior color which then causes you to exclaim "Darn it!" Instead of such minor tweaking, Toyota wants to concentrate on more substantive changes. For example, your neighbor would show up in a 2012 model that actually gets double the gas mileage and has rainbows coming out of the exhaust pipe (slight exaggeration, of course).

Toyota also says that it wants to make more hybrids available (duh) and allows engineers based in the United States to have more say in the process. In the Automotive News article, an example is given that current navigation systems in Toyota vehicles sold in the United States are the same "sophisticated, high-tech" models offered in Europe and that U.S. customers prefer "less expensive, bare bones" GPS systems. I am not sure how to read this, either they are calling us cheapskates or simpletons. Frankly, I do not consider anything about my 2008 Sienna's navigation to be sophisticated or high-tech (Canadian system shown in link). The point is that native engineers know better what their customers want, but I do disagree about us not liking sophisticated systems: Look what we did to Microsoft Bob.

The company also plans to make its plants more flexible, so that it can produce a larger percentage of its vehicles locally, saving the company from the whims of the dollar/yen exchange rates.

For more information on Toyota's future plans, please read this previous article on Toyota's lineup changes and this article on the forthcoming 2011 Toyota Sienna.

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