When Toyota built the first generation of its Vitz subcompact in 1998, the firm had no plans to sell it in the US under the Yaris nameplate (as it was called in Europe). Instead it sold a four-door and two-door version of the Platz, which was mechanically identical but had unique sheetmetal (except for the front doors), as the Echo. The Echo fell into a pattern that seems to have repeated itself several times in Toyota’s recent subcompact past: a year of growth, and then a drop. Eventually, Toyota brought the Yaris nameplate to the US, with a hatchback option in tow, and found its strongest performer in this class since the Tercel.
Now, with the hatchback bodystyle back in vogue, Toyota’s dropping the Yaris sedan altogether for the new generation, debuting later this year. It’s not the JDM/Euro Yaris/Vitz which Bertel showed us back in December, but it is being built at the revolutionary Sendai plant he visited in Fbruary. And without a sedan counterpoint, it will definitely mark an entirely new approach for Toyota’s US-market subcompact strategy.