Toyota to Kill Mid-Cycle Refreshes

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Automotive News [AN, sub] reckons it’s got the inside line on Toyota’s “new U.S. plan.” They’re so chuffed with the scoop that their article presents the bulleted battle plan in both the body text and a little gray box. And here it is: “Review and possibly trim the lineup of full-frame trucks; Skip midcycle vehicle enhancements to focus on bigger launches; Introduce more hybrids to North America; Give U.S. engineers a bigger voice in r&d.” AN reckons the headline is the potential truck trimming and hybrid adding bit. Which is certainly important news for a company with a “tattered image” (Toyota, apparently, not the American zombies clinging to profits via pickups, who’ve yet to produce a single large-volume hybrid vehicle). But what of ToMoCo leaving existing vehicles as is for longer?

Toyota will drop minor model changes and make a bigger deal of model changes when they do occur. That will happen more, even if it means delaying launches, said Yukitoshi Funo, an executive vice president who now oversees emerging markets. He formerly headed North American operations.

“We are going to have a smaller number of production actions so that each of those has more impact,” Funo said in a separate interview. “Instead of cosmetic changes, we may have more fundamental changes, though it may require a little longer time.”

Executives cited midcycle face-lifts to items such as grilles, headlamps, bumpers and interior colors as tweaks that might get passed over.

Oh dear. Is this cost-cutting run amok or a fundamental misunderstanding of the American automotive business? Yes. By sacrificing cosmetic changes for cost savings, Toyota fails to see the importance of fashion in their core demographic. Maybe they’ve bought into the motorhead meme that their products are appliances, and nothing more. If so, Toyota has just opened the door a bit wider for their American competition. Well, any automaker fast enough to outpace them with regular style updates.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Stuki Stuki on Nov 03, 2009

    Durask, The comprehensive warranty on Toyotas last 36 months, and I'd be very surprised if they commonly lease for longer terms than that. Don't know what the lease vs sales is for new Camrys, but quite a few people do lease them. All this will undoubtedly change with a slowing economy and more difficult credit access, which is one reason for Toyota to be considering such a move.

  • Niky Niky on Nov 03, 2009

    Mid-cycle refreshes only look terrible if they're not pre-planned. Honda has it spot on. Launch a new car with rather controversial styling... then "fix" it at the mid-model refresh. Of course, they usually use the refresh to fine-tune the suspension and some of the mechanical bits, too... one of the coolest ones was changing the rotation of one of the radiator fans on the Honda Fit platform to ensure a cooler intake charge, leading to a 5 hp increase.

  • ToolGuy Personally I have no idea what anyone in this video is talking about, perhaps someone can explain it to me.
  • ToolGuy Friendly reminder of two indisputable facts: A) Winners buy new vehicles (only losers buy used), and B) New vehicle buyers are geniuses (their vehicle choices prove it):
  • Groza George Stellantis live off the back of cheap V8 cars with old technology and suffers from lack of new product development. Now that regulations killed this market, they have to ditch the outdated overhead.They are not ready to face the tsunami of cheap Chinese EVs or ready to even go hybrid and will be left in the dust. I expect most of their US offerings to be made in Mexico in the future for good tariff protection and lower costs of labor instead of overpriced and inflexible union labor.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is delaying an oil change for my Highlander by a couple of weeks, as it prevented me from getting an appointment before a business trip out of town. Oh well, much worse things have happened.I also just got a dealership oil change for my BMW (thanks, loss-leader prepaid plans!) and this didn't seem to affect them at all.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Gonna need more EV fuel.