Japanese Automakers Desperate to Spackle Gaps in Their Lineup
With trucks and crossovers dominating more of the market every month, Japanese automakers are making every effort to bring in new models that will satisfy consumer demands. Soundly constructed economy vehicles have long been the cornerstone of most Japanese nameplates but, with reliability improving among many brands and fuel efficiency being less important to consumers, we’re seeing a shift in the Far East.
Everyone from Toyota, Mazda, Honda, and Nissan have all expressed plans to focus on light trucks this year. Some Japanese brands are even banking on the continued growth of the segment to stage their comeback. “I think SUV sales will continue growing even if gas prices rise,” Mitsubishi CEO Osamu Masuko explained, citing the consumer appeal of higher seating and overall sense of safety. “The SUV segment is increasing its market share worldwide, and this is where we have long been strong,” he said. “So, we will continue to make full use of this technology.”
Foreign exchange losses really hampered the profitability of Japanese companies over the last year. However, shrinking car sales only exacerbated the problem. Car sales in the United States fell 12 percent over the first four months of 2017, while light truck sales increased by 4.4 percent. The majority of those brands specifically cited those factors as detrimental to their financial wellbeing.
According to Automotive News, Toyota Executive Vice President Osamu Nagata promised more of what the market craves, after it announced a 30 percent dive in operating profits over the last fiscal year. “We have been increasing capacity for SUVs and pickups, and we will make full use of that to increase supply of light trucks,” he said.
After being crippled by costs associated with the Takata airbag recall a year earlier, Honda was one of the few companies that saw improved profitability. With the market already swooning over its CR-V, the brand seems keenly aware that it already has a winning strategy. “We are working to increase the output of SUVs,” Honda Executive Vice President Seiji Kuraishi said. “If we can put that on a steady track and sell SUVs, we believe we can make use of our strengths.”
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