By on May 14, 2017

2016 Honda CR-V - Image: Honda

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.”


[Image: Honda]

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28 Comments on “Japanese Automakers Desperate to Spackle Gaps in Their Lineup...”

  • avatar

    I’d consider the HR-V on looks alone, but reports of an atypical for Honda subpar interior and high noise level concern me. I’ve always like the Civic and the HR-V is still Civic-y (pat. pending) but with more useful room.

    • 0 avatar

      HR-V is a dud. At least until they stick 1.5T into it. I would love a car like that but they all duds, HRV and CHR. Kia Soul is probably the best of these 3 right now, when equipped with 1.6T. I drove Elanta sport with same 201hp-195ft/lb engine, this is a quick car. If you’re ok with AT – get Kia. I want MT. Kia is no avail with MT with 1.6T. I tested Jeep Renegade too , with 1.4T MT. And I like it. But it needs 91octane, bi-annual brake fluid flushes and a timing belt (although @ 150K/10y), and my last car that required 30K spark plugs changes was ’98 Protege

  • avatar

    Just remember, the B&B predicted the Encore would never, ever, EVER, sell.

    Instead it created a whole new category every maker is scrambling to get into, and despite repeated predictions of its demise as each competitor comes along, the ugly little wart keeps selling.

    It’s because it is what buyers wants, and that is why everyone else is building, or scrambling to build, similar vehicles.

    I may not like it, I may not own one (for now, but I could see a point in my life where a vehicle like this would make sense) but the market is speaking loud and clear with their wallets.

  • avatar

    It’s unfortunate with all of the focus on small SUVs/Crossovers their larger kin have largely been left to wither and die on the vine. The Sequoia and Tundra are in dire need of update. Nissan made the Titan and Armada for well over a decade before finally updating them this past year.

    • 0 avatar


    • 0 avatar

      I think the number of sales doesn’t warrant the many hundreds of millions of dollars needed to update those models, with their so-so sales projections. Toyota would be better off converting the factory to CUV production to amortize the plant.

    • 0 avatar

      Wasn’t the Tundra updated a couple of years ago? Was it longer?

      The Toyota V8 engines are good engines but utterly uncompetitive in the fuel economy department at this point.

      • 0 avatar

        Tundra got warmed over a couple years ago, different grille, slightly better interior, and some minor cosmetic stuff, but nothing major. The Toyota V8 is certainly one of the best if not the best engine currently produced. The vehicles are just lacking so many of the features consumers want: Carplay, Adaptive Cruise, HUD, etc.

        I test drove a brand new 2012 Sequoia in 2012 and it felt dated then. A 2017 Sequoia is literally the exact same thing.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m confused about the use case for the privately owned school bus. You frequently tow 9,000 pounds and 8 passengers?

    • 0 avatar

      “Sequoia and Tundra are in dire need of update.”

      I own both, and they’re fine the way they are.

      They may not be the latest and the greatest but they’re fine the way they are.


      People who buy Toyota know what they’re buying. If they want flashy bling, they buy domestics.

      Why do people continue to buy Sequoia and Tundra?

      Because they can, and because they don’t want the other stuff out there.

      • 0 avatar

        Do you use your Toyotas to haul illegal Mexican laborers to mend the fences on your New Mexico ranch that you purchased in large part from government subsidies (government pension, social security, Medicare, etc.) while decrying Big Government and the benefits it provides to people like you who readily take every taxpayer-funded perk available, while slamming “illegal aliens” and flying your -Don’t Tread On Me’ Gadsden flag and sporting your Trump/Pence 2016 bumper sticker, yelling loudly for/demanding that the wall be built, while you buy Toyotas for yourself and giving Hyundais to your nieces and nephews, while reading Breitbart while watching Hannity after listening to druggie and sexual deviant Rush Limbaugh on the radio all day in your Toyota while driving around your ranch with a full tank of gas that you purchased with social security money to make sure the ditch digger illegals you demonize but pay in cash to do the menial labor jobs your nieces and nephews won’t, before driving off to get government paid for doctors’ visits, medical procedures, surgeries, other treatments, and taxpayer-provided medications for your whole family, before going to bed after reading Drudge, Breitbart and Atlas Shrugged?

  • avatar

    ““We are working to increase the output of SUVs,” Honda Executive Vice President Seiji Kuraishi said.”

    Honda has never made an SUv, stop lying to yourself and others Seiji.

  • avatar

    Toyota should have fixed the Venza’s problems rather than discontinue it. The Venza was a solid idea, it was just poorly executed. Giving up and leaving that segment to the Edge and Murano was a quitter’s move. The Crosstour … well, Honda was wise to give that thing the ax. Although just like Toyota, the failure was the result of poor execution. (Really, REALLY poor.) The Passport or whatever is filling the gap between the CR-V and Pilot can’t get here soon enough.

    • 0 avatar

      I hated to see the Venza go. The V6 AWD version was very popular with certain demographics because it was just the right height and easy to get into and out of. The AWD made the Venza as sure-footed as a Subaru.

      The rationale for discontinuing the Venza in the US was that it took sales from the Highlander, while never being a sales success of its own.

      The only thing I could see wrong with the Venza was the 4-cyl FWD version, and that the Venza was very pricey.

  • avatar

    If we are talking true body-on-frame SUVs, I found it interesting to note that Toyota makes 5 of the last 15 models available today – or 33%.

    All the ny times liberal editiorial columnists would be shocked to note that their poster boy for reliability and efficiency is now leading in fuel swilling excess.

    • 0 avatar

      But Toyota’s sales volume is nothing compared to the GM or Ford full-size BOF SUVs.

    • 0 avatar

      “…fuel swilling excess.”

      The majority of Americans don’t care about fuel economy. That’s why pickup trucks are the best sellers in America.

      And with gas as cheap and plentiful as it is, don’t worry, be happy.

      • 0 avatar

        Not worrying about fuel economy, gas is cheap and plentiful. What could possibly ever go wrong with this logic?
        Think we have all seen this movie quite a few times before, people never learn.

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