Dealers Expect Toyota to Come Through With New Crossover Models

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
dealers expect toyota to come through with new crossover models

While Toyota already boasts a well fleshed out utility lineup, it seems everyone agrees there’s more money to be made in the middle. By that, we mean the juicy sweet spot spanning roughly the compact to midsize segments, where sales potential is the greatest.

Toyota has already suggested there’s another model to come, but we now hear that dealers — the best gauge of buyers’ desires — fully expect the automaker to follow through. And not just with a single model.

Speaking to Automotive News, Mike White, chairman of the Toyota National Dealers’ Advisory Council, said there’s room in the lineup for new offerings.

“Obviously, the market shifted to light trucks, and more trucks is something we would all like,” White said, explaining the dealer network’s reaction to a U.S. sales plateau. “I think we’re all very optimistic about another really solid year.”

The source of this optimism isn’t just the fact that Toyota sells tons of Tacomas, RAV4s, and Camrys. A decline in any of those nameplates could see the brand lose ground. No, White seems confident the utility vehicle product pipeline didn’t dry up after the C-HR popped out.

“I think with the market shifting to light trucks, we’re confident that Toyota is going to come up with the products we need to fill those slots,” he said, referring to the space between the compact RAV4 and midsize, three-row Highlander. He added “we know they’re working on it, and we’re confident that they know what the needs of the customer are, and they listen intently to the dealers, so we’re confident they’re working on more SUVs to fill those slots.”

Just going by White’s language, it’s possible Toyota is considering more than one new utility vehicle. There’s other evidence for it. Late last year, Toyota Motor North America General Manager Jack Hollis confirmed a new small crossover will join the brand’s lineup within the next two to three years.

“It’s like the 90s again, we can have more than one vehicle in each segment if they are different enough,” Hollis said.

Hollis mentioned a small, all-wheel-drive crossover with a starting price that could fall under $20k, placing it slightly above the subcompact, front-drive C-HR. It’s an obvious space for a new vehicle, and Toyota’s modular TNGA platform would make creating a small, brawnier addition an easy task.

There’s a new RAV4 bowing for 2019, but we haven’t yet seen it in full. From what we have seen, it adopts some of the styling cues of last year’s FT-AC concept — a roughly RAV4-sized vehicle displaying a ruggedness not present in the brand’s existing compact. Hollis implied the RAV4 was too much of a sales magnet to allow for another vehicle of similar size and price. He did not, however, rule out a new model positioned above it.

The midsize space in Toyota’s lineup is already well-populated, with the unibody Highlander and body-on-frame 4Runner offering buyers a choice of capability and image. Whether the gulf between RAV4 and Highlander is large enough to accomodate a new model — without cannibalizing RAV4 sales — remains to be seen.

In a market that shrunk by 1.8 percent in 2017, Toyota brand sales rose 0.52 percent in the U.S. compared to a year earlier. Over the first two months of 2018, Toyota trucks and SUV sales are up 17.4 percent compared to the same period in 2017. Toyota cars sales rose 0.5 percent in this period.

[Images: Toyota]

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  • Turbosasquatch Turbosasquatch on Mar 23, 2018

    Would Toyota ever attempt to break into the 3/4 ton and 1 ton pickup truck market? Tundra owners are crazy loyal, it could be a hit.

    • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Mar 24, 2018

      Toyota is already in the 3/4 ton and up line in Asia and the Middle East through their company named Hino. The Hino badge can be found on a wide range of trucks, semi-tractors and construction equipment. Just not in the US. As a Tundra aficionado I doubt I could afford a 3/4-ton or 1-ton Tundra pickup truck considering the higher cost of a 1/2-ton Tundra compared to Ford, GM and RAM.

  • Akear Akear on Mar 25, 2018

    Those are divisional sales not company sales.

  • SCE to AUX Toyota the follower, as usual. It will be 5 years before such a vehicle is available.I can't think of anything innovative from them since the Gen 1 Prius. Even their mythical solid state battery remains vaporware.They look like pre-2009 General Motors. They could fall hard.
  • Chris P Bacon I've always liked the looks of the Clubman, especially the original model. But like a few others here, I've had the Countryman as a rental, and for the price point, I couldn't see spending my own money on one. Maybe with a stick it would be a little more fun, but that 3 cylinder engine just couldn't provide the kick I expected.
  • EBFlex Recall number 13 for the 2020 Explorer and the 2020 MKExplorer.
  • CEastwood Every time something like this is mentioned it almost never happens because the auto maker is afraid of it taking sales away from an existing model - the Tacoma in this instance . It's why VW never brought the Scirrocco and Polo stateside fearful of losing Golf sales .
  • Bca65698966 V6 Accord owner here. The VTEC crossover is definitely a thing, especially after I got a performance tune for the car. The loss of VTEC will probably result in a slower vehicle overall for one reason: power under the curve. While the peak horsepower may remain the same, the amount of horsepower and torque up to that peak may be less overall. The beauty of variable cam lift is not only the ability to gain more power at upper rpm’s on the “big cam”, but the ability to gain torque down low on the “small cam”. Low rpm torque gets the vehicle moving and then big horsepower at upper rpm’s gains speed. Having only one cam profile is now introducing a compromise versus the VTEC setup. I guess it’s possible that with direct injection they are able to keep the low rpm torque there (I’ve read that DI helps with low rpm torque) but I’m skeptical it will match a well tuned variable lift setup.