By on April 26, 2018

2017 Toyota Corolla LE - Image: Toyota

Those fools — don’t they know the Corolla sold *just* 329,196 examples in the United States last year?

Alright, not everything has to be about Ford. But as the Blue Oval plans a retreat from the affordable passenger car market, other automakers stand to gain the company’s lost customers. Some of them, anyway. And Toyota seems to have no qualms about continuing to sell small, affordable cars that bring buyers into the showroom — so much so, that it’s spending $170 million to bring more jobs (and a new Corolla) to Mississippi.

In the context of this week’s news, the Corolla’s factory retooling and platform swap makes one marvel at what name recognition and a simple bodystyle can do for a model.

For its 12th generation, the Corolla moves onto the modular TNGA platform shared by many of its stablemates. Some 400 new jobs will be created at the company’s Blue Springs, Mississippi assembly plant to complete the transition, as well as increase the plant’s output. Toyota needs to free up plant space in Cambridge, Ontario to make room for the 2019 RAV4, so it’s sending extra output south of the border.

“We will be able to respond quicker and be more flexible in order to meet market demands down the road,” said Toyota Mississippi President Sean Suggs in a statement.

The next-generation Corolla appears next year as a 2020 model. Joining the outgoing model for the 2019 model year is the new Corolla Hatchback, formerly the iM. (We’ll have a review for you on April 30th.) That particular model originates overseas, where it’s sold as the Auris.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the Corolla’s domestic health. In a nutshell, the Corolla is in tip-top shape, all things considered. The 11th-generation model debuted for the 2014 model year, with sales (including that of the iM) hitting a post-recession peak in 2016. A mild refresh followed for 2017.

For a model that’s fairly long in the tooth, and one in need of more power and panache, last year’s sales numbers would be right at home in, say, 2003. Sales of the Corolla line fell 4 percent in March, with first quarter volume down 4.4 percent, year-to-date, but that’s hardly the kind of losses seen at other automakers.

With a new Corolla hatch replacing the slow-selling iM later this year and a new sedan arriving next year, Toyota is in as good a position as it can be with its compact car nameplate.

[Image: Toyota]

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68 Comments on “Toyota Spending Money in the U.S. On a Conventional Passenger Car...”


  • avatar
    Zackman

    Just goes to show that domestic OEMs either can’t or don’t want to compete. It’s all about trucks and SUVs to them.

    Poor fools…

    I want to like the Corolla, but it just looks fat and unattractive to me. Hopefully the new design will appeal to me, not that it matters.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “I want to like the Corolla, but it just looks fat and unattractive to me. Hopefully the new design will appeal to me, not that it matters.”

      It’s not about the first date–it’s about the marriage:

      https://www.craigslist.org/about/best/hou/6565526716.html

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I hate this meme for how played out it’s gotten (notorious Xterra ninja ad comes to mind). Ironically enough, that generation of Corolla is particularly prone to burning oil as the miles get closer to 150k. To the point of the owner needing to keep a close eye on oil level between changes and if they don’t (as many casual Corolla drivers a prone to doing), it’s bye-bye engine.

        • 0 avatar
          WallMeerkat

          The 2000s Celica had this issue too, terminal when it starts happening.

        • 0 avatar
          ttacgreg

          I just checked the oil level on my 110+K mile 2000 Corolla which has been flogged over Vail pass all winter. It is right between the marks. Whew! You had me scared there for a bit.
          My sample had to have expensive 5-speed tranny work done at 80k because it would not stay in 4th gear, a known issue apparently.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        If what you’re after is a car that you can drive for 20 years until it begs to die, the Corolla is a terrific choice (though after having driven a current one, I have to wonder about this – it feels signifcantly “cheaped out” compared to older models).

        For the person who wants to trade every few years, far better-looking and better-driving cars are out there. Ford just gave the death sentence to one of them.

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          I’m curious as to how well the CVTs in these are going to last. It’s an interesting test case.

          Per Zackman’s criticism of the styling, I thought these looked OK prior to the facelift. The post-facelift ones are hideous.

  • avatar
    hamish42

    My wife’s Corolla bored us slack-jawed for 380K kms (~210k miles), then her sister bought it. It’s hard to say no to a car that does that, even if it is the despised Corolla.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      https://www.craigslist.org/about/best/hou/6565526716.html

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Hence the reason why my son refused to part with his 1997 Toyota Tercel…until a semi-truck made the decision for him. At the time of the accident, that little shoebox on wheels had over 250k miles on the original engine, trans and clutch. Not one time did it go in for unscheduled service. Belts, water pump, etc…replaced appropriately. Oil changed regularly. Wear/tear items (brakes/tires) replaced. That was it. 40 MPG, freezing cold air and an interior that held together better than a large swath of cars on the road today. Boring? Perhaps. But he got tremendous joy out of having a car he didn’t have to worry about and was paid for long ago.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I’d love to find a decent stick shift Tercel for my next commuter this coming fall. Throw on a set of cheap snow tires and I’d be all set, thankfully looks like Walmart still carries 13 inch tires!

  • avatar
    Verbal

    The Corolla is the ultimate stealth car. There are zillions of them out there, yet you never see them. Hiding in plane sight.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      My neighbor, a nice single older lady that’s about to retire, leases a new Corolla LE every few years. Her sister that’s about her age and stops by to visit every month or so, drives the same exact car, down to color (black). With their strong residuals, they are cheap cars to lease. So even if a lessee isn’t exactly directly taking advantage of a Corolla’s reliability/durability, they still benefit financially from the reputation.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Great cars if you like going faster than the speed limit.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “Toyota Spending Money in the U.S. On a Conventional Passenger Car”

    Toyota Death Watch now!

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      I want to see what they do with the volume once 2025 rolls around.

      I recall a car corolla sized needs to achieve 56 CAFE MPG in 7 years, not sure what the actual sticker combined mpg it needs to reach 56 CAFE MPG, but Toyota is going to have fun figuring that out while still keeping the price “affordable”.

  • avatar
    JEFFSHADOW

    Wow! YOU can get a job assembling new cars in Mississippi (a Right To Work state) for, what, $11 an hour?
    That’s why Nissan is there doing the same thing.
    Just one step away from NAFTA production.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      US:Europe::China:US

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      https://www.indeed.com/cmp/Toyota/salaries?location=US%2FMS%2FBlue+Springs

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yes, salaries in rural areas are low. So is the cost of living. I don’t have a problem with what Toyota’s paying.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        FreedMike,
        The $11ph put forward by JEFFSHADOW seems incorrect.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          FWIW starting hourly wage at the Lafayette Subaru plant in Indiana is $14 with some decent healthcare benefits and even stuff like on site gym and daycare. It’s not the union wages of days gone by, but it’s something and 2 spouses working at the plant at a combined $34/hr+ and their little ones taken care of is pretty livable for Central Indiana. You’re not rolling in dough, but it’s enough to buy a house and live decently. The big difference is in the past it would have just been the husband working a 40hr week making the equivalent of that much (or more, adjusted for inflation), leaving the mother available to keep house and look after the kids.

  • avatar
    gtem

    I think this is the true power of Toyota as a car company: they can afford to stay in every niche (except sport cars, granted), no matter the prevailing market winds. They didn’t morph the 4Runner into a transverse crossover like the Pathfinder and Explorer, nor did they drop it like Chevy with the S10 Blazer. They kept it around, albeit at a slower development cycle. They had the Highlander to cover the midsize crossover segment, and do quite well with it. Unlike the domestics that seem motivated to switch course with every prevailing wind, Toyota keeps their lineup spread out and adjusts capacity as needed. For all their faults with becoming complacent as far as no longer being being standouts on technical and tactile merit (the way a ’92 Camry decimated all comers back in the day), they still make solid product that consumers know they can depend on lasting a long time with minimal issue, and retaining a lot of value as time goes on. Can’t help but respect that.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      This week has increased my affinity for Toyota a lot.

    • 0 avatar
      ernest

      +1. @gtem- great post!

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Thinking more on the root cause for this, going back to the discussion in the earlier Ford thread, could it be that Toyota has something particular about its corporate structure or culture that allows them to NOT be so pressured by activist investors to chase maximum short term returns no matter the cost? Have they been maintaining returns that are high enough that they are left alone and can afford to act like they have been?

      Of course, Toyota isn’t exactly immune from cost cutting efforts and chasing various efficiencies in their lineup: Corolla and Camry are only available as sedans now, and long gone are the “Bubble” era frivolities like supercharged AWD Previas, turbo+AWD Celicas, Turbo MR2s and Turbo Supras.

      And it looks like we might be looking at the wrapping up of the GS line, and god forbid they replace the GX with some sort of unibody replacement (they’d be smart to add a three row crossover AND keep the GX, prior history with Highlander/4Runner shows they might). Just yesterday my wife and I were walking back from dinner through our neighborhood past a stretch of neglected pavement that badly needs complete replacement, potholes on top of potholes that made me very nostalgic for the old country. I had the pleasure of seeing some well to do older lady glide right through in an earlier GX460, absolutely unperturbed, not a care in the world, the GX just didn’t even notice it. It’s a beautiful thing, that’s what those trucks are all about.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I agree 100%. Neither vehicle is my cup of tea, but I respect the hell out of how they’re built, and how well they fulfill their missions.

        And they’re both selling quite well. I think the 4Runner will stick around as is, and as long as the Tundra is around, Toyota has a ready-made engine for the GX.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    This article supports my view regarding Detroit.

    Detroit is only profitable in markets that cater to their whims. Look at recent events in Korea.

    It seems Asian and EU manufacturers like Toyota are competitive in mature markets where the Big 2 are lacklustre.

    Again, the US needs to force the Big 2 to become less dependent on large vehicles.

    This article proves there is scope to manufacture small vehicles in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis

      Meanwhile GM & Ford still sell vehicles in Australia.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Peter Gazis,
        GM is struggling in Australia, if it keeps up GM will need to fold.

        Ford has only two vehicles that are keeping it afloat.

        Just selling in not doing so profitably.

        Just use Google mate, instead of spewing ill considered nonsense.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Peter,
        I did you Google searches for you. Oh, Toyota is doing much better than GMH or Ford. Toyota is Australia biggest seller, then Mazda.

        http://performancedrive.com.au/holden-sales-drop-to-10th-spot-in-march-commodore-to-blame-0610/

        http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/motoring/motoring-news/holden-sales-hit-record-low-in-february-as-the-rest-of-the-market-hits-the-accelerator/news-story/cac49f4665dd91c8709f74d289bdfc76

        http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/motoring/motoring-news/holden-slips-to-10th-place-in-car-sales-race-its-lowest-ranking-since-1948/news-story/ad1ac141700b429db4ce651fd439cff0

        https://www.motoring.com.au/february-vfacts-honda-booms-as-holden-slumps-111392/

        Gotta know your sh!t, rather than be a troll.

        • 0 avatar
          Peter Gazis

          Big Al

          You must live close to Adelaide.
          Holden will do fine with the Equinox and Acadia. Ford does fine with the Ranger. The vehicles may not sell as well as the Corolla, but the profit margins are better.

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      I have to wonder why Chrysler doesn’t export LX cars to Australia, being the last V8 interceptor™ works well for them in the US.

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    Rental companies still need small sedans .

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Good point. Corollas are fleet queens, as are Camrys. I have a feeling the Honda/Toyota sales war would have a very different headline if that was factored in.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        The only people who care are those inexplicably annoyed by Toyota grabbing the sales title with that tactic. Who cares? The fleet numbers given on a TTAC article from Jan-Oct 2017 showed the Accord moved 277K units retail to the Camry’s 261K. Whoopty-doo.

        If we want to talk about “good points” that have been brought up ad nauseum, we could discuss VW’s 16th place reliability ranking on CR and how that might have something to do with them being unable to sell competitively or even approach their own 800K goal despite having a fleet presence themselves.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Don’t get me wrong – the car I drive is a fleet queen too. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.

          But there’s been a lot of ink spilled about how badly Toyota’s beating Honda in the Accord/Camry battle. Given that almost every other Camry I see around here has red-on-white plates or the telltale barcode in the rear window – i.e., rental car – once the fleet sales are taken out, the results may be quite different.

          Just sayin’.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    And to complement the 329,000 Corollas Toyota flogged, add in 377,000 Civics Honda managed to offload last year. 700,000 compact cars.

    Ford? 158,000 delectable Foci, no doubt most with the world-beating Powershift Schemozzle transmission.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    If they just made a version with a little more power and verve. The iM with the corporate 2.0T and a 6MT (WITH A MECHANICAL LIMITED SLIP DIFF) would be great. PRobably cheap too.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    I bought a used 2014 Corolla S. It was two years old but only had about 9,000 miles. I needed a commuter. I toyed with the idea of a VW TDi for a long time since I drive 90 miles round trip, but I didn’t want to put up with the drama and the dieseselgate scandal. Got the Corolla S as loaded as they come for $14,000. The CVT equipped ones are very slow and kind of annoying to drive. The 6 speed manuals such as mine are probably no faster but give the illusion of being faster and a bit more entertaining. Excellent reliability and good quality. I get 40mpg hwy doing 80mph. Can’t complain.

    • 0 avatar
      JEFFSHADOW

      It’s just hard to get around that pesky “Corolla” name. Bitter, divorced woman in her mid-forties is the typical owner. Look around, you will concur.
      When I get my 2019 Chrysler 300 Touring it will have three 1960s “NEWPORT” emblems on it, just as I convert Buick Lucernes into WILDCATs.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Wow JEFFSHADOW,
        Man you must have a really sad life!

        Actually most who own a Corolla would be younger people.

        Most every divorced person I know in the US drives a mid size SUV. Most likely the family hack.

      • 0 avatar
        Carrera

        Hahaha Jeffshadow…that’s funny. Well, you’re right in some respects…but I am not a woman, nor divorced, but I am in my very early 40s.
        Most divorced women I see where I live have cleaned their husbands and have nice newish SUVs. Corolla is the king of Uber and rental around here. I tried a Civic but the Corolla was more comfortable both front seat and back. I am a Honda kind of guy, but the Accord Sport was a bit too expensive at that time for my needs. It wasn’t really my intention to get a Corolla the day I bought it. But I was thinking to test drive a 6sp manual. I had a search built up on car gurus but could never find out. Until the day I found the car I really wanted , a slightly used 2014 VW Sportwagen TDi, 6 sp manual. This was about 3 months after the diesel gate but 1 year before the settlement. It was a huge unknown . People were panicking and dumping their TDi . That VW would have been unfixable anyway since it didn’t have the urea system like all the Passats and later Golfs and Sportwagens. The VW dealer was very cocky, arrogant almost and uncompromising on price. They were treating their diesels just like before the scandals…no deals. Anyway, they wanted about 4-5,000 too much . They had that car on the lot for 6 months. They already knew through their back channels that VW would take them off their hands, but in the meantime they still wanted to make a killing. While at the dealership, I got an alert from car gurus for a Corolla S with the same amount of miles, 2 miles away from where I was ( 85 miles away from home, since my search was 100 miles radius). It was faith, because it could have been 85 miles away in another direction. I got there in two minutes, dealership was packed unlike VW which only had tumbleweed in their lot. Clowns, freei ice cream, balloons. The car was a unicorn because of the 6 speed. The normal demographic, as my definition, not yours, uber drivers, don’t want manuals. I shaved off 2,000 dollars in 35 minutes and was out of there in 1 h. The car was also more equipped than the VW, but the only option I care for are the LED lights. They are best lights I’ve ever had in a car.

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      Right now I’m getting an ad for a 2 year old (2016) Corolla for $14,299. Inflation!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The MY17s were doing 12s last I checked, so the 16s are likely high 10s. Settle on 12 and not a penny more.

        • 0 avatar
          Carrera

          The S is a bit more desirable than the base cars so depending what it is, and how many miles it has, 14,000 for a 2 year old isn’t terrible. There are some S Corolla that come with keyless entry, navigation, sunroof and are a bit more pricy. An LE though should be cheaper.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      A manual trans Corolla S makes a tempting A-B commuter car.

  • avatar
    RSF

    Corolla’s are great cars. There’s something to be said for a simple car that does what it’s supposed to do day-in and day-out. People buy these because they last a very long time, they are easy to drive, and have strong value even at extreme age and mileage.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    Toyota’s cars are BORING.

    As boring as a bank vault, which Toyota needs for all the cash it has.

    Let’s compare Toyota CEO pay with that of the domestic big 3 CEOs over the last 20 years.

    The American companies cry about high labor costs and want to build in Mexico.

    Maybe the stockholders should outsource top management to Asia–the Asians do a much better job for a LOT LESS money.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      That’s where my question of culture comes from. My understanding is that for all their faults of rigid hierarchy and such, Japanese companies also expect a high level of humility, modesty, and loyalty from their CEOs and trickling down through management down to the line assembly workers. Corporate employees don’t hop around anywhere as much looking for the next windfall payout or golden parachute. Guys on the line start working and are deeply committed to their employer to stick around for decades, and in return gets perks like corporate owned resorts they can take their families to for vacation, etc. Perhaps this is all long gone and I’m basing that on things I read that were written back in the 80s, when there was a lot of the same mentality as far as long-haul careers at a single company in the US.

      The level of income inequality between CEO and the line workers is something that needs to be discussed. A union job with benefits that could raise a family while the CEO and upper levels of management made certainly a lot more money and lived very comfortably but the magnitudes difference in their salary was much less than it is now. Now it’s CEOs with their multi-million dollar payouts and tiered and contract style hires on the assembly line making $12-14/hr. It long ago crossed the line of “good taste.”

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Completely agree, gtem.

        I own two used cars built in Japan. Earlier in my life my first new car was American-made by an American company, and the engine literally fell out. Then a got a couple of American-built imports that were somewhat less crappy, then another American car that was awful. Then I bought four Japan-built cars and kept each one for a long time. All have been tremendous.

        This is anecdotal evidence and not a survey, but the surveys have said the same thing for decades and still do. Glance at this April’s Consumer Reports survey. Toyota is a sea of green dots. GM? Every part of the car is going to Hades by age 7. It’s astonishing, and not a bit coincidental.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        An excellent post by Gtem touching on many important issues. For example for years Japanese corporations maintained an earnings structure whereby the highest paid executive would make at most 20X the earnings of their lowest paid employee. Compare that to executive compensation in American companies.

        Income disparity, and the ‘us versus them’ mentality that is a fault of both parties, created an environment that was not conducive to ‘excellence’.

        Many Japanese organizations have adopted more ‘westernized’ philosophies this century and therefore the quality discrepancy has narrowed. However when many of your front line workers are living in a ‘ghettoized’ environment, concerned about the personal safety of themselves and their families, when they have not yet qualified for full health care, and when they are concerned about losing their job, their commitment to the organization and quality is no where near as strong. Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs does apply in the work environment.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    “For a model that’s fairly long in the tooth…”

    Man, I still think of these cars as fairly new. And they’re already replacing it? And to think, the Focus is 3 years older, and the Fiesta 5. Gotta give some credit to Toyota.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    They kept this latest generation as simple as possible, but that’s why they are more reliable than Civics. No direct injection, no turbos and still get 40 mpg hwy.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Corollas sell themselves. When was the last time you saw an expensive TV commercial for the Corolla? When was the last time you saw multiple thousands of dollars in cash back incentives for a Corolla?

    Ford is giving up on sedans because there hasn’t been a Ford sedan which sells itself since the first two generations of the Ford Taurus.

    Meanwhile, Toyota might consider giving up on the Tundra. Er, it sort of has. Same basic design since 2007 with a mild refresh in 2014.

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