By on May 14, 2018

2018 Toyota Camry XSE white - Image: Toyota

While fewer competing models in a given segment stands to benefit any automaker left in that realm, Toyota isn’t sure just how loyal Ford car owners are to the Blue Oval brand.

Behind the scenes, there’s surely much licking of chops, but Toyota Motor North America CEO Jim Lentz wasn’t forthcoming with conquest predictions when he talked with Automotive News TV this week. One thing was clear, however. Toyota will remain a full-line brand for the foreseeable future, and the automaker stands to field a more car-heavy product mix for some time to come. And it’s just fine with that.

Fine with it until it becomes a problem, anyways. For now, Toyota doesn’t see much sense in ditching its small passenger cars.

“Especially if you look at the really critical segments — midsize passenger car, compact passenger car — those are two million-plus a year segments. We have no desire to back out of segments,” said Lentz.

“In terms of who may get Ford’s share, it’s difficult to say. If you look at today’s volumes, there’s not a lot of cross-shop between Ford passenger cars and Toyota passenger cars. So it really depends on what happens to those buyers. Are those buyers going to remain loyalists to Ford, and move out of passenger cars and maybe into SUVs — and I’m sure that’s Ford’s strategy — or are they going to remain loyal to passenger car segments? If that’s the case, we’ll have a chance at them with our product.”

Lentz claims Ford brass determined its expertise lies in trucks, and sales numbers surely bears this out. For Toyota, Lentz said, “we’re always going to have a little bias, relative to industry numbers, for passenger cars … we think this is an area we have expertise in.”

Financially, Toyota benefits from fielding a facelifted Mazda as its main subcompact offering. Meanwhile, the Corolla (due for a full revamp for 2020) and recently renewed Camry boast name recognition like no other. A fully updated Corolla Hatchback, replacing the hastily rebadged Scion iM, appears for 2019.

Compared to Ford’s 12.7 percent passenger car volume loss during the first four months of 2018, Toyota-branded cars sales fell just five percent. Models like the Camry and Avalon are up on a year-to-date basis.

As for Toyota’s slow and cautious foray into electric vehicles, Lentz doesn’t see a reason to get out in front if there’s barely a market for the product. There’s 10 battery-electric models on the way, but expect a slow global roll-out. The CEO touted Toyota’s 9 percent hybrid sales rate — a figure well above the recent industry-wide tally of 2.7 percent — after noting the slow growth of U.S. EV sales.

“When the market is ready, when the business is ready, for pure EVs, we’ll be there,” said Lentz. “When the U.S. market is ready, we’ll be able to choose from a stable EVs made somewhere in the world, but in the meantime we’re going to be pushing hybrids.”

[Image: Toyota]

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52 Comments on “Toyota Wouldn’t Dream of Ditching Passenger Cars, Has Fingers Crossed It Can Woo Ford Buyers...”


  • avatar
    thornmark

    Camry and Fusion are both rental class so that makes sense.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    Despite Ford leaving the segment, there are still a dizzying array of sedan models on sale. I’m sure Toyota can pick up a few sales but doubtful Ford sedan buyers will migrate into the arms of Toyota in huge numbers vs other manufacturers.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I imagine the market is tranched by credit scores, with brands like Honda and Toyota being the most demanding with everyone else fitting in below where they can. Whoever is able to offer similar cars for palatable monthly payments is going to get Ford’s market share. That’s how people shop now.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree. There are quality/value buyers who may usually prefer Toyonda and price point buyers who prefer incentives or only qualify for sub-prime financing. Ford car buyers were likely more of the latter which a percentage being older buyers who were loyal to the brand.

      • 0 avatar
        thegamper

        I disagree. There may be a certain segment of the population that is always going to be that price sensitive or subject to the restraints of their credit score. But one thing I have found over the years is that there is no accounting for taste among the general population and people will often desire vehicles for reasons that cannot be comprehended.

        People buy what they want. People who don’t care or cannot make a decision for themselves will buy what Consumer Reports tells them to.

    • 0 avatar
      highfructosecornsyrup

      This. I bet a lot of would-be Fusion buyers go to Nissan. The timing couldn’t be better for Nissan to roll out the redesigned 2019 Altima, especially since their dealers are generally more free-wheeling with subprime loans. If I’m not mistaken the new Altima has AWD as well. It’s almost too perfect.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        highfructose, I don’t see the relation. Nissan buyers are often sub-prime. That’s certainly not the case for Ford buyers. I suspect you’ll see Ford buyers distribute themselves between GM, Honda, and Toyota (in that order, based on my personal swag).

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      sportyaccordy, I doubt there’s much of a relation to the assumption that Toyota / Honda buyers are some superior. I constantly hear people with lower incomes wanting to overpay for a Toyota or Honda, because “them things run forever”.

      Purchased my Ford sedan with a credit score of 840.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I can see Toyota eventually killing off the truly BIG sedans (Avalon etc.) but there will likely be a car called Camry as long as there is a Toyota.

    With everyone moving toward modular platforms that are practically like erector sets when it comes to engines/transmissions and wheelbases it really shouldn’t be necessary for anyone to completely abandon a segment.

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota is not a short term thinking company so cancelling the Avalon is out of the question. Besides they are selling close to 70,000 Avalons a year. Toyota did not replace GM as the world’s largest carmaker a decade ago by making rash decisions. Toyota is top dog because they are strong in every major category. Even the RAV4 is a lot better than the awful Ecosport. I am taking about the Ecosport that was panned on this very site a week ago.

      Ford sucks….
      What a disgrace!

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        Avalon is one of the best kept secrets out there. I’ve never owned or been interested in sedans, but if I was, it would be the first on my list.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Yeah but as some have pointed out the most likely thing to happen will be that there will be a “consolidation”. Companies that are fielding a subcompact, compact, midsize, and full size sedan MIGHT respond to the contraction of the sedan market by cutting from 4 models to 2 or 3 models.

          I was simply using it as an illustration. I have noticed that the slowest selling vehicles for most automakers (spending the most time on the dealer lot) are largely full size sedans.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          “Avalon is one of the best kept secrets out there.”

          This is so true. My BFF has one and it is everything the Big American Sedan used to be, today.

          The Avalon is smooth, quiet, stately, comfortable, oh and did I mentioned quiet? Like a tomb.

          Truly a poor man’s Lexus LS.

          Not my cup of tea but I have to give credit where credit is due, and Avalon excels at everything it was designed to do without the connotation that the name Buick brings to mind.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            I got to pilot my father in law’s ES300h around this weekend driving my wife, her sister and mother out to dinner at a nice place and then drinks nearby as a Mother’s Day thing. I gotta say the ES was absolutely superb for this. For all my gripes about Toyota/Lexus cost cutting their interiors, the ES is still a classy/subdued ride with excellent comfort and poise, easily accommodated the two 6′ tall gals in the back seat. My FIL had considered a new Avalon Hybrid as well but the lightly used ’13 ES300h was just a cut above in terms of interior quality and features for the same $30-32k ish price tag. The HSD is actually pretty decent, perhaps not as effortless as a 2GR-FE ES350, but in non-aggressive in town driving its perfectly adequate and smooth. And also gets 35mpg.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Lexus has some nice interiors, and lots of sound-deadening materials around the passenger cabin.

            My wife and I considered an LS Mark Levinson in 2008 to replace her ’92 Towncar for the Real Estate business but we just could not justify laying out close to $80K (all in) at that time.

            At that time CUVs and SUVs were beginning to trend and we bought that Japan-built Highlander Limited 4×4 instead.

            Really glad we did. We still have it for my grand daughter to use.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        The RAV4 and Ecosport compete about as much as the Corolla and Fiesta do. Otherwise I agree. Toyota might not have the most exciting entries but now with the iA they do have some of the highest quality entries.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          Ecosports are available for less than RAV4s, but there is a remarkable amount of overlap in their price ranges. A RAV4 XLE AWD and a RAV4 Hybrid LE AWD both list for about the same as a top of the line Ecosport. The fuel economy is about the same too. Really, the biggest differences are in quality, spaciousness, design, ride, and likely durability. Other than those areas, the Ecosport is fully competitive.

      • 0 avatar
        Peter Gazis

        @Akear

        Toyota sold 32,583 Avalons in the U.S. last year. No where near 70,000

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “As for Toyota’s slow and cautious foray into electric vehicles, Lentz doesn’t see a reason to get out in front if there’s barely a market for the product.”

    THANK YOU.

    ““When the U.S. market is ready, we’ll be able to choose from a stable EVs made somewhere in the world, but in the meantime we’re going to be pushing hybrids.””

    Wow, someone put thought into their strategy instead of flushing multiple billions of truck profits down the loo for product no one buys. Amazing!

  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    I’m a sedan guy, and have driven Camrys and Corollas of recent vintage. I’ll shop elsewhere, thank you.

  • avatar
    delow48

    You have to assume that of the hundreds of thousands of sedans that Ford sells at least a percentage wants just that, not some over-priced SUV type transportation module. Otherwise they would have bought one of the many many many models currently on sale. Just assuming half of those are not brand loyal gives most other sedan makers a good healthy bump in their sales and Toyota will get a good majority of those.

  • avatar

    As a current Ford Fusion owner and there is absolutely no way I will stay with Ford. I know several people including family members that feel the same way. I went to get the oil changed on my Fusion a week ago and told my Ford dealer this was going to be may last Ford product. The dealer said he heard the same thing from several other Fusion owners in the last few weeks. It can’t hurt to give the current Malibu a try. The reviews have been very good, with one critic even stating it replaces the Fusion as America’s best family sedan. To tell you the truth it looks better than the current Camry and Accord.

    Bye, Bye Ford.

    Maybe GM, Honda, and Toyota can offer special discounts on Fusion and Taurus trade ins.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    This Ford owner has been looking at Toyota for awhile.

  • avatar
    mojeimeje

    Does this mean that we can expect the 2.0 turbo in the Corolla hatch to replace the Focus ST? Or something to replace the RS? It’s not like Toyota doesn’t have rally heritage like Ford has.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      I think a “hot” Corolla hatch could work. But I think the forthcoming regular hatch and new XLE trim on the Yaris iA are more significant. They better fill gaps left by Fiesta & Focus hatches and sedans.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Keep in mind that Toyota’s last truly successful foray into performance compacts was a hopped up Corolla / Matrix from around 12 years go. Neat cars, but they didn’t sell. Folks who buy small Toyotas aren’t generally looking for performance. Shame, because Toyota is certainly capable of making a performance car.

      So, I can see why they haven’t gone down this road.

      But Mazda’s failure to compete in this segment really baffles me – if anyone could make a car that could take down the GTI, it’s Mazda. Pop the 2.5 turbo from the 6 into the 3, beef up the suspension, do some body mods, and – bang! – GTI killer. With Ford leaving the segment, this would be a golden opportunity for Mazda to make a nice little niche for itself.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I don’t care what reasoning they use. 2.0T in the Corolla with a 6MT or the new 8AT would be awesome.

  • avatar
    Tiberius1701

    Well being of the class of Old Farts (50-60 Year old age group) that will drive nothing but a Ford, I will continue to do so.

  • avatar
    bobmaxed

    Ex-Toyota owner
    Now C-Max and Fiesta ST
    Would gladly go back if I could buy a Hybrid Matrix and an updated Celica.

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    All I see is more and more Toyota’s cars around town with rental stickers.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      Yep. not quite as frequent as Korean cars but for long time Toyota buyers they should take notice. Or not, Toyota buyers aren’t called lemmings for no reason.

      A town I used live in, a certain demographic accounts for 1.5% of the population. But the Toyota dealership in that town had a special office that opens late just for the folks of that group, at least it seemed that way since every time we walked by there was a salesman of the group intensely going over paperwork with a couple or a woman of the same group.

      Later on I asked around and turns out that dealership is VERY profitable financing subprime loans to the folks from cities all around and is the king of pushing overpriced ex-rentals to unfortunate souls ex-rentals at 15% interest or more.

      Next time you are in an economically depressed area, if you wonder how people in that neighborhood are in Camrys that sold for 25-30k new, that’s how. Except they will end up paying way more than new MSRP over their 72 months loans on a camry with 40k rental miles that’s “certified” for a few thousand miles after they buy it. But I bet they feel smug since they rose above all the others driving Malibus and 300s.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “a certain demographic accounts for 1.5% of the population. But the Toyota dealership in that town had a special office that opens late just for the folks of that group”

        Vampires?

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I’m sure if you two b*tch and snark and stereotype long enough, the injustice of consumer preference for Toyota passenger cars over Ford passenger cars will be reversed and the world will be right again.

      On other forums I make sure to post something obnoxious and trite about domestic pickup manufacturers and–this is important–buyers on every article and it is *totally* making a big difference in Toyota pickup sales. It’s a great technique.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        FACT. Toyota hasn’t sold a vehicle at retail since 2016.

        FACT. Toyota buyers are all lemmings because they pass up the amazing experience of owning a true driver’s car like Optima or Malibu.

        FACT. Toyota reliability is actually well below average but the owners all lie in their ownership surveys to avoid the shame of being bamboozled. Also Consumer Reports hates America.

        FACT. If you buy a Tundra you will be declared unfit to be around sharp objects.

        FACT. The entire Lexus lineup is simply made up of rebadged Corollas and RAV4s.

        FACT. The batteries in the Prius are made from the souls of children and can only be recycled by dropping them into the local potable water supply.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          Your facts make me insecure. Excuse me whilst I go troll the C&D F-150 review. I’ve got some great one-liners about hauling air, found-on-the-road-dead, and a scuzzy local dealership story I’m going to rub into the faces of those Ford-lemmings until I feel better about the logo on my 4Runner’s key fob.

        • 0 avatar
          Sub-600

          FACT. 12.7% of male Toyota buyers simultaneously wear suspenders and a belt.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I will say my mother in law’s ’13 RAV4 Limited had the glovebox handle break off with 60k miles of easy adult use. I was messing with it yesterday, it’s the cheapest, lowest bidder piece of sh*t mechanism I’ve seen in my life. A small plastic nub of buttressed extruded ABS plastic that is part of the single molded plastic handle acts as a lever on a different small piece of plastic. Said nub half-broke/bent. Just taking the thing apart and examining it I was disgusted. Toyota might still take their powertrains and such seriously, but man does that Rav reek of cost cutting on the inside. I know my in laws remember their ’05 Highlander Limited very fondly, and my mother in law said she regretted ever trading it in at 170k running like a top (they got something like 8500 on trade to boot). They were excited at the MPG rating of the RAV vs the 20-ish mpg the V6 Highlander got. But between the cheap build quality and the stiff legged ride, it was a downgrade in every way except fuel economy.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          “If you buy a Tundra you will be declared unfit to be around sharp objects”

          I’m still trying to get my status updated. I can’t even hold scissors in this state.

  • avatar
    NG5

    As a Ford ST buyer, I looked at the Toyota 86 and I might consider a Supra down the road; Lexus also makes some interesting enthusiast-type luxury cars.

    I prpbably wouldn’t buy a new Ford again; not because I dislike my car, but because I no longer am excited about supporting their new vehicle direction with my money. Plus, you can find used Mustangs everywhere and fairly cheap.

    If I were buying a more long-drive commuter car Toyota would be high on the list of manufacturers I’d look to. Even their hybrid cars are interesting in that hypermiling capacity. Personally, I would probably go for that over an SUV if I didn’t care about driving feel.

  • avatar
    Kek

    Cars I have owned so far
    2001 Corolla
    2007 Scion tC
    2013 Corolla
    2015 Camry
    2016 CX-5

    My 13 corolla was a POS. I literally mean there is no bigger soul sucking car on road except Corolla. They redesigned in 14 and somehow made it worse – even more awful.
    My 15 has a touch screen that does not work (Toyota did not do a recall and handles it case by case).
    + Toyota’s never hit EPA#. Camry will hit 32 atbest on highway. 35 EPA # is a big jump.
    My Mazda on the other hand has been great. I still wished I would have gotten the 6. Only downside is I would have to handwash / wax the 6 whereas Camry goes through cheapest car wash I can find. Cheapest.

    Unless you buy new and drive 200K miles – there is no reason to buy a Toyota. Their products are behind the curve – you get much better value than Toyota on the market. Their rental sales hurt resale (2017 Camry’s are around 15K dollars in base trim – try finding a similar Accord for under 18-19K USD.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    I am considering an Avalon to replace my Taurus, but I’d also look at something sporty instead. On paper at least, Toyota has a big V6.

    • 0 avatar
      ryanwm80

      “a big V6”? As if this is an advantage? The engine in the Taurus is exactly the same size. Buick and Chrysler have slightly bigger V6s, but the Chrysler has a V8, if that’s what you want. But if you want a large 4 door car that is “sporty” I think it’s hard to beat the Taurus SHO with a 365hp twin turbo engine and all wheel drive, plus it has massaging seats, a 12 speaker stereo, and the keyless entry system, which seems like it would be a hassle to remember the code, but after about a dozen times of using it, you don’t even need to think about it because pressing the numbers becomes second nature, so you never have to worry about locking your keys in the car, in fact, you COULD lock your keys in the car so you don’t loose them, and you won’t have to carry a large key fob in your pocket or be locked out. Also, last fall I sat in a Buick LaCrosse at the auto show and I thought it had some of the most comfortable seats. I also remember test driving a Lincoln MKZ hybrid and thought that had really comfortable seats too.

  • avatar

    When I bought my ’14 Fusion Titanium I was looking also at Buick Regal and Mazda6. When time comes to replace Fusion, if I still want gas powered car, I would consider Buick Regal hatchback and Mazda6 again. But most likely I will switch to BEV and if Ford makes BEV hatchback or sedan it will be in my shopping list. I always liked Ford made chassis starting from 80s Scorpio to modern Fusion. I always was less enthusiastic about Opel but despite cheap interior and inferior engines Opel Vectra ride and handling quality was superior to any Japanese car be it Mazda 626 or Honda Accord or Toyota Carina or Mitsu Galant, it just felt like premium car in comparison what brings me back to Regal. Last time I tested Regal vs Mazda6 – Buick felt more premium and was more powerful and more sophisticated proposition.

    Regarding Toyota – I would prefer it to anything else if I was a passenger. Toyota Camry is a perfect taxi or livery car.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    I would give my right tit to see Ford’s NA strategy blow up in their face. American consumers are pretty tasteless and wasteful but high fuel prices, coupled with time and trends, could push them back into smaller cars. When that happens, Ford will be sitting flat-footed, while Toyota will have the cars, and brand loyalty. Keeping my fingers crossed!

  • avatar
    John R

    Hm. He sounds like a level-headed guy.

    I don’t think there will be one manufacturer gets it all or most, right? I feel like Fusion buyers are a pretty broad cross-section of the population. My guess is that whatever Toyota gets Honda will have an equal number with everyone else picking up what’s left.

    …it wouldn’t surprise me if Hyundai actually makes out…

  • avatar
    Robbie

    There are four effects in play here:

    – Some Ford loyalists will move to brands that they perceive to be of higher quality (Honda; Toyota)
    – Some will move to up and coming brands that they suspect are good value (Kia, Hyundai)
    – Some will be Murican-only types and will buy a GM or Chrysler product
    – Some will stick with Ford and move to a Ford SUV.

    Any guesses as to the sizes of each effect? I would give it 20-20-20-40 percent.

  • avatar

    I was stating 2014 Avalon sales, which were around 67,000 plus. Toyota will probably increase Avalon sales by attracting former Taurus owners.

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