By on November 6, 2018

Toyota isn’t immune from the light truck epidemic sweeping the globe; certainly not in North America. In October, the automaker saw light truck sales across both of its divisions rise 6.8 percent, year over year, in the United States, offsetting an 7.2 percent drop in passenger car sales. Tally that volume up over the first 10 months of 2018 and the picture’s even more stark. Year to date, trucks are up 7.7 percent, cars are down 11.1 percent.

The automaker’s North American CEO admits it’s looking at passenger car candidates for execution.

Speaking to Automotive News, Jim Lentz reiterated Toyota’s stance that cars still have a place in the North American lineup, but admitted some might have to go.

“We are taking a hard look at all of the segments that we compete in to make sure we are competing in profitable segments and that products we sell have strategic value,” Lentz said, shortly after T the release of Toyota’s quarterly earnings report. Operating profit rose 11 percent in the last fiscal quarter (to $5.09 billion), helped by growing truck sales and company-wide efficiency initiatives.

Claiming that Toyota has no intention of pulling a Ford, Lentz said models in certain segments are under consideration for discontinuation — a group that includes coupes.

Toyota Yaris SE

Taking a gander at Toyota’s diverse lineup, there’s a few bright spots to be found in its passenger car offerings. Camry sales rose 4 percent, year over year, in October, and the Corolla line and Avalon enjoy year-to-date volume increases. There’s also wind in the redesigned Lexus LS and ES’ sails. However, there’s no shortage of models pinning the throttle on the road to irrelevancy.

Sales of the subcompact Yaris hatch are practically nonexistent, down 79.4 percent since the start of the year. According to AN‘s product pipeline, it’s not due for an overhaul until 2021. Meanwhile, an imperceptibly refreshed (and renamed) Yaris Sedan — the rebadged Mazda that already collects the lion’s share of Yaris volume — appears for 2019.

While the 86 2+2 sports coupe never sold in great numbers (sales fell 40.4 percent through October), Toyota needs that model as a youthful attention grabber. Its PR value can’t be discounted. At Lexus, however, two pricier coupes exist, and only one verges on supercar status. The LC is both a prestige model and technological showpiece, commanding prices near the six-figure mark, but the seldom-thought-of RC, introduced for 2015, doesn’t have the same cachet. October RC sales weren’t even double that of the far pricier LC, and volume over the first 10 months of the year was down 52.1 percent. Last year’s RC tally was half of what the rear-drive coupe enjoyed in its first full year on the market, just two years prior.

For some time, the once-mighty GS sedan (remember those “Something Wicked This Way Comes” ads from the late ’90s?) has been considered the most likely candidate for the gallows, and there’s nothing coming out of Toyota to change anyone’s mind on the matter. While the model does return for 2019, there’s not a breath of word on a refresh or redesign. Sales are a small fraction of that of the IS and ES.

[Image: Toyota Motor Corp.]

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49 Comments on “Toyota Prepared to Drop the Blade, but Which Models Will Get the Chop?...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    RC makes sense, but man the GS dying would be a shame. It’s Toyota’s best looking sedan by far, and is an overall better car than the IS IMO. That awful infotainment has ruled out any Lexus for me though.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    The advent of a “sportier” new ES for 2019 makes it clear that the RWD GS’s days are numbered.

    But before they do that, they need to start offering the ES with AWD. If they were smart, they’d make it a hybrid-performance variant, a la the LC 500h. Yeah, that’d be sweet.

    • 0 avatar
      Carfan94

      I read on Clublexus that the new GS was originally slated for 2019 introduction on Toyotas schedule but that project was suspended(indefinitely) early on. So we pretty much know at this point.

      I also read the new IS will be about the size of the Infiniti Q50 and upcoming 3 series to help bridge the gap left by the GS.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Makes sense if the IS grows; it is pretty cramped right now and customers have begun to expect larger amounts of space.

        I still think an AWD ES would be a good thing, since it’s probably their most appealing sedan overall—in that it appeals to the most people—but misses out people that want AWD.

  • avatar
    volvo

    Dropping coupes makes sense to me.

    The demographic that doesn’t mind having their family and friends crawling over a folded front seat to get in the rear is the same as those who don’t mind climbing up into a CUV/SUV or light truck.

    For those of us in the “honored citizen” demographic 4 door sedans will remain the vehicle of choice and if Toyota pulled out of the sedan market that market would be filled by Korean manufacturers.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Many older buyers find the entry/exit of utilities as one of the biggest selling points over cars. Funny you should use it as a reason they won’t want them. Is an RX really that tall that you must climb up into it as though it’s a redneck customized Bronco lifted to the sky or something?

      The older my parents get (mid 70s), the harder it is for them to get down into and up out of a normal sedan. The newer Taurus they have now has a higher seating position than most sedans, so it’s a decent compromise for now. Watching my mom get out of her friend’s Accord was painful to watch.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Yeah, the D3 sedans are (were) great for easy ingress / egress. My handicapped grandmother had no issue sliding in and out of my 2014 Lincoln MKS. Even I thought the ride height was nice.

      • 0 avatar
        Carfan94

        When I stand next to my RX the driver seat bottom is about the same level as the middle of my thigh. The upper part of the door opening is the same height as my chest. So much for “Climbing up into it”. My grandparents are in their 80s and they don’t have any trouble getting into my car. In fact, they comment on how easy it is.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        …Many older buyers find the entry/exit of utilities as one of the biggest selling points over cars…

        Yup.

        The Honda Element and Scion xB where hugely popular with the blue hair set. The average age of the xB buyer was pretty stunning at one point (the Gen II update dropped the age). The Kia Soul gets the same benefit.

        The honored citizens love the two-box setup.

        • 0 avatar
          Russycle

          I’ve owned both. The xB is indeed very oldster-friendly. But the Element is not, getting into the front seat is a bit of a climb. It is popular with empty-nesters, but we’re still along ways from bingo-and-shuffleboard. Also, get off my lawn.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    The advent of a “sportier” new ES for 2019 makes it clear that the RWD GS’s days are numbered. I could see the RC going bye-bye, too, as Toyota hasn’t been able to break into that compact-performance-coupe segment that’s dominated by the Germans (and Infiniti). Maybe they’ll do a compact four-door-coupe for the next IS, similar to the 4 Series GC and A5 Sportback.

    But before they kill off the GS, they need to start offering the ES with AWD. If they were smart, they’d make it a hybrid-performance variant, a la Volvo. Yeah, that’d be sweet.

  • avatar
    gasser

    The RC has never been a popular car. It’s an amalgam of IS/ES, without a coherent niche. The switch of the 6 to the 4 cyclinder has not made it more attractive to me. Similarly, with the GS, when you drop the 8 and add on a 4 cylinder engine to a heavy sedan, I don’t think its the answer to owner satisfaction. The GS seems out of place in the Lexus store. It’s like trying to sell a station wagon McLaren: its out of place. Buyers don’t think of performance RWD sedan at Lexus. The LS is in a different price class and has a different demographic. You can’t even test drive an LS if you don’t have grey hair. As to the SUVs, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a new GX and I wonder if parts of the Lexus SUV parade have marched on to the newer offerings of other brands. I’d comment on the Toyota subcompacts, but I can’t tell one from another.

    • 0 avatar
      Carfan94

      I abhor 4 cyl in luxury cars.

      I don’t know where you live but I probably see more Lexus SUVs than any other luxury brand here in Tennessee. especially see tons of the facelifted GX. They are everywhere.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      A quibble: Lexus didn’t “switch” the 6 to a 4 cylinder; they added a 4 cylinder one year into the model’s US run. The V6 and V8 have remained available.

  • avatar
    ajla

    V8 LS, please.

  • avatar
    Prove your humanity: 9 + 8 =

    Don’t be too hasty, Toyota. Ford is leaving a nice chunk of the market open for the taking.

  • avatar
    NG5

    Hopefully the RC F makes it a while longer because it’s their smallest car with the V8. I am interested in checking out one of these down the line.

  • avatar
    open country

    This is some interesting CEO PR dynamic. What are the business benefits for revealing “potential” cuts vs. waiting until the models to be executed are decided? Inform Wall Street that your mind is on expense cutting?

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    Maybe they’ll axe the GT86 and let Subaru go to town… (no, not very likely).

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Both manufacturers insist the current chassis will not support a 2.5L turbocharged engine (ya I know, there are aftermarket solutions, I don’t know what to tell you, this is what Toyota/Subaru brass have said).

      The chassis is getting ancient from a lifecycle standpoint at 7 model years now. The only competitor that is older is the 370Z (and a competitor is stated very loosely).

      I just don’t see the 86 surviving – it just wasn’t a success. Toyota and Subaru engineering around the engine and Toyota over marketing/overpromising carry the blame.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        They don’t need to turbocharge it. Punch out or swap in a 2.5L with the same redline but a focus on more midrange. That would appease most of its detractors and give people to buy new ones.

        But we are coming up on 15 years of VQ equipped Zs and 30 years of Miatas…

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Has the 86 really created much buzz? I just don’t see it as a halo car bringing da yutes to the showroom. But I could be totally wrong.

  • avatar
    1500cc

    I could see the Supra not even making it to market given the way things are going.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      The only way the Supra comes to market (my opinion) is the 86 dies at the same time. The next question becomes is the Supra priced in the range of Camaro/Mustang/up-trim 370Z or is it priced in the range of Corvette, GT-R or even beyond.

      • 0 avatar
        NG5

        Can’t imagine they won’t sell the Supra but it’s going to be mostly BMW parts so it will probably have BMW prices. I’ll be interested in it but without a manual transmission it’s a tough ask. There are actually a number of BMW 2 Series out there with an inline 6 and a manual to try.

        If they got rid of the 86, that would be sad, but I passed over one for a Fiesta ST and the only aspect I miss conceptually is RWD since even the weight and power of a turbocharged four door hatchback is similar to the 86. And, unfortunately for them, the Mazda Miata still exists. If I were ever to get a less practical RWD car at the price, that’s probably where my money goes.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          I’d consider the Fiat 124 only because I think visually it looks better than the MX-5.

          • 0 avatar
            NG5

            Agreed in that it looks a bit better. The current MX-5 looks a bit strange to me, so I’m hoping they can make it look a bit more natural over the life cycle. The rest of their recent designs have been so good. Part of the reason I haven’t run off to buy one yet.

            Unfortunately re:topic of this article, Toyota’s refresh of the 86 looks ghastly to me, and the RC has some weird lumpiness to it. I do love the LC in photos and in person though. In person while driving it looks like an arrow, kind of. Though the design is very busy I think it actually works.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Had a chance to drive the GS earlier this year for the first time. Surprisingly good chassis, surprisingly louder than I thought it would be. It felt like an early 2000s 5 series which is a huge compliment.

    That infotainment though, good lawd. What are they thinking? My daily is an 07 with plenty of buttons and no screen and going from that to the GS felt like huge steps backward in usability.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Camry, Corolla, Avalon – the rest they can shoot in the head (in NA specifically).

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Market seems ripe for a Venza revival, albeit with Avalon level power and interior quality. Hybrid version would ice the cake.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        I confess – I liked everything about the Camry Wagon, errr, Venza. I liked the styling, the utility, and the fact that it wasn’t pretending to be a CUV with lower cladding and a mild lift.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          A lot of current Venza owners would agree with you.

          Those who are nearing the “not economically feasible to repair” stage of the automotive lifespan are besides themselves finding an eventual replacement for the wants and needs niche that the Venza fills so well.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          I don’t see what’s wrong with the RAV4 or Highlander. Just because they’re not for me doesn’t mean they shouldn’t exist at all.

          We cross shopped the Venza with our ’11 MKX and were both put off by the cheap interior. That exterior wrote a check the interior couldn’t cash. They really should have likened it after the Avalon. Oh well

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            I would argue that the Camry interior has gotten pretty darn cheap since “peak Toyota” of 1996. Current plastics are pretty horrific.

        • 0 avatar
          Lightspeed

          Yes! it’s a real wagon! And yes, I quite like the styling too. I could be interested in a V6 AWD as a winter car. Cladding – ask Pontiac how that worked out!

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    We are all automotive sweatpants wearers now. The appliancification of the personal vehicle is complete.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    As a V8 GS driver, I will cry real tears when they quit making this car. No, it was never as sporty as a BMW, nor had the cache of a Benz. But the GS offered near LS luxury and absolutely LS quality and reliability at a comparative steal. I bought my 2000 GS in 2009 for $13,000CAD from $67,000 list price. It is literally the best ‘thing’ I have ever bought. Stone reliable, plenty fast enough, and just doesn’t age. I think Lexus big mistake with the GS was making the V8 part of the crazy expensive GSF package. It should have simply been an optional engine in the F-Sport model.

  • avatar
    FWD Donuts

    They’re cutting back on marketing as well. Sponsored a couple of NHRA events this year and won’t be coming back.

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