Although it already offers a number of cross/utility vehicles in the U.S. market, Toyota Motor Corp. may be adding more, as consumers continue to shift away from truck-based SUVs to more fuel-fficient, car-based versions.

“The trend (toward CUVs) will continue,” Jim Press, president-Toyota Motor North America, tells Ward’s in an interview. “We are evaluating a number of opportunities for (CUVs) but are not ready to discuss any specific segment.”

Press stops short of confirming a rumored Lexus-badged variant of Toyota’s popular RAV4 small CUV, whose production will be shifting from Japan to a new plant in Woodstock, Ont., Canada, in 2008. Toyota already builds the Lexus RX 350 CUV at another Canadian plant, in the nearby city of Cambridge, Ont.

A recent report had Toyota discontinuing its Camry coupe model, the Solara, in favor of a Toyota-badged CUV, to be built on the Camry line in Georgetown, KY.

“We’re not yet ready to talk about what will happen with Solara,” Press says. “There’s no definitive plan that’s been established (regarding) what its future is going to be.”

Ward’s data indicates a new all-wheel-drive midsize Toyota CUV, FT-SX, based on the Camry platform, is slated for sale in 2008 as an ’09 model.

Related document: Ward's North American Product Cycle Chart

Also reportedly on tap is a new Lexus midsize CUV, dubbed JX, going on sale next year as an ’08 model. The AWD JX will share the Lexus IS platform, NC250 rather than the RAV4 platform.

“The technology and design are allowing us to build more capability into unibody SUVs, and customer preferences in terms of the lighter vehicle and the mileage seem consistent, so that trend will continue,” Press says of CUVs’ increasing popularity.

Ward’s segmentation data shows CUV sales up 8.5% in the U.S. year-to-date, to 1.8 million units. Small CUVs, such as the RAV4, have the highest growth rate, up 12.2% to 317,354 units through September.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com