Motor Engineering and Mfg. North America Inc. will not restart production of the Camry Solara convertible, last built in December, after a hoped-for increase in drop-top sales this year failed to materialize.
“I think there was some hope that eventually during the spring/summer months the market would bear a need,” says TEMA spokesman Rick Hesterberg. “We kept the tooling, just waiting to see, but that never came to fruition.”
Last summer, as record-high fuel prices threw the industry’s production plans into disarray,nixed output of the Camry Solara 2-door, due to a prolonged decline in sales.
However, the auto maker said it would retain the convertible for another two years due to the lack of another drop-top in the Toyota lineup and buyers’ desire for the car.
“It was a car that our customers demanded; they wanted it,” Steve St. Angelo, TEMA senior vice president, said last summer announcing the ragtop’s reprieve.
But in December, Toyota stopped building the convertible, as the historic downturn in U.S. new-vehicle sales took hold. The auto maker earlier this year had been considering restarting production.
“Certainly, since December, looking at the state of the industry, there is no indication there would be strong enough demand to warrant (that action),” says Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. spokesman Mike Michels.
Michels says production of the new Toyota Venza cross/utility vehicle is filling the void Solara left at Toyota’s Georgetown, KY, plant.
Toyota now offers U.S. convertibles only through its luxury Lexus brand, with the SC and newly introduced IS-C.
Toyota first introduced the Solara convertible in 2000, building the car at its Cambridge, ON, Canada, plant, with supplier ASC Inc. doing the drop-top assembly at a nearby site. In 2003, production of the Solara line shifted to Georgetown, with ASC still the roof supplier.
Toyota began building the second-generation Solara convertible there in February 2004 as an ’05 model, Hesterberg says. Ward’s data shows 48,226 ’05 Solaras were built, with 59% coupe and 41% convertible. For ’06 models, production remained more than 40,000 units annually and weighted toward the coupe until the ’07 model year, when 29,834 Solaras were built, 61% convertibles.
Toyota assembled 23,091 ’08 Solaras, with a ratio of 70% convertible/30% coupe, as the 2-door was phased out.
Convertibles represented 21% of all ’08 2-doors built in North America, down from 26% in ’07 and 29% in ’04.
The Solara now joins a group of convertibles that recently have exited or are about to leave the U.S. market, includingMotor Co. Ltd.’s S2000, bankrupt LLC’s PT Cruiser, and bankrupt Corp.’s Pontiac Solstice and G6 and Saturn Sky models. The latter three are ending their run as GM shelves the Pontiac and Saturn brands as part of its restructuring.
Toyota’s chief competitors in the midsize passenger-car segment,and Motor Co. Ltd., offer 2-door versions of their respective Accord and Altima models, but neither have convertible versions.
continues to offer its Chrysler Sebring midsize drop-top, once the best-selling convertible in the U.S.
Against type, muscle-car convertibles remain viable.Motor Co. continues to offer a drop-top Mustang, 25% of the nameplate’s mix, and GM is due to bring a convertible Camaro to market in the ’12 model year.
Among European non-luxury convertible auto makers,AG’s Eos entered the U.S. market in mid-2006. VW sold nearly 13,000 units in both 2007 and 2008, about half way between the projected 10,000-15,000 units the company hoped to sell annually.
Through May, Eos deliveries were down 55.1% to 2,978, compared with year-ago’s 6,634.