Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. may not pull the plug on its 2-door Camry Solara after all.

Nissan (Motor Co. Ltd.) now has an Altima coupe and Honda (Motor Co. Ltd.) is launching a new Accord coupe,” points out Mike O’Brien, head of product planning for TMSUSA “So there certainly is still a market for a midsize sporty coupe.”

At the Detroit auto show in January, Jim Lentz, TMSUSA executive vice president, told Ward’s the midsize coupe segment in the U.S. is dying, and that Toyota would rather invest its research and development money in “better places.”

However, O’Brien says the auto maker is “selling quite a few” Solaras and “no concrete plans have been made as to its future.”

Toyota doesn’t break out sales for the Solara coupe/convertible separately from the Camry sedan. The Ward’s Upper Middle segment, where the Solara resides, is off 2.1% through July at 1,301,081 units.

Meanwhile, O’Brien says the current generation Matrix small car, which shares a platform with General Motors Corp.’s Pontiac Vibe, missed its intended mark.

“Right now it’s much more of a family vehicle, not really the target we envisioned for that product,” he says at the Management Briefing Seminars here. “The styling does not have the sense of motion about it. It’s a bit boxy. And it just does not have the appeal to young people that we had hoped for.”

With the next-generation Matrix due next year as an ’09 model, Toyota will take better aim at its desired demographic, O’Brien says.

“For the future, our goal is to bring it down to a much lower age range and really make it appeal to a lot of younger folks, particularly males,” he says, adding the car won’t infringe on Toyota’s youth-oriented Scion marque.

“Scion is really designed to appeal to leading-edge opinion makers, and people that are really out there,” he says.

bpope@wardsauto.com