CARMEL, CA –brass have been studying the automaker’s U.S. lineup over the past year and some changes are coming, Bill Fay, group vice president-Toyota Div., tells WardsAuto in a wide-ranging interview here.
earlier this year announced it would discontinue the rugged body-on-frame FJ Cruiser. Production is to cease at Toyota’s Hamura, Japan, assembly plant in mid-2014.
Fay says the FJ Cruiser, while popular among off-road enthusiasts was the victim of flagging sales and the need for a hefty investment for a thorough refreshening.
Through November, FJ Cruiser sales were off 2.6% vs. year-ago to 11,826 units, according to WardsAuto data. The model’s best year was 2006, its first on sale, when it posted 56,225 deliveries.
“FJ Cruiser was nearing the end of its lifecycle,” he says. “It’s a great niche vehicle and people that buy it have a tremendous amount of passion and emotion for the vehicle. But I think volumes are just down to a level where long term (it doesn’t make sense) to make a next-generation investment in it and bring it up to environmental and safety standards.”
The Venza midsize CUV seems a likely candidate to follow FJ Cruiser to the scrap heap, as sales have plummeted in recent years. The Venza’s best year was 2009, with 54,410 deliveries. Sales dropped to 47,321 in 2010 and 38,904 in 2011, before bouncing back to 43,095 in 2012, according to WardsAuto data.
A rebound doesn’t look possible this year, however, as Venza U.S. deliveries through November are down 12.8% compared with like-2012 to 20,741.
But Fay says there are no plans to chop the Venza, noting it resides in a competitive segment, and even competes on some levels with other Toyota models, including the 4Runner and Highlander.
“We expect to continue to sell it and some months it will be up and some it will be down,” he says. “We expect to have a good December with it and turn the corner into next year.”
The Toyota Yaris, imported from France, is another underperforming vehicle. The B-car’s sales have plummeted 27.4% compared with year-ago to 20,741, far behind the segment-leadingVersa that routinely surpasses the 100,000-unit mark annually.
Fay says the automaker is focused on successfully launching the new Corolla, but says longer-term Toyota has a “good plan” for the Yaris. Toyota recently inked a deal withto replace the Yaris with a Mazda2 B-car derivative, but it’s unknown whether that model will carry the Yaris nameplate.
The RAV4 EV falls into its own category, as electric vehicles have yet to be fully embraced by consumers. As such, its success, or lack thereof, is difficult to determine. Toyota only sold 62 units of the RAV4 EV in November, volume far less than segment leaders such as theLeaf.
Fay says Toyota expects to sell 2,600 units of the RAV4 EV, which was developed with partner, over the next two years.
“That’s what we’re working on and from that we’ll learn a lot about EVs overall and our partnership with,” he says. “From that we’re going to evaluate the partnership and see if it gets extended or not.”
On the other end of the spectrum, some Toyota models are performing well, including the Scion FR-S sports car.
Although it’s likely the FR-S will fall just short of 20,000-unit 2013 sales goal Toyota set for the car last year. Sales total 17,298 units through November, a respectful figure for a niche vehicle.
Reports have been circulating that derivatives of the FR-S, and its Subaru BRZ sister vehicle, are in the works, including a possible “shooting brake” model. Fay declines to comment on product plans, but says Toyota is considering FR-S variants in the future product line.
“We’re studying the whole Scion line,” he says of Toyota’s entry-level brand. “We’re working on it, and I think next year we’ll be in a position (to disclose) specifics.”