With the trade war between the U.S. and China still squeezing the broader economy as a whole, the resulting pressure has forced automakers to prepare for a possible weakening in the global market scene. General Motors recently offered some of its salaried employees buyouts, and amid the cloud of uncertainty generated by this move, it appears things have shifted into another gear, with Toyota perhaps axing dead weight from its U.S. model lineup.
While crucial nameplates such as the Camry, Avalon, and RAV4 will avoid the gulliotine thanks to their high sales figures, and their impressive reputations among various customer segments, others don't enjoy this figurative golden parachute, and could indeed be on the chopping block as Toyota looks to streamline its profit base.
"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," Jim Lentz, Toyota North America CEO, told Automotive News.
While the brand does not offer any convertibles in the U.S. its lone coupe entry (for now) is the 86, with the company already confirming a successor is on the way after its launch of the revived Supra coupe is completed. We suspect that a notable cut will be the slow selling and utterly polarizing CH-R CUV. Born from the ashes of the long defunct Scion brand, the CH-R was supposed to help draw more millennials to the brand, and be the Japanese auto giant's entry in the compact CUV market as well. Sadly, sales have been in a perpetual slump, and the CH-R has fallen behind entries such as the Hyundai Kona, Nissan Kicks, and even the Ford Ecosport in ergonomics and feature content. Another candidate would be the Yaris iA which has seen its sales numbers recede in the wake of CUV and SUV demand. For it's part, the iA did impress us with some aspects of its Mazda DNA when we last reviewed it, so its departure (if confirmed) would actually be missed somewhat by us.
The rumored purge could also spell bad news for two future revivals of the Celica and MR2, which were rumored to be in various stages of development. While the Celica appears to have not gone beyond the interest stage, the MR2 was allegedly supported by several higher ups in the company, and was rumored to return as a convertible with an all electric powertrain. With the already niche appeal that it would generate as a convertible, the MR2 could become lost in the shuffle, especially if Toyota chooses to focus on revamping its utility lineup. In addition, the MR2 would also consume unwanted amounts of development funds, which could instead be diverted to a more mass market alternative especially in the utility segment.
Regardless of how Toyota handles things moving forward, the initial hard choices that would be made in terms of purging, could help generate a rosier future where Toyota would not only have a more balanced lineup of models (eliminating the current glut generated by the absorption of the old Scion models,) but also allow the company to be more capable of adjusting its strategy quickly in the event that the needs of the market quickly and unexpectedly change.