The Detroit Big Three are cutting cars left and right in favor of SUVs and crossovers. Just last week, General Motors announced it would discontinue six car models and stop allocating funds to the plants that make them, and earlier this year Ford said it would shed all cars in the U.S. except the Mustang. Toyota sees the storm coming, too, and is carefully considering which vehicles it will sell in this market. Still, Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz believes the automaker’s U.S. lineup will always be car-heavy.
Speaking at the Detroit Economic Club this week, Lentz acknowledged that car sales dipped below 30 percent of overall sales in November, a figure he believes is close to bottoming out. Despite that, he noted consumers are still purchasing more than 4 million compact, midsize, and near-luxury cars every year.
“There’s no way I’m going to walk away from that,” Lentz said. “We are always going to have a bias toward passenger cars.”
According to the Associated Press, passenger car sales are on track to fall short of 2017 levels by about 800,000 units. Meanwhile, truck and SUV sales are expected to increase by the same amount. This trend is reflected in Toyota’s own sales report, which shows total car sales volume down about 108,000 units (-11.6 percent year over year) and total truck sales up by roughly 98,000 units (8.8 percent) through November. Lentz predicts car sales in 2018 will be even poorer than in 2010, when the financial crisis was in full swing. “There is a depression on the passenger car side,” he said.
Despite that, Lentz says Toyota will continue to lean heavily on cars like the midsize Camry and the recently introduced Corolla hatchback and sedan. Through November, Toyota has sold roughly 314,000 Camrys and 278,000 Corollas, making those models the company’s second and third best-selling vehicles, respectively, behind the RAV4 at roughly 389,000 units.