Toyota eyes trimming passenger car lineup to boost profits

Toyota’s coupes and small cars could be inching their way toward the chopping block. Automotive News reported Monday the automaker will look to end production of some cars.

The news is hardly as drastic as Ford’s decision to cut every passenger car from its lineup (save for the Mustang) to focus on trucks, SUVs, and crossovers. However, North America could see a handful of nameplates disappear. Toyota North America chief executive officer Jim Lentz said the brands he oversees will take a hard look to make sure the company competes in profitable segments. And the list of nameplates on Lentz’s shortlist include the Toyota Prius C, 86 sports car, subcompact Yaris, and two Lexus coupes—the RC and LC.

ALSO SEE: Blue Oval bye-bye: Ford axes Fiesta, Fusion, Focus, Taurus cars from future plans

The cuts will focus on segments Toyota sees slipping in the North American region, which unsurprisingly, puts small cars and coupes on the potential death list. Cheap gas and increased demand for crossover SUVs has moved buyers away from subcompacts such as the Yaris. Sales of the hatchback were down 78 percent last month. The Lexus RC isn’t immune, either. While Lexus sales are strong overall, demand for the RC is down more than 50 percent this year. 

Lentz said the cuts may have Toyota rethink its hybrid strategy, too. Over the last decade, Toyota began to create a family of Prius hybrids in North America, including a standard model and a plug-in hybrid bookended by the small Prius C and the larger Prius V. Toyota already dropped the Prius V and, as Lentz told the trade journal, there “may not be a need” for an entire Prius family as the automaker moves to electrify its entire lineup going forward. 

The automaker could quickly shuffle global small cars to North American shores from its plants overseas should demand for small cars increase again, but anything’s possible given ongoing global trade wars. 

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