Few automakers were immune to the nationwide glut of cars for much of 2018, and it's most visible among the largest automakers with a relatively static lineup of vehicles. Toyota's sales in the U.S. have remained fairly steady year over year, as demand for new vehicles in the post-recovery years has largely been filled. The result is that sales of major automakers arrived at a plateau in early 2017, one that has necessitated heavier than usual incentives to keep vehicles moving off dealership lots.

Toyota has not been immune to this plateau even though sales have grown slightly year over year, and the automaker has indicated that it could cut nameplates from its lineup -- a move that will address expected vehicle demand several years in the future.

"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.

Toyota's lineup has remained fairly static for the past several years, with a number of models dating back decades. Here are four nameplates that the automaker may wish to cut from its lineup or redesign entirely as demand continues to shift.

1. Toyota Sequoia

Despite the fact that the Sequoia rests in a segment that is hot at the moment, Sequoia sales are not. The current model has been on the market since the 2008 model year (yes, really) and even though it has received updates, including a facelift just this year, the model's sales have been flat for a while and have ranged from about 11,000 units to 16,000 units for every year except for 2008. Sequoia sales in 2017 amounted to 12,156 vehicles, after a similar performance in 2016. The reason, besides the fact that the vehicle is basically a decade old, is that the much more popular (and much more recent) Highlander and 4Runner enjoy 10 times the sales while offering very similar everything. The Highlander and 4Runner also have lower starting prices. Sooner or later the Sequoia has to receive a complete redesign, or it has to go.

2. Toyota Land Cruiser

Facing similar issues as the Sequoia, the current Land Cruiser debuted all the way back in 2007, going on sale as a 2008 model-year vehicle. Despite being a strong seller globally, U.S. sales of the Land Cruiser amounted to just 3,100 units in 2017. These are boutique Italian automaker numbers, and the expense and thirst of the Land Cruiser is not exactly keeping pace with the current tastes of the market. This is a bit of a paradox since large SUVs are doing very well, but the limited appeal of the Land Cruiser, along with a Lexus price tag, doesn't make it particularly attractive to those wishing for something merely larger than a 4Runner. We believe there is a space in the lineup for a large SUV, but something more akin to a Volkswagen Atlas needs to fill this niche because Land Cruiser sales (and its mpg ratings) aren't going to spontaneously improve.

3. Toyota Mirai

If you haven't seen the Mirai on the streets lately, that's because it's a hydrogen car that is sold only by a handful of dealerships in California. Requiring close proximity to a hydrogen fuel station is one of the things keeping the Mirai within a relatively small geographic area, and when it comes to expensive experiments by a major automaker the Mirai really has no rivals. The model recorded 1,838 sales in 2017, which is actually pretty amazing for something that takes neither electricity, nor gasoline, nor diesel. Let's face it: Toyota is not making money on this model, and no money is pending. The development and production costs of the Mirai must be pretty substantial on a per-unit basis, ignoring for a moment the nearly $60,000 starting price, all while electric cars are inching along into the mainstream. At some point Toyota has to be realistic about hydrogen cars and electric cars: You'll notice that Toyota does not have a battery-electric model in the lineup, despite offering several PHEVs. That's an expensive choice, strategically, and a state of affairs that will become more difficult to ignore as more of its rivals field battery EVs.

4. Toyota Yaris hatchback

Yaris sedan sales have been pretty solid in recent years, having clocked in 35,727 units in 2017. That's still just a fraction of Corolla sales but it absolutely dwarfs Yaris hatchback sales, which recorded 8,653 units in 2017. Perhaps we have the economic recovery and a general shift away from small hatches to thank for this, but it's also true that the segment is not particularly hot to begin with. The Yaris isn't old, but it's difficult to ignore the fact that sales of this model were, at one point, over 100,000 units in the U.S. alone, and have been shrinking by huge chunks for the past decade. It's not difficult to imagine Yaris hatch sales recording just 6,000 units in 2018 -- we'll find out soon enough -- at which point it will become a bit of a niche offering --that's how much this segment has cratered over the years.

Source: Autoweek

November 7, 2018