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Is Toyota Next to Pare Back its Passenger Car Line?

US CEO “taking a hard look” at model mix in the era of the SUV.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Nov.06, 2018

No longer #1; the Camry is just one of the Toyota passenger car models losing momentum.

With the exception of the Mustang, Ford is winding down production of passenger cars. Fiat Chrysler has eliminated almost all of its sedans and coupes, as well. In an era when SUVs have come to rule the roads, could Toyota be far behind?

While we’re not likely to see the Camry or Corolla nameplates vanish anytime soon, the Japanese giant is also rethinking its model mix and could toss some of its sedans, coupes and hatchbacks as it puts more of an emphasis on sport and crossover-utility vehicles, according to the head of its North American operations.

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“We are taking a hard look at all the segments we compete in, to make sure we are competing in profitable segments and that products that we sell have strategic value to the brand,” Jim Lentz told the Wall Street Journal.

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Toyota Earnings Soar on Global Sales Surge

Automaker lifts full-year forecast.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Nov.06, 2018

Strong demand for Lexus, especially in the Chinese market, helped Toyota deliver strong earnings.

Toyota Motor Corp. reported a 28% increase in its net profit for the July-September quarter, earnings buoyed by strong demand in key global markets, including the Americas, Asia and Europe.

The Japanese giant also advised that it expects to see earnings push past earlier forecasts for the full year, in part driven by unexpectedly strong demand in China. Sales of the Lexus brand, have been booming there, despite a slowdown in the overall Chinese market.

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Sales gains were only one of the factors that propped up Toyota’s bottom line, said Senior Managing Masayoshi Shirayanagi. Referring to aggressive cost-cutting efforts, he said, “We are steadily making progress toward achieving our challenge-level target.”

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Weak Auto Sales Lead to New Ford Layoffs

Maker temporarily idles 130 workers at Ohio F-Series plant.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on May.05, 2017

A Ford F-450 Super Duty pickup.

Ford Motor Co. will temporarily drop a shift at a pickup plant in Ohio due to slowing sales, a move that will idle 130 hourly workers.

The move comes at a time when U.S. motor vehicle sales have begun to slow after seven years of growth – and three consecutive annual sales records. Ford has been particularly hard hit by the slowdown in recent months.

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Automakers have become increasingly worried about a broader slowdown of the U.S. economy, especially in sectors that might impact sales of commercial trucks, such as the medium-duty pickups assembled at the Avon Lake, Ohio facility hit by the Ford cutback.

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Big Changes in Toyota Management

Top American exec expands role; maker appoints first woman as global PR chief.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Mar.04, 2015

Toyota Motor North America Chief Executive Officer Jim Lentz spoke at the groundbreaking of the company's new headquarters in Plano, Texas.

Toyota is making some big changes to its senior management, and while most of the moves focus on the critical North American market, the world’s largest automaker also plans to shatter Japan’s glass ceiling by promoting Julie Hamp to run its global public relations efforts.

The appointments come at a time when Toyota is making other big changes, including the move of its North American headquarters from California to a sprawling new campus in Plano, Texas.

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“Bringing together an experienced and diverse team of executives with fresh perspectives, unique regional insights and a global mindset will help us better serve customers around the world,” said Toyota Motor Corp. Pres. Akio Toyoda, in a prepared statement.

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Toyota Predicts 100,000-Unit Sales Jump in 2014

Lentz says economic growth, not pent-up demand to drive sales.

by Joseph Szczesny on Jan.13, 2014

Toyota's Jim Lentz says Toyota expects to sell 100,000 vehicles in the U.S. in 2014.

Toyota expects to sell 100,000 more vehicles this year than it did in 2013 even as total carsales in the U.S. begin to level off. This increase could represent half a percent of market share if the industry meets analysts’ sales forecasts of 16.5 million units.

“At Toyota, we’re confident the auto industry will continue to grow in 2014, but at a more moderate pace,” Jim Lentz, chief executive officer, said in a speech to the Society of Automotive Analysts on the eve of then annual North American International Auto Show.

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Lentz said Toyota expects industry sales to total roughly 16 million units, which represents healthy growth, but slower than the past few years. (more…)

Toyota’s Lentz Maps out Company’s Future in U.S.

Japanese maker relying on technology, design to strengthen sales.

by Michael Strong on Oct.16, 2013

Toyota's Jim Lentz says Toyota's version of autonomous vehicles will improve driver's ability, not take over the entire process.

When the future finally gets here and we’re all driving, or riding in, autonomous cars, the Toyota badge may not be on the side of your ride, according to Jim Lentz, Toyota North America CEO.

The Japanese carmakers’ plans for autonomous vehicles fall more into the realm of helping drivers improve their skills rather than allowing drivers to sit back and read the paper while the vehicle does the work.

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“We view autonomous cars a little differently than some others. We really see it as a co-pilot type car, not as a self-driving car,” Lentz, the first American to head Toyota’s vast operations in the NAFTA region, told the Associated Press. “A car that can really enhance the reflexes and the ability of a driver to continue to drive. That’s why I’m excited about those cars. As we look at boomers and they start to retire, the ability to have cars that can enhance their capabilities, it’s going to allow them to drive much longer.” (more…)

Adding Major New Lexus Model a Key Reason Older ES Sedan Coming to US

Toyota luxury marque trying to re-think what future luxury buyers will want.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Apr.19, 2013

Mark Templin, Jim Lentz and Akio Toyoda at the Friday news conference in New York.

Lopsided exchange rates and potential natural disasters are two reasons why Toyota officials said they plan to shift production of the Lexus ES from Japan to the U.S. during a news conference in New York earlier today – but TheDetroitBureau.com has learned of yet another reason. The Kyushu plant currently producing the Lexus sedan will need to make room for an all-new model the luxury maker is getting ready to bring to market.

While Jim Lentz, Toyota’s top North American executive declined to identify that new model, sources indicate it is likely to be a compact crossover filling a niche below the current RX line. Lentz did say Lexus expects it could yield more than the 50,000 units of annual demand the ES currently generates.

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He also hinted, that this new model and other possibly offerings Lexus is looking at are part of the brand’s push to shift focus from the Baby Boomers who currently dominate its customer ranks to the next generation of luxury buyers. “We’re always looking at the luxury business which will change over time,” explained Lentz during a one-on-one conversation with TheDetroitBureau.com.  “The consumption of luxury and what it means to Boomers may be very different for Gen-Y.  We need to prepare ourselves for what younger luxury buyers will want.”

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Toyota Confirms Lexus ES Production Moving to the U.S.

Maker investing $500 Mil to expand Georgetown plant by 2015.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Apr.19, 2013

Akio Toyoda with a Lexus ES at the New York news conference Friday morning.

Toyota Motor Co. President Akio Toyota confirmed today the maker will invest more than $500 million in its Georgetown, Kentucky plant to move production of one of its Lexus luxury vehicles to the U.S. for the first time.

The recently updated Lexus ES sedan will begin rolling off the line at the maker’s Georgetown plant by 2015, said Toyota, grandson of the automaker’s founder. The move, he noted, reflects the fact that the U.S. is the largest market for the luxury brand – while also sidestepping the negative impact of lopsided exchange rates that have made it increasingly difficult to continue producing vehicles in Japan.

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“It is fitting the first country to build the ES outside Japan is the United States because this is home for the Lexus brand,” said Toyoda, a reference to the fact that the luxury marque was, for many years, sold almost exclusively in the U.S. It has, however, begun an aggressive global roll-out in recent years.

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Toyota Investing $500 Mil to Build Lexus ES in US

Lexus ES to move to Georgetown plant by 2015.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Apr.19, 2013

Coming at you. Toyota will be building the newly updated Lexus ES at its Georgetown, Kentucky plant.

Toyota Motor Co. is expected to announce Friday plans to invest more than $500 million in its Georgetown, Kentucky plant to move production of one of its Lexus luxury vehicles to the U.S. for the first time.

The world’s largest automaker already produces more than half of the vehicles it sells in the U.S. at various North American assembly plants. But it has, until now, limited production of its Lexus line almost exclusively to Japanese factories.  Though the RX crossover is now produced in Canada, the Lexus ES will become the first luxury model – and the 11th Toyota vehicle assembled in the U.S.

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Toyota is the last of the Japanese “Big Three” to move at least some luxury car production to the States. But like rivals Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., it has been hollowing out production in the home Japanese market due to concerns about exchange rates – as well as potential production issues underscored by the March 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami that all but shut down the maker’s operations for much of the following nine months.

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Management Shake-Up at Toyota Increases Role of U.S. Execs

Lentz running North American ops; former GM exec Hogan joins Toyota board.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Mar.06, 2013

From sales to manufacturing, Toyota's Jim Lentz will now run all operations in the Americas.

In an unexpected announcement, Toyota has announced a major shake-up in its global management structure that will significantly increase the role of the North American market – and senior U.S. executives, in particular.

The realignment positions Jim Lentz, who has been the top American executive at the giant Japanese maker, as its number one boss for all of North America. Meanwhile, the current U.S. head of the Lexus luxury brand will now become managing officer for Lexus International. And Mark Hogan, a former General Motors senior executive, will become the first American ever on the 76-year-old Toyota Motor Co.’s board of directors.

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“These changes will help us to achieve sustainable growth and realize our global vision by giving more responsibility to each region, including our North and South American operations, so that they may develop and deliver even better products and offer the best service to our customers,” declared Akio Toyoda, TMC’s global chief executive and grandson of the maker’s founder.

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