DETROIT — Toyota Motor Corp. said it’s still committed to passenger cars amid an industry swing to crossovers and sport-utility vehicles.
Cars comprise “an extremely important part of this business,” Bob Carter, an executive vice president of Toyota’s North American operations, said at a media reception in Detroit. “There are still over 4 million sedans sold in the U.S. You will see us committed to cars.”
A year ago, such a statement would have drawn a “meh” reaction. Toyota’s offerings include the Camry, the top-selling U.S. car.
In 2018, however, both Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. have said they’re mostly getting out of cars to concentrate on SUVs and crossovers. As 2018 draws to a close, it’s hard to find executives who speak kindly of the car market.
GM last month said three car-assembly plants in the U.S. and Canada won’t have models assigned to them by the end of 2019. Officially, those plants aren’t closed yet because that requires union negotiations. Still, GM signaled it wants out of sedans. The moves are part of a broader program of job cuts.
Ford CEO Jim Hackett, during an October conference call about third-quarter earnings, said traditional sedans “destroy value.” He said his company’s move to exit cars was the smart play.
Toyota’s Carter said his company isn’t ignoring customer preference changes.
“Clearly there’s no denying customer preference” changes “from cars to SUVs,” he said. “It’s a massive change we haven’t seen before.” Toyota, he said, is changing its production mix to make more crossovers and SUVs.
Carter also forecast a slight cooling of the U.S. light-vehicle market.
2018 should end with deliveries of between 17.1 million and 17.2 million, he said. That will be the fourth consecutive year over 17 million. In 2019, sales will total in a range of the “mid-to-upper 16s,” he said.