Toyota, Lexus plan aggressive lineup overhaul; battery-electric vehicle coming to U.S. in ‘short term’

Editor’s note: This version of the story has updated figures from Toyota for the number of new, redesigned or refreshed vehicles along with an updated time frame.  

The Toyota and Lexus brands are engaged in an aggressive lineup overhaul that will see 25 new, redesigned or refreshed vehicles on U.S. dealer lots within the next 16 months, Toyota Motor North America executives said today. The executives also confirmed that the automaker will offer its first battery-electric vehicle in the U.S. in the “short term” — though they declined to provide further details.

Speaking to reporters via video conference, Bob Carter, head of sales for Toyota Motor North America, said the automaker’s “robust” three-year product plan involves seven more vehicles than the previous three-year cycle.

Carter and other Toyota executives declined to detail the automaker’s upcoming product plans. However, new Toyota Motor North America CEO Ted Ogawa told Automotive News in March that he intended to prioritize an expansion of the Lexus lineup in part with offerings that appeal to younger customers. Among the changes coming to Lexus is an overhaul of its on-board infotainment system, brand head Andrew Gilleland said.

Among the vehicles coming, beginning in 2021, are long-overdue redesigns of the automaker’s pickups and body-on-frame SUVs in North America, beginning with the Tundra full-sized pickup. Automotive News previously reported that all of Toyota’s body-on-frame vehicles globally are moving onto a single platform, internally called F1.

Carter also confirmed that after years of reluctance, the Japanese automaker would jump into the battery-electric fray in North America, though he declined to identify which of the company’s brands would do so.

“We’re really clear: The future of this industry is electrification,” Carter told Automotive News. “The question on the table is the level of adoption, how quickly the market will move.”

Carter said the automaker’s “core technology is hybrid,” but “we will be in the BEV business in the short term in North America,” along with maintaining its fuel-cell technology and offerings such as the Mirai.

Carter also predicted a strong December for auto retailers, forecasting that fourth-quarter industry sales would finish at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 15.8 million, and that the industry would finish 2020 by selling 14.6 million vehicles in the U.S.

Carter said strong sales in the fourth quarter had resulted in TMNA raising its operational plan within the last three months to an industry SAAR of 16 million for 2021, up half a million vehicles from prior planning.

“Did I ever anticipate feeling good about a 14.6 [million-vehicle year]? Right now, I’m feeling really good after coming through an 8.8 [SAAR] in April,” Carter said.

“But 14.6 for this year, 16 million for next year, with a very aggressive product plan,” Carter said. “I think you can place your bets on Toyota that we’ll get our fair share.”

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