While speaking at its annual holiday party in Detroit, Bob Carter, executive vice president of sales at Toyota Motor North America said, “You can expect 31 new announcements from us [over the next 36 months].” No matter how you slice it, that’s a huge push, even if some of those models are merely trim levels or mild refreshes.
That 31-vehicle total almost certainly includes some products we currently know about, things like all-wheel-drive versions of the Avalon and Camry sedans, the RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid SUV, redesigned Highlander crossover and Lexus‘ LC convertible, but there are sure to be a few wildcards as well. New or significantly updated versions of the Tacoma and Tundra pickup trucks could be part of this push, too, but Carter flatly declined to comment on what’s happening with these popular, if somewhat dated vehicles.
Three years is a long time, and much can change between now and then. In the near term, Carter also said, “But what you can expect from us is 10 new products, either refreshed products, derivative products or products that are currently not in either of the brands’ lineups to be introduced over the next year.” This means within just 12 months, both Toyota and Lexus could be venturing into segments they don’t currently compete in.
Toyota is pushing to keep its and Lexus’ lineups fresh, investing in new vehicles even though it’s having no trouble selling the products currently available in showrooms. Through November of this year, Toyota and Lexus have sold more than 2.1 million units in America, a minuscule 1.4 percent decline compared to the same time period in 2018.
“The car business is wonderful this year,” said Carter. Initially they projected the industry would sell around 16.7 million new vehicles in 2019, but they had to revise that forecast upward on two separate occasions. “And now we stand here [in] early December, it’s going to be a 17-million industry,” he said. “The only question is, will we have to round up or are we going to round down a little bit.” When 2019 closes out, it should be the fifth-consecutive year the automotive industry has hit 17 million.
Even as whispers of recession grow louder, folks at Toyota don’t see things slowing down very much. “The general economy is fabulous. Consumer confidence is very good, unemployment is good, wage growth is good,” said Carter. Next year they project the economy will relax a touch, with sales declining by “maybe as much as 300,000 units.” But even if automakers deliver 16.7 million new vehicles, that’s still within a couple percent of record highs, an extremely strong showing.