Highlights of the year’s major events affecting Toyota:
Toyota U.S. CEO Jim Lentz calls 2011 sales, lost to production and supply-chain problems resulting from Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami and Thailand’s flooding, “postponed” after the auto maker delivers 1.64 million units for the year, down 6.7% from 2010.
Sales of the all-new ’12 Camry midsize sedan disappoint, falling to an 18-year low of 308,510 units in the year.
“Many of our customers have said they’re willing to wait four to six months for the right product to be available to them,” Lentz tells media in a January conference call.
Toyota’s global sales tumbled 6% in 2011 to 7.5 million units. Japan deliveries plummeted 19% to 1.8 million, but not enough to chip away at the auto maker’s commanding 28.1% market share in its home market.
Lexus vows to produce more models in North America as a way of guarding itself against the strong Japanese yen. The RX cross/utility vehicle is the only Lexus marque assembled in the region, at Toyota’s Cambridge, ON, Canada, plant.
In interviews with WardsAuto early in 2012, Lexus officials say the ES sedan, all-new for ’13, is a likely candidate for North American production because of its popularity in the region.
Lexus also gets some bad news when, after a decade-plus reign, it is overtaken by BMW as the top-selling luxury brand in the U.S. in 2011.
Toyota begins marketing American-made Camrys in South Korea in February. The 2.5L gasoline and 2.5L hybrid models are built at its Georgetown, KY, plant. The auto maker says it aims to triple Camry sales in South Korea in 2012 from year-ago deliveries, targeting 6,000 units.
The Camrys are being imported from the U.S. instead of Japan due to the strong yen. Toyota began exporting U.S.-built Sienna minivans to South Korea the previous November.
Toyota in February says it will add stamping and resin-molding processes to its St. Petersburg, Russia, plant by 2014. The facility had been assembling the Camry sedan on a single shift from complete-knocked-down kits sourced from Japan, but canceled the kits just prior to the introduction of a second shift the previous September.
The new shift added 600 workers and brought the plant’s total employment to 1,750. Production capacity doubled to 50,000 units annually.
In March, Toyota commits to building cars in Australia beyond 2016. The announcement comes just two months after the auto maker said it planned to lay off 350 workers in the country, as the strong Australian dollar and reduced exports hampered the local auto industry.
Production of the Camry Hybrid is due to launch in November, after the Australian unit wins the business from other company affiliates.
Reports surface in spring that Toyota Thailand will swap imported HiAce and Commuter vans for locally built models by year-end. More good news for Thailand emerges later in the year, as Toyota in October announces plans to boost diesel-engine output by 290,000 units, to 600,000 annually by 2015. The auto maker said in January it wanted to boost Thai gas-engine builds by 100,000 units annually by 2014.
Toyota begins sales of its joint-venture, rear-wheel-drive sports car with Subaru, the Toyota 86, in April. Sales of the U.S. version, the Scion FR-S, begin in May, as do U.S. deliveries of the Subaru-badged model, the BRZ.
The 86/FR-S/BRZ receives mostly positive reviews from the motoring press, and initial sales are strong. The FR-S becomes one of Toyota’s fastest-turning models in the year, and by October inventory of the car still is lean.
Toyota July announces a pact to buy midsize Jumpy utility vans from PSA Peugeot Citroen of France in 2013 and also co-engineer the next-generation of the vans. The move is meant to try to save the auto makers’ beleaguered jointly owned Sevelnord plant in northern France.
Also in the year, Toyota and PSA’s Czech JV, which builds the Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 107 and Citroen C1, reorganizes into a 2-team, 4-shift operation, from a 3-crew, 12-shift scheme, due to slowing demand.
Toyota begins sales in California in late summer of its all-electric RAV4 CUV. The EV, engineered at the auto maker’s U.S. technical center in Ann Arbor, MI, and co-developed with EV startup manufacturer Tesla, can travel a maximum 113 miles (182 km) on a full charge.
Toyota prices the RAV4 EV at $49,800 before federal and state tax incentives, which can lower the EV’s price by $10,000. About the same time it launches RAV4 EV sales, Toyota unexpectedly announces it will pull back on its modest plans for EVs, preferring to put resources toward hybrids, which it says consumers prefer based on sales results and lower cost.
Toyota’s sales in China plunge 50% in September and 44% in October, compared with prior-year, resulting from a territorial dispute between China and Japan in the East China Sea, which results in anti-Japan sentiment. The volume loss causes Toyota to slash output in the country.
Bloomberg reports in early November that Japanese auto makers’ production in China will remain below capacity through July 2013, with fourth-quarter 2012 utilized capacity falling 40%-50% below normal.
The Prius hybrid surpasses its prior sales record in the U.S. with 183,340 deliveries through September, compared with 181,221 in full-year 2007. The difference from five years ago is the addition of variants to the lineup. Toyota in 2012 begins retailing its smallest Prius yet, the C hatchback based on the Yaris subcompact platform.
Toyota also sells the original liftback Prius, as well as the Prius V wagon, which launched in late 2011 in the U.S. The Prius plug-in hybrid goes on sale in 2012, as well, but very modest volume is projected. Sales through October are just 9,597 units, WardsAuto data shows.
Toyota reports a positive third-quarter fiscal-year result Nov. 5, with North American earnings more than doubling on a 45% sales surge in the region. Deliveries in all its major markets, except China, rise in the period.
Global Q3 net income (July-September) more than triples from like-2011, to ¥257.9 billion ($3.2 billion). The auto maker now expects to earn ¥780 billion ($9.8 billion) in the fiscal year ending March 31, up from a prior forecast of ¥760 billion ($9.5 billion).
The next-generation Avalon is set to go on sale in the U.S. in December. The car, unveiled at April’s New York auto show, is the most American Toyota vehicle ever, the auto maker claims, boasting a U.S.-born chief engineer, Randy Stephens, and U.S.-led design.
New for ’13 is the addition of a hybrid powertrain, which the Avalon shares with its Camry platform-mate. Toyota believes the new model is suitable for livery service and looks to sell 500 to 1,000 units annually for chauffeur-driven use.