Despite selling more pass-enger cars than any other maker in the U.S. market last year, Toyota Motor Corp. knows that if it doesn't find a way to appeal to young buyers, its future is bleak. One of Toyota's little secrets is that the average age of its buyers is disturbingly Buick-like.
To address that problem, Toyota is looking to lure Generation Xers, as well as those coming up behind them, with a new direction from its product lineup that it hopes will appeal to young needs and slim cash flow. The best example is the '00 entry-level Echo sedan, expected to be priced around $12,000, which is considerably less than Toyota's segment-leading Corolla.
High-tech Echo arrives with a completely new platform and a new direction in passenger compartment packaging. Nearly every component is new and shared with no other vehicle. What Echo does share is Toyota's initiative to develop a highly efficient "world" car for youth markets.
For those craving more performance and pizzazz, the sporty seventh-generation '00 Celica coupe is edgy, leaner and meaner, with its curvy and radically lowered front fascia and interior racecar design, as well as a screaming 1.8L DOHC 4-cyl. optional engine.
Toyota expects to sell 40,000 Celicas in the car's first year, which began last month.
For buyers with an environmental conscience, Toyota next year will offer the Prius, an electric motor/gasoline engine hybrid that looks and drives like most other compact cars. A bit more pricey, at around $20,000, Prius offers a glimpse into the future of the industry.
Proving the continuing strength of its product portfolio, as Toyota woos future generations of buyers, it still is winning accolades from the well-heeled baby boomer set with its new full-size Tundra pickup and its Lexus luxury division's RX300 sport/utility vehicle - which has helped push Lexus U.S. sales to the forefront of all luxury carmakers. Still to come is a new SUV off the Tundra platform and the sporty entry-level Lexus IS sedan.