Toyota delay could have domino effect
Prius behind, and other key models await platform
EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described plans for the Toyota Yaris.
Delays in the development of the Toyota New Global Architecture platform may mean several products in the Toyota pipeline could be delayed by as much as six months.
Already, the Prius, the lead vehicle for the platform, has had its launch shunted from April to December 2015 because of engineering delays. But the TNGA also will underpin key future vehicles such as the Camry, Corolla, RAV4 and Avalon. That could push their launches back as well. Toyota has had no problem extending product cycles in the past.
The TNGA modular approach aims to boost the number of parts shared among vehicles to improve quality and lower costs. But sources say that some modules, especially ones involving vehicle dynamics, are proving harder to share than expected among vehicles with vastly different missions.
Toyota also is looking at two approaches to engine development: turbocharged smaller-displacement engines and high-compression naturally aspirated engines running on the Atkinson cycle. The former brings power with some fuel economy sacrifice; the latter the inverse. How customers react to those two options could guide Toyota's future powertrain decisions.
Here is a view of Toyota products coming through the rest of the decade.
Yaris: Production moves to France from Japan for the 2015 model year. The Yaris may carry Toyota's new-generation Atkinson-cycle engine for fuel-economy gains.
Corolla: Redesigned in fall 2013.
Camry: Two midcycle changes -- one structural, one cosmetic -- in the past year should be enough to carry the Camry into a six-year product cadence, forced by the delay of the TNGA platform. That means a fall 2017 redesign. At that time, Toyota may follow Hyundai's two-engine strategy, with a standard four-banger and a turbo-four, and delete its V-6 option.
Avalon: Redesigned in fall 2012. Expect a freshening in fall 2015.
The FT-1 concept shows where Toyota wants to go with the next Supra.
Supra: The 2014 Detroit auto show unveiling of the FT-1 concept points clearly to the direction Toyota wants with its Supra successor. Toyota and BMW are working together on sports car architecture that will spawn the next Supra, as well as a production Lexus LF-LC. Given that Toyota and BMW have a history of inline-six engines and are both heavily into turbocharging, expect the Supra to carry a turbocharged inline-six that generates at least 425 hp. This is intended to be a throwback rear-wheel-drive sports car -- no hybrid version, no all-wheel drive. Code-named Silk Road internally, the next-generation Supra should arrive in fall 2017 or spring 2018. Some insiders say it will not be called Supra, as the company has trademarked the nameplate "Mirai."
Prius: Toyota has delayed the start of production for the fourth-generation Prius from next spring until December 2015, as engineers sweat last-minute platform-sharing details. The car will debut the global architecture modular platform, as well as its next-generation hybrid system. The new hybrid system is expected to be smaller, lighter and more efficient. It will get a choice of a low-cost nickel-metal hydride battery as well as a lithium ion version for different usage cycles. Supercapacitors also are being tested for start-stop applications. The Prius also may get an awd layout in addition to its current front-wheel-drive one.
Prius C: Launched in spring 2012. It uses the Yaris platform, rather than that of the Prius, and there could be a next-generation model sold in the United States if there is demand for it.
Prius V: The tall wagon in the Prius family launched in summer 2011. A redesign will probably arrive in late 2017.
FCV: The small-volume hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will go on sale in fall 2015 in California. Toyota hopes to achieve a 300-mile range. Toyota says the hydrogen tank can be filled in three minutes. The price in Japan is the equivalent of about $68,000, but U.S. pricing hasn't yet been announced.
RAV4: Redesigned in spring 2013. A midcycle freshening in 2016 could include the adoption of the 2.0-liter turbo engine. However, because the turbo was developed with a different front subframe from the existing inline-four, the restructuring of the engine bay may prove too expensive, forcing the turbo to wait for a spring 2018 redesign off the TNGA platform.
Highlander: Redesigned in January.
Venza: It's a parts-bin car, so it's a cheap Camry derivative to build. But its relative lack of market success and marketing support has some wondering if the Venza will be a one-and-done project.
Sienna: Redesigned for the 2011 model year. A typical six-year cycle would mean it will come out at the same time as the next-generation Camry. But delays in the TNGA could push Sienna to a spring 2018 redesign -- an eight-year cycle -- but with a substantial midcycle update for the 2015 or 2016 model year.
FJ Cruiser: Its run ends this year.
4Runner: Redesigned for the 2010 model year. Toyota typically runs seven-year cycles for its truck-based products, so expect a 2017 model redesign, still borrowing from Hi-Lux/Land Cruiser Prado platform.
Sequoia: It's not selling well, and it carries a big corporate average fuel economy penalty. And if Highlander demand increases, that could crimp production at Toyota's Indiana plant. But Toyota is committed to a full lineup of body-on-frame SUVs, says Motoharu Araya, executive chief engineer for Toyota's global truck and SUV lines. If that's the case, a redesigned Sequoia would remain on the Tundra platform. And the cadence would indicate an early 2015 redesign. If it's coming, Toyota has done well hiding it.
Land Cruiser: It was the first nameplate Toyota sold in the United States, so eliminating it for slow sales would be a major loss of face. It also carries big margins, and it sells well in markets where the roads aren't as nice or don't exist at all. A redesign for the 2017 model year would be on cadence.
Photos of the next-generation Hi-Lux, left, indicate the Tacoma will grow.
Tacoma: Spy photos of overseas prototypes of the next-generation Hi-Lux -- from which the Tacoma is derived -- forecast a redesign for the 2016 model year. The photos indicate the Tacoma will grow slightly to keep pace with the mid-sized GM pickups. Expect a continuation of the four- and six-cylinder engine strategy.
Tundra: Redesigned in summer 2013. However, a midcycle addition of a diesel engine from Cummins -- not Hino, Toyota's affiliate company -- could arrive in the 2017 model year midcycle change. The diesel likely will be classified above the 8,500-pound gross vehicle weight rating to avoid CAFE penalties. A full redesign comes for the 2020 model year.
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