TOYOTA CITY, Japan -- Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda is rewriting his U.S. playbook to revive battered sales and a tattered image.
The new strategy:
-- Review and possibly trim the lineup of full-frame trucks.
-- Skip midcycle vehicle enhancements to focus on bigger launches.
-- Introduce more hybrids to North America.
-- Give U.S. engineers a bigger voice in r&d.
Toyota executives who described the plan to Automotive News say the goal is to make a bigger splash with model launches and tailor cars to American demand. For starters, more r&d for North American vehicles will be moved to Toyota's U.S. technical centers.
"Through this shift in responsibility, we expect the vehicles will more closely reflect the needs of U.S. consumers," Atsushi Niimi, executive vice president in charge of North America and global production, said in an interview. "We want the r&d team of North America to have a louder voice in what is exported from Japan to their market."
The moves come as the world's top automaker swung from its biggest profit to its deepest loss in just one year.
After booking its first loss in seven decades in the past fiscal year, Toyota is bracing for more red ink in 2009. Toyoda, grandson of the company's founder, took the reins in June and promptly ordered top brass to orchestrate a back-to-basics overhaul of product development worldwide.
The United States -- long Toyota's biggest and most profitable market -- is a key weakness. Toyota's sales were down 28 percent through September, worse than the market's 27 percent fall. The first-quarter operating loss in North America was the company's fourth straight quarterly loss there.
Toyota plans to shake up its North American lineup.
Toyota's full-frame truck lineup is being reviewed and may likely be trimmed because of the shrinking market for big vehicles that use a lot of fuel, Niimi said.
Meanwhile, look for more gasoline-electric hybrids.
"We need to focus on the hybrid lineup. Maybe we'd be getting into minivans or more compact, smaller-sized vehicles," he said. Executives in Japan are discussing with Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. the possibility of lending the Prius name to a family of hybrids, Niimi said.