Japan's big 3 say they have a cure for what ails them, and that cure is product -- an onslaught in high-volume segments that will continue through next year.
A mass of redesigns and numerous additions to existing lineups are in the pipeline, according to an Automotive News analysis of future product plans at Toyota, Honda and Nissan.
The new-product blitz could alter the competitive landscape. The companies have been in a fallow period of product launches for two years -- and what they did introduce were mostly niche products such as the Honda Crosstour, Toyota Venza and Nissan Juke.
But now the action is in volume models: New versions of the Toyota Camry, Yaris and RAV4; Honda Accord and CR-V; and Nissan Versa, Sentra and Altima will arrive in dealerships before 2013.
And the three companies will try out some new segments, too.
The companies are counting on those new products to help solve some serious problems. All three are in a tight spot, what with supply shortages, the strong yen, a resurgent Detroit 3 and low-cost rivals from Korea nipping at their heels.
Toyota and Lexus are still trying to shake off the recall catastrophe, and Honda and Acura have stumbled with some new products. Nissan has kept pace with the market, but Infiniti has lost ground.
The scoreboard tells the story. Last year, Toyota, Honda, Nissan and their luxury brands (and Scion) combined for a 33.7 percent U.S. market share. That was down from 35.4 percent in 2009, and through June of this year the number was 30.4 percent.
Hit products could reverse the trend. Automotive News' future product forecast through the 2015 model year shows that 27 new or redesigned vehicles will arrive by the end of next year for Japan's top three automakers.
New nameplates include the Infiniti JX seven-passenger crossover; the Scion iQ three-seat minicar and FR-S sporty coupe; and the Toyota Prius C subcompact and tall Prius V, both offshoots of the standard Prius.
Lexus fell behind BMW and Mercedes in the U.S. luxury sales race this year, mostly because of shortages related to the quake. But the car lineup will be made over by the spring of 2013; the GS, ES, IS and LS sedans will be either redesigned or re-engineered.
The new Lexus sedans will feature the more aggressive design seen at the New York auto show in April. Indeed, in terms of design, Japan Inc. appears to be breaking out of a trough of conservatism.