NAGOYA, Japan -- The weakening yen was supposed to be a boon for imported Japanese vehicles in the United States. But Jim Lentz, Toyota Motor Corp.'s CEO for North America, doesn't see it that way.
Toyota, which imports more cars to the United States than any other foreign brand -- Japanese, Korean or German -- won't parlay the yen's slide into better pricing or equipment offerings, he said.
"The yen really doesn't drive my business," Lentz said. "There are no changes we are making in terms of equipment levels or pricing as a result of the yen."
For more than four years, the yen rose against the dollar, undercutting profits on exports from Japan. But the yen tumbled 20 percent against the dollar from January to late May. It has strengthened a bit since then, but the weaker yen means each dollar of revenue yields more yen for Japanese exporters.
U.S. automakers, led by Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally, have sounded the alarm.
They argue that a weaker yen allows Japanese rivals to load more features into cars and spend more on new products.
Not so, Lentz said.
About 70 percent of Toyota's North American sales volume is made locally, Lentz said, and is largely unaffected by currency rates. That will rise to 75 percent when Lexus ES production begins in Kentucky in 2015.
The cars made in Japan for export typically are engineered for global tastes because they are shipped to many countries, he added. They can't be outfitted easily with upgraded equipment just to match changing conditions in one market.