Volume. Efficiency. Excitement.
Japan's big three automakers have set their sights in different directions as they craft their product plans over the next few years.
Toyota and Lexus are using a corporate transition to new modular global platforms to usher in better driving dynamics and more daring styling to their lineups. That transition began with a sportier Prius launched last year and continues with the C-HR, a highly stylized small crossover arriving in North America next year. Toyota's lineup also absorbs three youth-focused models from the soon-to-be-extinguished Scion brand. Lexus' dazzling LC 500 sports car, a pet project of Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda, arrives this year.
Nissan is targeting trucks in the near term, but with a broader objective of coaxing more volume from its bread-and-butter products through more rapid refreshes and better-equipped models. Nissan's plans include a major midcycle freshening of the Pathfinder crossover and a new base-model Rogue. Infiniti, meanwhile, will get three new engines, including a 2.0-liter turbo shared with Daimler under its partnership with Renault-Nissan.
At Honda, the next 12 months will usher in redesigns of three core models: the Accord, Odyssey and CR-V. The pioneer of gasoline-electric hybrids in the U.S. also is going all-in on fuel-efficient alternative powertrains, introducing its Clarity-branded line of cars followed by hybrid or plug-in variants of mainstream models on both the Honda and Acura sides, including the CR-V and Acura RDX crossovers.