NEW YORK — Toyota is looking to its new U.S. sales champion to carry a much heavier load.
The RAV4 last year overtook the Camry sedan as Toyota's top seller and outsold every other light vehicle on the market that's not a pickup. With the Camry now swimming against the tide in a declining midsize sedan segment, and the overall market softening, Toyota's unassuming compact crossover now represents its principal weapon in an intensifying battle for sales volume, market share and brand loyalty.
That explains why the fifth-generation RAV4, shown at the New York auto show last week, arrived in a Camry-like extended family of models aimed at a diverse range of customers, from a rugged-looking Adventure edition, to a loaded Limited edition, to a thrifty hybrid rendered in a sporty two-tone.
The differentiated offerings under one nameplate may provide Toyota with a way to defend its crown in compact crossovers without resorting to price or incentive wars against a field of vigorous competitors.
"We've doubled RAV4 sales in the last four years, so when you do that and you're at the 400,000 level, you have to appeal to a broader part of the market," Bill Fay, senior vice president of automotive operations, told Automotive News. "We put part of that challenge into the development of this."