TOKYO — Toyota's North America CEO, Jim Lentz, is looking to chop unpopular nameplates from the U.S. lineup as bosses in Japan order him to restore sagging profitability to record levels.
Facing the knife now is any model falling out of favor as customers swarm to crossovers, SUVs and trucks.
In a word: cars.
That spells an uncertain future for such vehicles as the subcompact Yaris, Toyota 86, Lexus RC coupes and even the Prius C hybrid, the five-door Prius' smaller sibling.
The scrutiny may have Toyota abandoning its once-ballyhooed idea of marketing a Prius-badged family of vehicles. It once had a stable of four, including the Prius PHV and now discontinued Prius V people mover.
"We are taking a hard look at all of the segments that we compete in to make sure we are competing in profitable segments and that products we sell have strategic value," Lentz said here last week after Japan's biggest automaker reported an increase in quarterly profits.
Lentz is racing to shore up profits as Toyota buckles down on cost control around the world. Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda wants fatter margins so the company can plow profits back into developing the costly technologies needed for next-generation electrification, connectivity and autonomous driving.
Low-selling car models are an obvious place to cut costs. But no expense is too small for scrutiny, according to Toyota's cost-crunching chief financial officer, Koji Kobayashi.