Toyota Motor Corp. doesn't want its dealers going through 2019 with a pessimistic view of the market, even though most analysts are forecasting lower U.S. sales. Most also expected a drop in 2018, yet the final numbers showed that automakers sold 0.4 percent more vehicles than in the previous year.
"I don't understand why anybody is predicting the industry to decrease this year," Toyota Division General Manager Jack Hollis told Automotive News.
He noted that economic tailwinds remain strong. Still, he stopped short of predicting an increase.
"I'm not going to make a case either way," Hollis said. "I'm just saying, let's don't talk ourselves into a decrease."
Hollis used that upbeat attitude to frame the automaker's NADA Show make meeting, where he promised U.S. dealers new products — including hot utilities such as a redesigned three-row Highlander coming this year — as it tries to remain the nation's top-selling retail brand.
Hollis told dealers the brand intends to introduce 19 new, redesigned or freshened vehicles over the next three years. That includes the Supra and a Corolla and Corolla hybrid sedan this year.
Toyota remains committed sedans, even as rivals such as Ford Motor Co. and General Motors abandon them or pare back, Hollis said. That will be a competitive advantage for retailers, especially as Toyota and its dealers expect their popular Tacoma midsize pickup to lose market share to two new segment entries, the Ford Ranger and Jeep Gladiator, he said.
"We're still committed to being a full-line manufacturer," Hollis told Automotive News.
The brand seeks to improve dealership profitability, which Hollis described as roughly even last year compared with 2017. Still, when the numbers are finalized, 2018 will end up being one of the brand's top five years for dealership profitability, he said.
Hollis detailed hybrids on the horizon but noted that Toyota is holding off on offering full-electric vehicles until there's a better business case.
"The equations around electric aren't making money," he said.
As is typical for Toyota, the meeting was a pleasant one and ended 20 minutes early.
"They're on top of things in terms of the product mix," said Stephen Wade, owner of Stephen Wade Toyota in St. George, Utah. "Day in and day out, they score really well with us."