Toyota Juggernaut – Flurry of Intros in ’06
- January 19, 2006
- Auto XPRT Speaks..., Automobile Cool News, Toyota
- Posted by George Peterson
- 2 Comments
We have all been following the press accounts of Toyota becoming the top producing vehicle manufacturer in the world in 2006 and we have heard statements by Toyota management that Toyota is going to become more aggressive in the future. Historically, Toyota has taken a relatively humble and mild stance to its growing presence worldwide and in the USA particularly, but in 2003 the gloves came off with Toyota Motor Sales USA taking a higher profile. Their pace of advance will quicken substantially in 2006.
VehicleVoice contributor and AutoPacific‘s President George Peterson takes a quick look at Toyota’s 2006 plans.
Toyota Has Guns Blazing in 2006
It looks like the 2007 model year is going to be the year when Toyota really comes in with all guns blazing. I guess that we can’t include the all new RAV4, now moving upmarket and sporting a 3.5L V6 engine as part of the onslaught. It was launched in late 2005 as a 2006 model. The new RAV4 is outstanding and is reported to be the fastest vehicle carrying a Toyota badge today.
During 2006, the 2007 models will be introduced starting with the all new Yaris, major change for the Camry, launch of an all new hybrid Toyota Camry, launch of the all new FJ Cruiser, launch of a truly competitive full size pickup, launch of a new Lexus ES330 and new Lexus LS460.
AutoExtremist Peter DeLorenzo sums it up well in his observations of Toyota, “We’re not only going to tell you what play we’re going to run, we’re going to ram the ball down your throats knowing that there’s not a damn thing you can do to stop us. What can you say about Toyota other than that they continue in their relentless pursuit of world domination, and there appears to be no one capable of standing in their way?”
Lets touch on each of these in order of launch…
2007 Toyota Yaris
The Yaris replaces the Toyota Echo entry model that never caught on in the USA. The Echo was unfortunately styled (although it was derived from the previous Yaris) and exuded cheapness from the word go. The Yaris avoids the clumsy styling of the Echo and is wrapped in a contemporary small car skin that is attractive if not fashionable. With two bodystyles – a 3-door hatchback and 4-door sedan – the price of the Yaris starts just under $12,000 and can reach over $15,000 as more boxes are checked on the option list. Yaris hits before Honda launches its Fit and Nissan its Versa. These three small cars will provide affordable transportation to folks who value small size, modest feature content and good (but not exceptional) fuel economy. Don’t expect any of the three to sell in really high numbers… unless fuel prices skyrocket.
2007 Toyota Camry
The Toyota Camry is the top selling car in the USA. It sells over 400,000 units per year and handily beats the second best selling Honda Accord. Since the very upscale and elegant 1992 Camry, Camry has devolved into one of the most bland modes of transportation available in America. It is testament to the huge proportion of American buyers who will accept reliable A-to-B transportation without having any enthusiasm for it. Where the 1992 car was often described as a “Baby Lexus” by its buyers, we have not heard that from owners of the latest iteration.
The 2007 Camry may change that perception, a bit. It is a smidge larger, has a much more powerful V6 engine available and has a bit more persoality in its styling. So, Camry is still a safe bet. It likely will continue to be the top selling car with only the Accord being in the position to knock it off.
As with many newly introduced Toyota products, Camry will add a hybrid model to its lineup.
2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser
The spiritual descendant to the old Toyota FJ sport utility of the 1960s, the FJ Cruiser is an addition to the Toyota lineup that promises to give the Nissan Xterra a run for its money. Where Xterra grew up in 2005, getting more finesse and more sophistication, the FJ Cruiser has a great dollop of retro funk, flamboyant colors and styling cues reminiscent of the original Toyota entries in the USA. FJ Cruiser is getting tons of attention from the automotive press and should sell very well.
The FJ Cruiser is very close to the concept first seen on the 2003 auto show circuit. It still has rear access doors rather than traditional sedan doors. Tough and rugged… the FJ styling shouts, “Take me off-road!”
2007 Toyota Tundra
“OK boys, lets put up a little ol’ assembly plant in the heart of the American pickem-up truck market down there in San Anton’ and make us a passel of real pickups. I am sorely POed that folks call our Tundra wimpy. Some folks call it a 95% full size pickem-up. Well, we are by dadgum goin’ to fix that in 2006. Lets give ’em a 105% Tundra. Only 100% ain’t good enough – gotta be 105% or more.” So, lo and behold, Toyota will launch its new 2007 Tundra in 2006 doubling capacity with the addition of its new assembly plant in San Antonio. Toyota show trucks hint at much more aggressive styling combined with stronger capabilities all around. There is even some rumor of Tundra offering a 3/4 ton model to be the first Japanese brand to challenge American heavy duty pickups. Now, will there be a diesel?
The new Tundra will be first shown at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show in February.
The Lexus ES usually follows the launch of an all new Camry by a few months to the conservative mid-size anchor to the Lexus lineup will be launched later in 2006. First shown at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show the only Lexus front-driver promises to build on the finesse of its predecessor and adopt more distinctive styling as Lexus attempts to shed its stodgy image.
We have saved the best for last. Shown at the 2006 North American Auto Show in Detroit, the new Lexus LS460 had hordes of muttering Germans swarming over the car. The all new LS460 finally gives Lexus a flagship with the expressive styling it has deserved to go with its bulletproof quality and reliability. The LS460 is the new benchmark of the Premium Luxury Car category. Wow, what a car!
LS460 will be available in two wheelbases – finally correcting a deficiency when compared with premium European entries. Its 4.6L V8 is combined with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Its 380HP (up from 288HP today) is projected to propel the car from stop to 60-mph in under 5.5 seconds. The high performance LS will be the hybrid model that rumor has it develops power equivalent to the Mercedes S600 – about 500HP.
This move upscale won’t come cheap. Base LS pricing is expected to increase to over $70,000 up from about $65,000 today. The hybrid is rumored to surpass $100,000.
While we normally would reserve judgment prior to declaring a new segment benchmark, it appears that the new Lexus LS460 has the credentials.