Toyota is seeing plenty of interest for good old-fashioned passenger cars as it says buyers increasingly prize affordability and availability when looking for a new set of wheels.
The Japanese automaker attributes its ascendancy as the top-selling automaker in the U.S. — a rank it wrested from General Motors Co. late last year — at least in part due to the popularity of its compact and mid-size sedans, even though the market has overwhelmingly shifted toward light trucks such as SUVs and pickups in recent years.
“A lot of our market share growth is really in the car side of the business. Cars are still an important part of the market,” Bob Carter, Toyota Motor Corp.’s top sales executive in the U.S., told reporters at a briefing Wednesday.
Sedans made up just 22% of new vehicle sales last year, down from more than half of the market in 2009, according to automotive researcher Edmunds.com. Some automakers, including Ford Motor Co. and GM, have discontinued many or all of their passenger cars in favor of more popular SUV and truck models.
But Carter said Toyota’s compact Corolla and large Camry sedans are more affordable than many pickups and SUVs, and passenger cars remain a popular option among many Asian, Black and Hispanic car buyers. “Unlike other brands that have exited the sedan market, we’re choosing to double down,” he said.
Shortages of semiconductors and other parts have crimped production across the industry and resulted in higher prices as demand exceeds supply. Inventories are so thin that pretty much anything can find a buyer, Carter said.
“If we built cars with three wheels, there would probably be a consumer waiting for it,” he joked.