Toyota Motor Company is rolling out 12 new vehicles this year, including the addition of a couple of models to its eco-friendly lineup, as well as redesigning several of its flagships to appeal to a new kind of buyer.
During a roundtable with members of the media at last week’s New York International Auto Show, Bob Carter, the executive responsible for the automaker’s operations in North America — which include the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico and Mexico — said the new products will represent the company’s three brands: Toyota, Lexus and Scion.
“That number is over and above the three significant vehicles we launched in the fourth quarter of 2014, which were the 2015 Camry, the Lexus NX and RC. We have a full year of those three, plus the 12 new models we’re introducing,” he said,
Several of the new models were unveiled at the auto show, namely the Scion iM and iA — to be sold in Puerto Rico under the Yaris brand — the Lexus RX and the redesigned RAV4 and its hybrid counterpart.
“Not all models will be sold in every market. For example, the Mirai, which will only be sold in California,” he said, referring to the hydrogen-based vehicle that has a range of 300 miles per charge with a consumption of up to 60 miles per gallon. It was revealed during the past North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
“We’re excited about the products we introduced [last] this week, particularly the iA, which we’ll introduce in Puerto Rico and Mexico as a Toyota-branded vehicle,” he said. “We had a lot of success with the Yaris sedan, particularly in the Puerto Rico market and this is a much more refined replacement for that vehicle.”
The new Yaris will be available in Puerto Rico in the fourth quarter of this year, with the expectation of fueling the island’s growing sub-compact market.
“I really believe it’s got mainstream acceptance in markets like Puerto Rico and Mexico,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to having that vehicle in the market, as well as the RAV4.”
The RAV4 and Corolla models make up the majority of Toyota’s sales in Puerto Rico, and when combined with Yaris, they account for about 62 percent of total sales on the island, said Héctor Rivera, field operations director for Toyota de Puerto Rico.
The redesigned crossover utility vehicle, and the hybrid version, will also be fourth quarter arrivals, Carter said.
Dealing with the island’s economy
For the better part of the past nine years, Puerto Rico’s economy has shifted into depression status, significantly stalling new car sales, which totaled 88,175 units in 2014. That represents a 12.3 percent drop versus 2013’s numbers and the lowest level of sales since 2009, according to data gathered by the United Automobile Importers Group.
That contraction has not gone unnoticed for Toyota, which leads the island’s new car market with a 30 percent share.
“On the short-term, what we’ve done at the 23 Toyota and two Lexus dealers on the island is take care of customers, particularly in the area of parts and services,” Carter said. “As the average age of a Toyota vehicle increases, there’s an opportunity in parts and services in the aftermarket.”
That strategy produced a 16 percent growth spurt last year on parts and services sales, he said.
“Overall, despite the tough industry conditions down there, our dealers continue to do reasonably well,” Carter said. “Six of the dealers are building new facilities despite the current short-term conditions, which is perhaps the largest single capital investment that a dealer can make. I’m pleased to see that because it speaks of the confidence in the brand and market.”
“We play the long-term game. We’re not a short-term focused company,” he said. “We track the short-term, but we really commit ourselves to the market and consumers on a longer-term basis.”