Toyota to boost supply of trucks, SUVs to meet U.S. demand

Thu Dec 3, 2015 4:38pm EST
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By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp's (7203.T: Quote) production of trucks and SUVs will rise slightly by mid-2016 as it adapts to U.S. consumer tastes, several of its executives said in an interview on Thursday.

Toyota's full-size pickup truck, Tundra, is down to about 20 days of supply, and its 1,232 U.S. dealers have only 10 days' supply of the Tacoma, the automaker's mid-size truck, according to Bob Carter, senior vice president for U.S. Toyota operations, and Bill Fay, head of the U.S. Toyota brand, in an interview with Reuters.

"If you were to ask any of our U.S. dealers what they want, I'd say every one of them would say 'More trucks,'" Carter said.

More production is on the way after the recent addition of a third shift of workers at a plant in Baja California, Mexico, that makes the Tacoma, and the addition of about 250 workers and a more flexible work schedule at its San Antonio, Texas, plant that makes the Tacoma and the Tundra, Carter and Fay said.

The new workers and extra production will be in place in San Antonio by the middle of next year, Fay said.

A big focus in 2015 has been the U.S. auto industry's shift away from traditional sedans and toward SUVs, particularly smaller models like the Toyota RAV4, the Honda Motor Co (7267.T: Quote) CR-V and the Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote) Escape.

Nearly 59 percent of U.S. vehicle sales this year have been of SUVs or pickup trucks, up from 54 percent last year, according to industry consultant Autodata Corp. Most of that gain in market share is due to small SUVs, also known as crossover vehicles.

The shifting tastes of American consumers toward SUVs will express itself as early as 2017, Carter said, when the RAV4 will displace the Camry mid-size sedan as the company's top-seller in the U.S. market.   Continued...

Visitors crowd Toyota Motor Corp's booth at the 44th Tokyo Motor Show in Tokyo, Japan, November 2, 2015.  REUTERS/Issei Kato