I knew this would happen. Scion pretty makes steals what little market share the Echo had.Thursday, January 13, 2005
Toyota to pull compact Echo from lineup in '06
The automaker plans to add 22 new products within the next 15 months.
By Christine Tierney / The Detroit News
Toyota Motor Co.p. will replace the unpopular Echo compact with two European-styled small cars to be launched in the United States in 2006 as part of an aggressive model rollout.
"Twenty-two new products are coming in the next 15 months," Jim Press, chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales, told analysts Wednesday. "One of the ways we're going to fuel ourselves in the market is through a product blitz."
Toyota's new or redesigned models will include fuel-efficient, gas-electric versions of the Toyota Highlander and premium Lexus RX sport utility vehicles, new Lexus IS and GS sport sedans, and a revamped Scion xA hatchback.
With the launch next month of a larger and more powerful Avalon flagship sedan, the Japanese automaker is bolstering the high end of the Toyota brand's car lineup.
Its mid-sized Camry was the best-selling car in the United States last year, and the smaller Corolla is successful. But Toyota had a weak entry-level contender in the Echo. Echo sales fell to below 4,000 in 2004 from a peak of 48,876 in 2000.
"People were disappointed in the Echo. They didn't like the look of the vehicle, inside and out," said Rebecca Lindland, an auto analyst at research and consulting firm Global Insight.
"A variety of people buy entry-level vehicles, and they're not always fresh out of college. That buyer wants to get as much car for their money as they possibly can," Lindland said.
Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. also plan to bring new entry-level cars to the U.S. market. Nissan will launch one or possibly two subcompacts that share underpinnings with the Cube sold in Japan. Honda will introduce a subcompact smaller than the Civic in 2006.
Press did not identify the European-styled cars that will replace the Echo, but Toyota has developed several attractive cars in Europe to compete in the region's cutthroat small-car market. They include the Yaris, a rounded compact minivan.
The Echo faced stiff competition from Toyota's own youth-oriented Scion brand. Scion sold nearly 100,000 vehicles in 2004, the first year the brand became available nationwide, up ninefold from 2003 levels.
Next year, Scion will roll out a restyled xA hatchback, the least popular car in the lineup.
Speaking at an analysts' conference in Dearborn, Press forecast that Scion sales would rise to around 120,000 vehicles this year. Overall, Toyota expects Toyota-brand, Scion and Lexus sales to rise between 3 percent and 5 percent from last year's total of 2.1 million vehicles.