Toyota hasn’t even delivered the new 2018 C-HR to dealers and there are already plans to supplement the automaker’s subcompact crossover lineup.
In concert with the C-HR’s U.S. launch next month, April 2017 will also play host to the Toyota debut of a small crossover concept at the New York International Auto Show if all goes according to plan.
“I think weâ€™re very well set up (with the C-HR and midsize RAV4 CUV), but weâ€™re also kind of looking at what else could we be doing there if this continues to be a growing segment, which we anticipate it will,” Bill Fay, vice president for the Toyota division, told Wards Auto.
Toyota expects to sell 60,000 C-HRs in the United States annually, more than the Yaris, Yaris iA, and Prius C combined.Â For America’s third-highest-volume SUV brand, that’s apparently not enough.
Slip an extra SUV on the barbie.
It’s not difficult to understand why the nascent subcompact crossover segment holds such appeal to automakers. The subcompact cars that have forever existed as a means of courting young and first-time new car buyers have never been the providers of significant profit in North America, where consumers areÂ five times more likely to choose a more refined, spacious, and powerful compact with little financial or fuel economy penalty.
But take that subcompact platform and elevate the price, sometimes dramatically, and the equation is flipped on its head.
Just look at Mazda, formerly a niche player in the subcompact car category with the Mazda 2 and now a lower-tier candidate in the subcompact crossover category. In 2014, Mazda sold fewer than 14,000 copies of the Mazda 2, priced roughly between $15,000â€“17,000. In 2016, the Mazda CX-3 â€” at its core,Â an elevated next-generation Mazda 2 â€” attracted nearly 19,000 buyers with MSRPsÂ ranging from $20,900â€“27,180 â€” and an inordinately high number of the CX-3s sold are of the more costly sort.
With the lure of greater profit potential and the clear shift in demand toward utility vehicles across the industry, automakers are stocking up their small CUV shelves.
To the Nissan Rogue and Juke (and/or the Nissan Kicks), Nissan will fill an apparent void with the Rogue Sport, a rebadged Qashqai.
Below the Cherokee, Jeep will sell the new tweener-sized Compass along with the Renegade, a subcompact crossover sales leader.
General Motors taps two different subcompact CUV price points with the Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore, which togetherÂ owned nearly 30 percent of America’s subcompact crossover market in 2016.
Mitsubishi will squeeze the ghastly Eclipse Cross in between a smaller Outlander Sport and the Outlander.
And before Toyota sells its first C-HR in America, Toyota clearly intends to investigate the possibility of a C-HR cohort. In fact, based on Bill Fay’s language to Wards, the investigatory period may well be past the concept stage. Pointing to the hyperactivity in the segment, “I think everybody is looking at, â€˜Whatâ€™s the best way to meet that customer demand?’” Fay says.
Of course, an all-wheel-drive option would at least propel the 2018 Toyota C-HR into the center of the subcompact crossover argument. Available with AWD in other markets, the C-HR arrives in the United States with front-wheel drive, a 144-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and dimensions that essentially match the old Toyota Matrix.
AnotherÂ subcompact crossover? The Toyota C-HR doesn’t even meet the TTAC Slack chat definition of a crossover. Perhaps Toyota’s New York concept car debut will.
Toyota has shown small SUVÂ concepts in the recent past: the Urban Utility in 2014 and the ME.WE in 2013, pictured above.
More recently, U.S. sales of subcompact crossovers are up 13 percent through the first two months of 2017 in a overall market that’s declined nearly 2 percent.
Timothy Cain is the founder ofÂ GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcarÂ and on Facebook.