Toyota's future lineup Supraless; further focus on fuel economy

With most American abandoning traditional trucks and SUVs in the wake of $4 gas, automakers are now scrambling to produce more fuel efficient vehicles. Even Toyot's green image wasn't enough to insulate it from the market turndown, which has forced the Japanese automaker to rethink its future lineup.

As one might expect, truck-based vehicles are out and more hybrids and economical powertrains are in. The all-new 2010 Prius will lead the way, with a spring 2009 launch date. Despite the switch from the Yaris' 1.5L engine to the Coroll's larger 1.8L unit, an improved nickel-metal hydride battery should improve the hybrid's efficiency. Toyota will hold off on a plug-in version of the Prius until its lithium-ion batteries come on line.

Toyota is developing a second hybrid-only model, but Automotive News reports that Toyota may have over emphasized the new vehicle as it will be for the Japanese market only.

Both the Corolla and Matrix are scheduled for a redesign in 2013 - keeping to Toyot's planned five-year cycle.

An updated Camry is expected to bow in 2010, with an all-new model hitting the market in 2012. Because of slowing sales, Toyota will likely push the Camry's bigger brother - the Avalon - to a six-year cycle, with an update hitting in 2011 as a 2012 model. Despite internal debates over renaming the Avalon as a long-wheelbase Camry, Toyota brass have decided to keep the Avalon nameplate.

As previously reported, the Solara convertible will remain in production for the next two years, although the coupe will be discontinued after 2008.

Toyota did have a successor to the legendary Supra in the works, but that project has reportedly been cancelled due to rising fuel economy requirements. However, Toyot's smaller rear-wheel drive coupe - which is being co-developed with Subaru - is moving forward, but its launch date won't likely be until at least 2011.

On the crossover/SUV/minivan front, fuel economy will be the name of the game. The truck-based FJ Cruiser is out, although the 2010 4Runner project is too far along to stop now. The all-new 4Runner will debut at either the next year's Chicago or New York Auto Show, with limited sales to follow soon thereafter. The Tacoma will retain its body-on-frame construction - because many owners actually use it as a truck - but its lifecycle has been pushed to eight years, meaning a refresh isn't expected until 2013.

The sagging full-size truck market has slowed the development of heavy duty and other variants of the Tundra, although the truck is slated for a more efficient 4.6L V8, which will replace the current 4.7L mill. Despite being smaller, the new engine will up the Tundr's horsepower rating - from 276 to about 306 - and will return 2 mpg better fuel economy. The 4.6L powerplant will also find its way under the hood of the Sequoia SUV.

Toyot's all-new Venza crossover and Sienna minivan are slated to receive hybrid powertrains in 2012.