Toyota announed that they are going to increase production of their RAV4 small SUV by more than 25 percent, even though sales levels of the vehicle are down for the first quarter of this year. And there can only be one reason.
Automotive News (subscription may be necessary to view) is reporting that Toyota will be increasing prodction at its Woodstock, Ontario, Canada plant from a total of 150,000 to 200,000 units with the help of an $80 million investment in the plant.
A spokewoman for the company said there is no plans to move all RAV4 production to North America, and the only thing being announced is a significant boost in prodction.
From our perspective, the only reason for this huge increase would be either they know there will be huge surge in RAV4 sales coming or there will be another vehicle built off that same platform. No doubt, if it were a Toyota model, they'd likely be more liklely to create a unique platform to more directly serve some new niche. However, if it was for a sister brand that was trying to be more efficient with a big brother's resources, that would make more sense.
It has long been rumored that Scion is interested in a pickup-truck-like vehicle that could easily appeal to a younger buying segment that clearly doesn't want to be seen in an average-looking vehicle.
Creating some kind of downsizd A-BAT or GMC Granite on a RAV4 platform might be exactly what Scion needs to create a big splash in the market and increase their rebellious counter-mainstream credibility. It could also lead the way for an industry that has been scared to death to invest in the compact and midsize pickup segment. Even a moderate sales hit here could lure others into a growing, entry-level segment where both powertrain and design technology could be key separators from the larger, relatively conservative, pickup truck segment.
No doubt there will be other announcement about exactly what Toyota will do with the extra production capacity and volume, but no matter what happens, it looks like a little risk taking could lead to a huge payoff.