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Toyota Shifts to Hatchback-Only Version of Yaris, Dumps Sedan

Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) said it will sell its new subcompact Yaris only as a hatchback to U.S. drivers, dropping the slower-selling sedan version, as Asia’s largest automaker releases new models to regain lost sales.

The 2012 Yaris that goes on sale in October will be offered solely as three- and five-door “liftbacks” as the company sees limited demand for sedans smaller than its top-selling Corolla, Greg Thome, a spokesman for Toyota’s U.S. unit, said in an interview. Sales of the new model should average 2,000 units a month he said.

“With the last generation of Yaris, we’d expected about a 50-50 mix in sales of sedan versus the hatchback,” Thome said. “It was a lot lower than that.” Hatchback body styles are preferred by 70 percent of buyers in the segment, Toyota said in a statement.

Toyota is preparing to sell a revamped Camry sedan, Prius v wagon and Scion iQ minicar in the next two months, along with Yaris, to reverse a 7.1 percent U.S. sales slide through July. Yaris sales slid 50 percent to 13,080 in that period. The Toyota City, Japan-based company’s plants this month are returning to full production as it rebounds from parts shortages that arose from Japan’s record earthquake in March.

The new Yaris, priced from $14,115 for the base model to $17,200, competes with Ford Motor Co. (F)’s new Fiesta subcompact, Hyundai Motor Co.’s Accent, Nissan Motor Co.’s Versa and Honda Motor Co.’s Fit hatchback. Ford, Nissan and Hyundai continue to offer both hatch and sedan versions of their models.

The current sedan version of Yaris will continue to be sold as a fleet vehicle on a “year by year” basis, Thome said. Toyota’s U.S. sales unit is based in Torrance, California.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Ohnsman in Los Angeles at aohnsman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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