Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) is revamping the Highlander sport-utility vehicle, turning the car-based crossover into a more wagon-like model as the carmaker seeks to keep its U.S. sales rising for a third consecutive year.
The third-generation Highlander, unveiled today at the New York International Auto Show, is lower, longer and wider than the model it replaces early next year, the company said today in a statement. The three-row vehicle will be able to carry as many as eight people and comes with a four- or six-cylinder gasoline engine or a V-6 hybrid, Toyota said.
The redesign gives the 2014 Highlander a “sleeker,” more “sophisticated” appearance and a new six-speed transmission aids performance and fuel efficiency, the Toyota City, Japan- based company said in the statement today. Interior enhancements include stitched seats and a soft-touch dashboard.
Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, expects U.S. auto demand to reach 15.3 million cars and light trucks this year, about 5.5 percent more than in 2012. While the company plans to lead car sales for a 12th consecutive year with its Camry sedan, the current Highlander trails competing midsize car-based crossovers including Ford Motor Co. (F)’s Explorer and Edge models, and General Motors Co. (GM)’s Equinox.
The company didn’t immediately provide pricing and volume goals for the new Highlander that will be built solely at its Princeton, Indiana, plant. Sales of the model this year through February rose 21 percent to 18,141.
By comparison, Ford boosted Explorer sales 60 percent to 32,598 and Edge sales rose 2.4 percent to 19,297, according to Autodata Corp. Equinox deliveries grew 20 percent through February to 37,872.
Toyota’s U.S. sales unit is based in Torrance, California.
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