TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp on Monday said it was committed to the ailing U.S. sedan market and that it expected a new model of its Camry, the top-selling passenger car in the United States for decades, to help boost the company's sales in the segment.
The automaker said it was "inconceivable" that mid-size sedans would disappear from the market, and that any move by its rivals to stop selling what was once among the most popular vehicles would allow Toyota to boost its presence.
Cheap U.S. gasoline prices have prompted drivers to opt for larger SUVs and pick-up trucks. Automakers have been scrambling to meet this growing demand and, as a result, sedans have been losing their share of the U.S. market for new car sales - at 38 percent now versus around 44 percent in 2015.
"If other automakers left the sedan market to focus more on SUVs, that would be an opportunity to expand our market share of the segment," Camry's chief engineer, Masato Katsumata, said at the launch of the latest Camry model in Japan.
Sedans and smaller models are a key U.S. sales segment for Toyota. In the first half of 2017, they accounted for about 43.5 percent of Toyota's total sales, versus 48.6 percent a year ago.
Toyota is targeting monthly U.S. sales of 30,000 Camrys after the new model goes on sale in August.
In June, it sold 29,463 units of the current Camry model in the United States, down 9.5 percent from a year ago.
"Sedans are not a growth segment these days, but we want the new Camry to rehabilitate the segment," said Moritaka Yoshida, president of Toyota's in-house mid-size vehicle company.
Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Himani Sarkar