Toyota sales rise 12% as inventories recover
Toyota Camry sales reached 34,542 in February, up 27 percent from a year ago.
LOS ANGELES -- With inventories recovering from last year's earthquake, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. reported a 12 percent increase in February sales, reaching 159,423 vehicles.
Toyota Division jumped 11 percent, while Lexus Division surged 21 percent. It was the fourth straight monthly gain for the automaker following six losses, and the biggest since February 2011.
Among volume models, leading the way for Toyota were its recently redesigned Camry, with a 27 percent increase, and the Prius family, with a 52 percent jump. Toyota's hybrid-vehicle volume was up 63 percent, reflecting consumer sensitivity to rapidly increasing gasoline prices, said Toyota Division General Manager Bob Carter.
"Camry outsold Chevy Silverado. That's not the first time that's happened, but it's an indication of where consumer mind-set is," Carter said. He added that the days supply of the Prius is in the mid-20s, but growing.
Although Corolla sales declined, it still sold more than 22,000 units. Corolla, RAV4 and Tacoma inventories are still recovering from post-quake levels compared with Camry and Prius, and sales reflected that, Carter said.
"Toward the end of month, we just got to 30 days' supply [of Corolla], but through March you will see us back toward the mid-40s," Carter said.
Toyota is not taking its foot off the gas. In March, Toyota Division will launch a national sales event, with 0 percent financing on Avalon, Tundra, Venza, RAV4, Highlander and Sienna, as well as lease deals across the board on "almost everything that's in our lineup," Carter said.
On the Lexus side, Toyota's luxury brand regained its footing somewhat, outselling the Mercedes-Benz brand for the month.
The redesigned GS sedan -- typically a back marker on the sales charts -- leaped to the third-most sales of any Lexus model. The volume-leading RX 350 crossover, though, continues to work against low inventories, with sales off nearly 12 percent from last February, but up 10 percent from January.
In an interview this week, Sonic Automotive President Scott Smith said his dealerships' Toyota inventories are "basically back," but Lexus is "really, really low."
"By the end of March, April, May, we should be in full swing with everybody but Lexus. We're really struggling on getting more and more Lexus inventory. Hopefully by midsummer, the Lexus inventory will be back up where it should be, and we can take advantage of that great brand as well," Smith said.
But Tim Morrison, vice president of sales and dealer development for Lexus Division, said that Lexus inventories already are strong.
He said dealer inventories were about 19,000 at the end of January, and are now about 23,000 units. Units in the pipeline, including those on the water from Japan, at port facilities or in transit to dealerships, were 28,510 at the end of January, and are now 32,189.
Morrison said that the unexpected success of its December Sales Event caught dealers off guard in January, but that inventory situation has been resolved.
"Wholesale is not an issue," Morrison said. "There is nothing in particular we are lacking."
Toyota-brand fleet sales were down from January, but still counted for 15 percent of total volume. That's higher than normal for Toyota, because of the automaker making good on fleet deliveries it delayed last year while getting retail sales back on track.
The fleet trend will continue in March, but Carter expects the overall fleet sales percentage to fall back below 10 percent soon.
Amy Wilson contributed to this report
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