Toyota sales jump 15% on strong fleet, retail volume
March proved a strong month for the Prius hybrid lineup: 28,711 collectively for the Prius, Prius V, Prius C and Plug-In Prius, a 54 percent increase.
LOS ANGELES -- Toyota Motor Corp.'s U.S. sales rose 15 percent in March, aided by strong retail volume and higher-than-usual fleet demand.
It was Toyota's biggest percentage sales gain since February 2011.
With combined Toyota, Lexus and Scion sales volume of 203,282 units, "You have to go to March 2008 to find a better month (for Toyota), with the exception of Cash for Clunkers," said Jeff Bracken, vice president of Toyota Division sales.
Fleet sales represented about 13.5 percent of Toyota Motor Sales' volume last month. The Camry had a 20 percent fleet mix.
Last year, hobbled by inventory shortages after the March earthquake in Japan, Toyota asked fleet customers to wait until stockpiles recovered to place bulk orders. Bracken said fleet sales will taper off in May and finish 2012 at around 10 percent, slightly higher than normal.
March was also a strong month for the Prius hybrid lineup: 28,711 collectively for the Prius, Prius V, Prius C and Plug-In Prius, a 54 percent increase.
RAV4 sales finally showed signs of recovery, up 8 percent last month. The compact crossover was the last of Toyota's models to have its post-quake supplier base come back to full capacity.
While Prius demand climbed, Toyota said combined Corolla and Matrix sales dropped 6 percent despite a rise in gasoline prices that has helped increase demand for smaller vehicles industrywide. By focusing on the Camry launch, Toyota has not been emphasizing Corolla in either advertising or incentives.
Toyota said today it will attempt to maintain momentum by continuing its spring sales event into April. The program features 0 percent financing on six models, as well as special regional lease rates.
On the Lexus side, inventories have finally recovered to levels where dealers have some flexibility, said Mark Templin, Lexus Division general manager.
"Overall, our availability is very good now. We're back in the ballpark we want," Templin said on a conference call. Still, Lexus sales fell 3 percent for the month and are now up 4 percent for the year.
Sales of the volume-leading RX 350 fell 18 percent. Templin said that the crossover is in the midst of a buildout of the current generation
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