Toyota extends rebound, remains No. 1 retail brand for 4th straight month
LOS ANGELES -- Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. continued its rebound from last year's earthquake-related inventory shortages as June sales surged 60 percent to 177,795 units.
The automaker's inventories were severely crimped by the March 2011 Japan earthquake, prompting big gains this year. May sales rose 87 percent.
Last month's results allowed Toyota to remain the industry's No. 1 retail brand for the fourth consecutive month.
Toyota's share of the U.S. market -- the Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands -- rose to 13.8 percent in June, up from 10.5 percent a year ago.
And for the year, Toyota's share has grown to 14.4 percent from 12.8 percent at the halfway mark of 2011.
For the first half, Toyota Division surpassed 1 million units sold, up nearly a quarter-million units, prompting Toyota Division general manager Bob Carter to unofficially predict that Toyota should pass the 2 million mark for the year. If that happens, it would be the first time since 2007.
"We expect the industry to keep [this] pace for the remainder of the year," Carter said, referring to Toyota's revised industry forecast of 14.3 million sales for calendar 2012.
"It's quite a jump from our 13.5 million forecast of just six months ago," Carter added. "We see pent-up demand and low interest rates continuing to drive people into showrooms."
The Camry mid-sized sedan once again was the industry's top-selling passenger car, extending its calendar-year lead over the Honda Civic to more than 51,000 units. Sales of the Corolla continue to improve with healthier inventories, but, said Carter, "We could have sold more if we had them at our dealerships."
Despite declining gasoline prices, the Prius lineup continued to surge forward, with the Prius C and Prius V bolstering sales of the Prius liftback. The Scion youth brand had its best month since August 2008, thanks mostly to the launch of the FR-S coupe.
Sales of Toyota's pickups and SUVs are recovering as lower gasoline prices prompt consumers to look at buying trucks again, Carter said.
Toyota Division fleet sales retreated to normal levels, the automaker said. After spending much of the first half filling fleet orders that were delayed in 2011 due to the earthquake, Toyota's fleet mix was just 9 percent in June, Carter said.
Lexus, Toyota's luxury brand, sold 20,022 units, up 86 percent, but it still trailed the Mercedes-Benz and BMW brands. The launches of the redesigned Lexus ES and GS sedans are going as planned, Lexus general manager Mark Templin said.
"The first six months are off to a great start, and Lexus dealers have great inventory," Templin said. He said leasing penetration is about 40 percent of Lexus sales.
Toyota has no plans to take its foot off the gas pedal.
Although Carter said Toyota incentive spending levels are "at the bottom of the industry … with Hyundai," Toyota will continue to offer leasing and APR deals through July on all core models.
Carter noted that incentives in the mid-sized sedan segment are up industrywide because three major competitors are in build-out mode.
"We have a lot of confidence going into the end of the year. What's a little unpredictable is that we anticipate some volatility in the market," Carter said. "The key element is consumer confidence. It is trending in the right direction, but there will be short-term increases and decreases. We can correlate it directly to showroom traffic."
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