Hot January torpedoes Toyota's sales forecast
Bill Fay: January sales rose 26 percent above the January 2012 level, making Toyota's previous 2013 forecast of 1.86 million sales seem low. He said a new full-year forecast is likely in March.
ORLANDO -- Toyota is recalculating its projected U.S. sales gain for 2013 after getting off to a fast start for the year.
Initially Toyota had predicted sales would rise by 100,000 units, after a 26 percent gain to 1,764,833 last year. But the brand reached nearly one-third of that targeted increase in January alone as sales rose 26 percent over January 2012. Bill Fay, Toyota Division general manager, said the revised forecast likely will come in early March.
A bevy of new products will help. Toyota told dealers at the make meeting that it will launch seven new or redesigned products in 2013.
Hanging on to existing owners remains a priority. The first customers who experienced two years of Toyota Care -- routine maintenance included in the purchase price -- are now emerging from the program, so Toyota is launching service-retention programs to keep customers coming back to dealerships to pay for service themselves.
"There's a big emphasis on not losing customers at 25,000 miles," said dealer council chairman Jay Caldwell, general manager of Caldwell Toyota in Conway, Ark. ToyotaCare will get its own marketing push this year, he added.
Fay said 2012 marked Toyota's second-best year in terms of average profit per dealer. He expressed confidence that dealers could top that number this year.
"Our inventories are in good shape for the first half of 2013," he said. "We are well-positioned. We are building to a higher industry."
Among the new products coming is the redesigned 2014 Corolla. Toyota showed pictures of the production version to dealers. The public has only seen the Furia concept at the Detroit auto show in January.
Caldwell said the production Corolla design is similar to the Furia, describing it as "an exciting, fun car."
Now that times are better, Toyota is renewing its gentle push for nonconforming dealers to improve their facilities to Image USA II standards.
Out of about 1,200 dealers, Toyota had more than 650 Image USA II completions at the end of 2012, with another 120 planned for completion in 2013 and "many more in planning phase," said Ernest Bastien, Toyota's vice president of retail market development.
Overall, dealers had few issues.
"Whatever concerns that dealers bring up, Toyota always seems to be already on it," said Dave Conant, CEO of Conant Auto Retail Group, based in Cerritos, Calif. "Most of us are content to sit back, let Toyota do its thing, and we participate."
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