Crossovers, trucks juice Toyota's Feb. gains
LOS ANGELES -- Toyota Motor Sales posted a 4 percent sales gain in February, to 166,377 units, with big gains in crossover and truck sales countering declining volumes for Camry and Prius.
"The industry charged through a lot of headwinds in February," said Toyota Division General Manager Bill Fay. "Despite the challenges, February was an indicator of the overall strength of the market."
The Toyota division sold 149,038 units, including 5,052 Scion models. Toyota reported best-ever February sales of the RAV4, and the best February since 2008 for the Tacoma pickup as truck buyers "are really coming back to the market," Fay said.
It was the "steady consistent performance" of crossovers and SUVs that paced Toyota's gains, Fay said.
Because Toyota emphasized its marketing support for the redesigned RAV4 and Avalon, and turned attention away from Prius, sales of the Prius family fell 14 percent despite rising gasoline prices.
"It's somewhat a product of how our products are rolled out. We are still very much bullish on the Prius family and expect continued growth," Fay said.
The redesigned Avalon appears to be off to a strong start -- despite traditional weakness in the full-sized sedan segment -- with sales up 63 percent to 5,703, the nameplate's best month in five years.
Fleet sales accounted for 14 percent of Toyota Motor Sales' volume, "pretty much in line with last February," Fay said. Toyota's first-quarter fleet sales typically are higher, then fall sharply in the spring and summer.
In addition to continuing the Avalon and RAV4 launch campaigns, Toyota will kick off its first 2013 retail sales event in March with the slogan: "No. 1 for Everyone." The campaign will include low financing and lease rates on all volume and core models, Fay said.
Fay doesn't think the U.S. government's sequester cuts will affect March sales.
"It hasn't impacted how consumers are coming to market to buy automobiles," he said.
As for Scion, after a hot launch, sales of the FR-S coupe cooled significantly in February -- typical for a sporty coupe in winter. Fay expects inventories and sales to rebound in spring. Not counting the FR-S boost, Scion sales overall dipped 25 percent for the month.
On the Lexus side, overall sales gained 4 percent to 17,339 units.
A 61 percent advance for the ES sedan offset a sharply lower month for the IS and GS sedans. The RX 350's new body styling helped it maintain its volume-leader position with a 20 percent increase.
Similar to Toyota, Lexus will have a March sales event, titled "Command Performance," focusing on the IS, ES and GS sedans and with lease support across the lineup.
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