Toyota Camry poised to retain No. 1 car crown

With a month to go in 2013, the Camry has locked up first place for a 12th consecutive year, but its dominance in the mid-sized segment is shrinking even as the automaker dangles bigger-than-usual discounts to lure buyers.
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Halfway through the year, executives from Toyota Motor Sales USA said they would do whatever it takes to ensure the Camry remains America's best-selling car amid its toughest competition in years.

With a month to go in 2013, the Camry has locked up first place for a 12th consecutive year, but its dominance in the mid-sized segment is shrinking even as the automaker dangles bigger-than-usual discounts to lure buyers.

Toyota sold 30,386 Camrys in November, raising its total for the year to 378,520 units, or 44,163 more than the Honda Accord. The Camry led the Accord by 71,035 at this time last year.

Ford officials cited Toyota as being particularly aggressive on incentives in the mid-sized segment last month, but Toyota said its offers were largely unchanged.

"Pretty much consistent to what we've been doing all year. We didn't do anything out of the ordinary," Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president, said during a conference call Tuesday. "We continue to look at incentives as very tactical. We kind of regionalize our incentive approach so we can maximize the efficiency of those."

Toyota said about a quarter of its November volume occurred in the last four days of the month. It said sales over the long Thanksgiving weekend increased significantly from a year ago; including a 35 percent surge for the Lexus brand during that period.

Sales rose 10 percent for the Toyota Motor Corp. and for the Toyota division last month. Lexus sales increased 13 percent. The company said it made more retail sales than all other automakers and that the Toyota division was the month's top retail brand, with fleet accounting for 6 percent of sales.

"Industry sales in November picked up after Thanksgiving, contributing to the best sales pace of the year," Fay said in a statement. "Showroom traffic surged over the holiday weekend for Toyota, indicating good momentum that we expect to continue through the end of the year and into 2014."

December is another month in which sales heavily depend on a holiday period. That is especially the case for Toyota, which runs its annual Toyotathon sale event and Lexus's well-known "December to Remember" ad campaign.

Fay said he expects about half of Toyota's December sales volume to occur in the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.

Sales more than quadrupled for Toyota's full-sized Avalon sedan, marking its ninth consecutive triple-digit gain, and RAV4 sales jumped 57 percent. But sales declined for the Prius, every Scion nameplate and the newly redesigned Corolla.

You can reach Nick Bunkley at nbunkley@crain.com. -- Follow Nick on Twitter


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