Lentz: Toyota Motor Sales' 2014 U.S. sales to rise by 100,000

A big rise in GDP, job growth and more new homes will paint a rosy picture for consumers in 2014 and should lead to increased household wealth, boosting Toyota sales, Toyota Motor Sales CEO Jim Lentz says.

DETROIT -- Toyota Motor Sales will boost 2014 U.S. deliveries by 100,000 units to 2.3 million light vehicles as the U.S. economy improves, CEO Jim Lentz pledged Sunday.

Industrywide auto sales will continue to improve in 2014, but will be driven more by broader gains in the U.S. economy and less by pent-up demand, Lentz told the Society of Automotive Analysts Outlook Conference.

U.S. economic growth is accelerating and might hit 3 percent for the full year, he said.

"A big boost in GDP, more jobs and more new homes paint a rosy picture for consumers in 2014 and should lead to increased household wealth," Lentz said.

Toyota Motor Sales deliveries of Toyota, Lexus and Scion models rose 7 percent in 2013 to 2.236 million units.

Lentz said Toyota Financial Services, the automaker's captive finance arm, is a strategic asset because its high credit rating allows it to borrow money cheaper than rivals.

"That allows our dealers to offer low interest rates, make more loans and offer more aggressive lease rates to attract new and younger customers," he said.

Toyota will offer a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle for sale in the United States by 2015, Lentz pledged.

"I'm convinced hydrogen is a fuel of the future," he said, noting it competes with a number of other advanced fuels. "The problem is that none of us know which technology consumers will embrace. So the prudent thing is you have to have your toe in the water in all technologies."

Lentz also vowed that Toyota would not merely meet tougher U.S. fuel-economy standards by the interim 2025 deadlines, but beat them.

"That won't be easy, but at Toyota ... we plan to exceed these new standards. And with our wide-ranging lineups and lead in hybrid vehicles … we think we're in the pole position on CAFE."

But there is a potential downside, he acknowledged.

"What I worry about is if I have [invested to take] a leadership position on fuel economy and I'm way ahead out there," Lentz said. "Then if gasoline prices stay flat or decline, that's a tough sale."

You can reach Jesse Snyder at jsnyder@crain.com -- Follow Jesse on Twitter: https://twitter.com/spartyjesse



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