Toyota sales rise 5% on strength of Camry

UPDATED: 4/1/14 3:52 pm ET

LOS ANGELES -- Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.’s March sales increased 5 percent to 215,348 units. It was Toyota’s best March since 2008, and gave Toyota a claim to being the best-selling retail automaker in retail-only sales for the month.

Sales at Toyota Division, which includes sales of Scion vehicles, increased 3 percent to 186,755. Lexus sales jumped 23 percent to 28,593.

A big push for Camry sent sales up 11 percent to nearly 42,000, but the big month for Camry may have come at the expense of Toyota’s other car lines. Corolla sales fell 6 percent, while the Yaris, Prius and Avalon showed double-digit percentage declines. Scion sales as a group slipped 8 percent.

The slow pace of the trailing six months of sales showed that, despite the year-over-year decreases, March was the biggest month for Corolla and Toyota’s collective hybrid nameplates since August.

Crossovers lead

On the truck side, recently redesigned crossovers led the way, with Highlander up 14 percent, RAV4 up 20 percent and 4Runner up 53 percent. The Tundra full-sized pickup had its best month in nearly six years, up 25 percent.

“Any time we’re selling around 30,000 Corollas is really strong. Overall the market has swung a bit more to light trucks, and SUVs are leading the market,” said Bill Fay, Toyota Division general manager. “We’re positioned well, not only from an inventory standpoint, but also with a couple cars leading their segments. And with the hybrid segment looking to pick up in the second quarter, Prius will benefit from that.”

Toyota fleet sales in March were 21,063, or 10 percent of total, down from 25,076 last year.

Incentive outlook

Fay said he doesn’t expect Toyota incentive spending to increase much in April.

In April, "We’ll be looking to build on the momentum of the last couple weeks of March. We’re looking to capture delayed purchases from the last couple months,” Fay said.

“Our March incentives were down a little bit from February, and the industry’s were off a couple bucks, too. It looks like it’s plateaued out a little bit. I don’t see a whole lot changing in February, March and April, in terms of incentives,” he added.

On the Lexus side, the volume-leading RX crossover gained momentum with a 10 percent increase to nearly 10,000.

The IS and GS sedans showed renewed vitality, with big percentage gains, making them solid followers to the ES sedan, which was flat for the month. One intriguing regional anomaly: Lexus dealers in the New York metro area had their best month in the 25-year history of the brand.

You can reach Mark Rechtin at -- Follow Mark on Twitter: @markrechtin

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