Toyota rides truck wave to 6% gain

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. posted record SUV sales in August, including a 52 percent increase in RAV4 deliveries.

The gains helped Toyota achieve a better-than-expected increase of 6 percent and outsell Ford Motor Co. to rank as the nation’s No. 2 automaker for the month.

“Labor Day weekend turned out to be the best sales weekend so far this year,” Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager, said on a conference call, “with some of our sales areas having their best weekend ever.”

In the Toyota brand, SUV sales rose 31 percent, while car volume fell 1 percent. The RAV4 was Toyota’s second most-popular nameplate behind the Camry, outselling the Corolla -- for the first time ever -- by more than 2,500 units.

The shift comes as sedans lose favor to crossovers and SUVs across the industry, though Fay said he doesn’t expect the Corolla to land in third place on a regular basis just yet.

“There’s an evolution going on in the marketplace which we’ve been able to take advantage of through RAV,” he said. “For the first time in a while, we’re able to really see what the RAV can do with enough inventory.”

Overall, Toyota Motor Sales’ light-truck sales jumped 16 percent in August.

Sales rose 7 percent for the Toyota brand and 10 percent for Lexus. August marked the 11th consecutive month of year-over-year gains for Lexus.

“Every area of the country recorded a best-ever August for Lexus in both new and pre-owned,” said Jeff Bracken, Lexus group vice president and general manager.

Lexus posted gains across most of its lineup, while the Toyota division was more mixed. Besides the Corolla, up 23 percent, and Avalon, up 13 percent, sales declined for all other Toyota and Scion car nameplates.

On the SUV side, the RAV4, FJ Cruiser and 4Runner each notched increases of more than 40 percent. Toyota said it expects its fourth-quarter production to reach the highest level in 7 years. It’s about to start building the freshened 2015 Camry and said dealers should start receiving them by the end of the month.

Camry sales slipped nearly 2 percent in August to 44,043 units, finishing second among midsize cars behind the Honda Accord. For all of 2014, the Camry is still about 35,000 units ahead of the Accord in its quest to remain the nation’s top-selling car for a 13th year in a row.

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