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Toyota trucks carry load amid wait for '15 Camry

Booming crossover and SUV sales helped Toyota Division eke out its seventh straight monthly sales gain last month, while Lexus continued to gain ground on its luxury rivals. 

Toyota Division sales, including Scion, totaled 145,427 vehicles in September, up about 500 from a year earlier. A 17 percent rise in crossover, SUV and pickup sales offset a 12 percent drop in car sales.

“September was another big month for compact SUVs and crossovers,” Bill Fay, Toyota Division general manager, said in a conference call.

RAV4 compact crossover sales continued their hot streak by rising 43 percent, while the Highlander gained 22 percent and 4Runner sales jumped 76 percent.

High-volume Toyota cars, meanwhile, posted declines. Corolla sales fell 12 percent, Prius hybrids fell 10 percent, and Toyota’s top-selling Camry midsize sedan slipped 11 percent before the arrival of a refreshed 2015 model.

Light truck demand stoked much of the overall U.S. industry’s performance last month, with the seasonally adjusted annualized rate hitting 16.4 million units. Fay said he expects the industry’s momentum to continue through the end of the year.

“As we move into the fourth quarter the industry is right on pace to hit the 16.3 million sales total we forecasted earlier this year, and it could even go a little higher,” Fay said.

Lexus Division posted a 12 percent gain, thanks to a 7 percent rise in truck sales and a 16 percent gain for cars. The redesigned IS compact sedan had a 13 percent gain.

Through September, Lexus trails luxury-brand leader Mercedes by about 13,000 sales. A year ago, the gap was closer to 24,000. Lexus held the title from 2000 through 2010 before being overtaken by Mercedes as well as BMW.

Combined Toyota, Scion and Lexus sales totaled 167,279 vehicles last month, for a 2 percent increase overall. Through nine months, Toyota Motor Sales has sold 1.79 million vehicles. The 6 percent increase for the year matches the industry’s advance.

Gearing up for 'Launch mode'

The Camry’s 11 percent decline came amid a sharp reduction in fleet sales and the transition to the revamped 2015 model.

Fay said during the call that the 2015 Camry is beginning to arrive in dealerships and the sedan’s marketing launch is kicking off this week, noting that the launch would be supported “at the same level we would as full model change.”

After posting 12-straight months of increasing sales, Lexus is preparing to launch two new models in the fourth quarter. The Lexus RC coupe hits showrooms in late November, and the new NX subcompact crossover is slated to arrive in dealerships by year’s end. 

You can reach Ryan Beene at autonews@crain.com

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