Lexus' record month helps Toyota to 13% gain

Annual U.S. sales at Lexus closed above 300,000 units for the first time since 2007. Photo credit: DAVID PHILLIPS

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. said sales rose 13 percent to 215,057 units last month, as the automaker’s light trucks set a December record, the Lexus division posted its best month ever and demand for the Corolla compact surged 34 percent.

Toyota Division sales, excluding Scion, reached 171,361 units in December, up 13 percent. The 25-year-old Lexus brand, which has been rapidly closing the gap with luxury leaders BMW and Mercedes Benz, gained 15 percent to 39,879 vehicles, pushing its full-year total above 300,000 units for the first time since 2007. December sales for the Scion brand fell 12 percent to 3,817 units.

Full-year combined sales for Toyota, Lexus and Scion rose 6 percent in 2014 to 2,373,771 units, with Lexus providing a 14 percent jolt and finishing at 311,389 units.

Lexus’ RX crossover, its top seller by far, helped drive the luxury brand’s growth, rising 3 percent to sell more than 13,500 units in December. The IS compact sedan and GX SUV also posted gains.

“Setting a best-ever, any month sales record in December was a great way to cap our 25th anniversary year,” said Jeff Bracken, general manager of Lexus. “Along with an improving economy and expanding luxury market, it sets the stage for what could be a record year for Lexus dealers in 2015.”

The Camry held its mantle as the No. 1 selling car for the 13th consecutive year, riding a 5 percent gain for December and the year. The Corolla compact zoomed up 34 percent in December to 30,125 units, finishing the year with a 12 percent rise to 339,498.

Demand for light trucks was another bright spot for Toyota. The RAV4 and Highlander SUVs each set sales records for December and the year.

Sales for the Tacoma midsize pickup truck rose 12 percent in December, to 14,284 units, while sales for the larger Tundra fell 4 percent to 10,519 units. Both pickup segments are seeing intensified competition from Detroit 3 brands.

Meanwhile, Toyota’s lineup of Prius hybrids dropped 8 percent in December and finished the year down 11 percent amid a sharp decline in gasoline prices.

“The industry finished last year on a high note thanks to a strong economic tailwind,” said Bill Fay, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager. “That momentum should continue in 2015 and combined with continued strong replacement demand, boost sales further.”

You can reach Jaclyn Trop at jtrop@crain.com -- Follow Jaclyn on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jaclyntrop

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