RAV4, 4Runner and luxe trucks lift Toyota

At Lexus, U.S. demand for the RX crossover rose 17 percent to 6,569 last month. Photo credit: DAVID PHILLIPS

Toyota had a good January without trucks.

Include them and it was a blockbuster.

Toyota’s U.S. sales rose 16 percent in January to 169,194 units, led by luxury crossovers and SUVs from Lexus, as low gasoline prices tilted the marketplace back in the direction of larger, less thrifty vehicles.

Lexus sold 2,812 units of the new NX compact crossover on its way to a 31 percent sales increase -- the best result in January for any vehicle brand but Mitsubishi.

At the namesake Toyota brand, sales of the RAV4 crossover increased 17 percent to 19,824 and deliveries of the 4Runner surged a whopping 76 percent to 6,945.

Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager for the Toyota division, told reporters that Toyota will respond to truck demand by adding capacity for the Tacoma midsize pickup at its Baja California assembly plant in Mexico in April.

He said the company is also investing in both of its production lines at its Princeton, Ind., assembly plant to build more Highlander midsize crossovers.

“We have been working hand-in-hand with the manufacturing side to really react to where the market is,” Fay told reporters.

Overall sales for the Toyota division, which includes the Scion subbrand, rose 14 percent to 146,063 units. Scion sales fell 8 percent to 3,690 units.

“There’s still a very strong market for cars,” Fay said, pointing to January sales of the Camry, which rose 15 percent to 26,763 units, and sales of the Corolla compact sedan, which rose 20 percent to 27,357. “Even our hybrids did very well year-over-year. So I think the market’s strong and it’s broad-based ... but we do anticipate that light trucks will continue to lead the growth as it did in 2014.”

You can reach Gabe Nelson at gnelson@crain.com

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