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Toyota posts gain, needs more trucks

Toyota plans to adjust production ahead of the summer selling season to increase U.S. supplies of crossovers and other light trucks.

Toyota Motor Sales USA recorded a 1.8 percent increase in U.S. sales last month as strong demand for light trucks offset slipping car sales.

Toyota Division sales rose 1.2 percent to 173,144. Toyota-brand car sales fell 5.5 percent, blunting a 9.6 percent rise in light truck volume. Through the first four months of 2015, Toyota Division sales totaled 659,606 units, up 7.7 percent.

The RAV4 compact and Highlander midsize crossovers each posted their best April sales on record, rising 21.7 percent and 10 percent, respectively, while 4Runner volume jumped 18 percent. Toyota pickups also saw strong demand, with sales of the full-size Tundra rising 4.5 percent and the Tacoma midsize truck gaining 13 percent.

Toyota could have posted even higher sales of those truck models if the company wasn’t stymied by lean inventories, which is prompting Toyota to adjust its production mix ahead of the summer selling season, said Bill Fay, Toyota Division general manager.

“Although we had a great light-truck sales month, we probably ran a little bit tight on inventory on a few products there which probably had some impact,” Fay said during a conference call. “We’ve gone out and looked at the next three to six months and are working with our manufacturing side to kind of tweak that production mix and fill in that balance so we’ve got some more light trucks to sell over the next couple of months.”

‘Toyota time’

Toyota will kick off its “Toyota Time” national advertising campaign this month, its second national campaign of the year, with low interest rate and lease deals that vary by region on a variety of nameplates, Fay said. The Camry midsize sedan and Prius hybrid will be added to its current crop of vehicles carrying 0 percent financing for 60 months, Fay said.

Both nameplates posted sales declines last month, with Camry volume falling 10 percent and Prius continuing its downward trend with a 15 percent drop.

U.S. consumers continue to migrate toward SUVs, crossovers and pickups amid low gasoline prices.

Toyota passenger car sales suffered broadly, with only the Corolla, Yaris and Scion tC posting gains last month. Scion sales fell by a combined 20 percent.

Lexus trucks buck RX

Lexus sold 25,876 units last month, up 12 percent. Year-to-date Lexus deliveries are up 17 percent to 103,056, putting it in third place in the luxury sales race behind leader Mercedes-Benz and BMW in second place through the first four months of 2015.

The new NX small crossover drove a 24 percent jump in light truck sales by adding 3,421 units of incremental volume to the luxury division’s tally. The NX helped offset a 16 percent drop in Lexus’ RX crossover demand, the brand’s top-selling model, yet it also contributed to the RX’s decline.

“We have seen some impact by NX, a little bit of cannibalization,” Jeff Bracken, general manager of the Lexus Division, said on a conference call.

Bracken said Lexus also moved advertising dollars away from the RX to support IS and GS sedan sales, and early April RX demand was limited by the debut of the redesigned RX crossover at the New York auto show.

You can reach Ryan Beene at autonews@crain.com

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