LOS ANGELES — Toyota expects the U.S. auto industry in 2008 to maintain its expected 2007 sales level of 16.1 million units.
Despite flat industrywide sales, Toyota expects sales of the combined Toyota and Scion brands to increase 3 to 5 percent in 2008, said Bob Carter, Toyota Division general manager.
That would mean an increase of 60,000 to 100,000 sales next year.
A 16.1-million year would be the lowest sales performance since 1998, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
Holding Toyota back is that three of the automaker's strongest markets — Los Angeles, San Francisco and southern Florida — have been especially hard hit by the recent subprime mortgage mess, creating volatility in car sales. On the plus side, Texas and the Carolinas are "on fire," Carter said.
Toyota likely will have a slow first half of 2008 because its No. 2 volume car, the Corolla, will be in its buildout and launch phase. But the second half likely will see an overall resurgence in the market, plus a full availability of Corollas, which should spike Toyota sales, Carter said.
A full year of the Scion xB and xD likely will raise that brand's sales substantially, while Lexus sales likely will stay flat, said Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.
"Depending on whether we see a gasoline price spike, passenger cars could take off with incremental volume like we've seen with the last two spikes," Lentz said.
Lentz predicts oil prices likely will settle between $60 and $70 a barrel, after tickling $100 recently.