NEW YORK -- Perhaps seeing some light at the end of the tunnel, Toyota expects March sales to be up 30 to 35 percent over year-ago figures, outpacing industry gains, its top U.S. executive said today.
Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., said the “biggest surprise has been the RAV4,” which saw sales surge to an expected 22,000 units in March, far above the crossover’s typical sales. Lentz theorized that perhaps RAV4 incentives were a bit high.
While both car and truck sales have risen, “it’s really light trucks that are driving the business,” Lentz told journalists gathered outside the NADA/IHS Global Insight Forum here.
Lentz said he thinks the worst may be over in the crisis surrounding claims of unintended acceleration of Toyota vehicles.
“It’s a matter of time. The dealers are doing a great job taking care of customers with their existing cars,” he said. “That’s where you start to rebuild the brand.
“Our loyal customers are coming back. The challenge is going to be attracting conquest buyers. They are going to come back. It will not be weeks. It will be measured in months, hopefully not years.”
To date, Toyota’s U.S. dealers have made recall-related repairs to 1.7 million vehicles, Lentz said. Toyota has recalled about 8.5 million vehicles globally in recent months.