DETROIT -- After a tough two years of recalls and natural disasters, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. sees a resurgent 2012 and predicts things will only get better after that.
With a 13.6 million market in the cards this year, Toyota believes the industry will reach 14.6 million in 2013 and 16 million by the middle of the decade.
This is not wishful thinking. Despite a still-wobbly U.S. economy, numerous factors are contributing to Toyota's bullish outlook, Bob Carter, Toyota Division general manager, told the Automotive News World Congress today.
Among the factors:
- The U.S. has the third-fastest-growing population in the industrialized world, trailing only China and India.
- The average age of vehicles owned by U.S. consumers is at its highest in more than a decade.
- "Most of the cars operating today were purchased back when Bush was president …the first Bush. So, lots of Americans need to replace their cars soon," Carter said.
- Used-car prices are near all-time highs, meaning stepping-up to a new car instead of buying used requires a relatively small additional payment.
- Credit is once again available, with the Federal Reserve committed to holding down interest rates.
- Cars are more affordable than they were in the 1980s and 1990s. Carter said the redesigned 2012 Camry has the lowest inflation-adjusted price in its history.
- Nearly half of U.S. households surveyed said they intend to buy a new vehicle this year.
'A powerful engine'
Noting that only the Department of Defense and the Social Security Administration employ more Americans than the auto industry, with its $500 billion payroll, Carter said that a strong automotive industry "will act as a powerful engine that tugs the U.S. economy forward during the next few years."
How does Toyota look to fare in such an environment?
Toyota, Lexus and Scion will introduce 19 new, redesigned or significantly refreshed models this year, which will give it a dramatic marketing message and will help the automaker's U.S. sales to grow about 15 percent this year, with Toyota, Lexus and Scion sales reaching 1.9 million units.
"I'm talking about something for everyone: sports cars, compacts, SUVs, luxury sedans, hybrids and electric vehicles," Carter said.
Carter teased about a new Toyota hybrid entry coming later this year that has "more room than a BMW X5, is faster than a VW TDi, has higher MPG than a Fiat 500 and lavish features rarely found in near-luxury vehicles."
Not in 30 years
About 17 percent of those surveyed said they intend to buy a Toyota vehicle, higher than pre-recall-crisis numbers, he said. Carter cautioned that those numbers do not directly correlate to market share, but he is still optimistic.
"I've been with Toyota for 30 years," Carter said. "And I've never launched 19 vehicles in a single year."