DETROIT -- Despite a still-wobbly U.S. economy, Toyota predicts U.S. auto sales will reach 13.6 million this year, 14.6 million in 2013 and 16 million by the middle of the decade.
Toyota's bullish outlook is based on a rapid growth of the driving population, an aging vehicle fleet, high used-car prices and increased availability of credit.
"Lots of Americans need to replace their cars soon," Bob Carter, Toyota Division general manager, said in a speech at the Automotive News World Congress.
The demographic pull of more young drivers will crank up the auto industry, which in turn will ignite the U.S. economy, Carter said.
Toyota, Lexus and Scion will introduce 19 new, redesigned or refreshed models this year.
"I've been with Toyota for 30 years," Carter said. "And I've never launched 19 vehicles in a single year."
Carter also teased the audience with hints about a new Toyota hybrid entry coming 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."