Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. posted a 0.3 percent decline in May sales from a year earlier, as the continued strength of its light trucks failed to offset losses across nearly its entire car lineup.
The group’s three U.S. brands finished May with sales of 242,579 vehicles.
Toyota Division sales slipped 1 percent to 208,102 vehicles, hampered by weaker demand for the Camry and Prius. Only the subcompact Yaris -- benefiting from a midlife freshening for the 2015 model year -- posted a healthy gain, up 49 percent from a year earlier.
Yet light trucks carried their weight for Toyota Division, rising 15 percent to their best-ever May. Sales of the aging Sequoia full-size SUV rose 7.2 percent. The redesigned Highlander crossover was up 25 percent, the RAV4 up 23 percent, and even the Tacoma midsize pickup -- due for a replacement this year and facing new competition from General Motors -- was up 26 percent.
The Tacoma’s popularity had nothing to do with incentives, according to Paul Holdridge, vice president of sales for the Toyota Division. Toyota hasn’t used any on the Tacoma because buyers are the second most loyal within the Toyota brand, behind only the Prius, Holdridge said.
Even as the demand for light trucks was strong, Toyota is feeling the same inventory pinch as it did in April. At the beginning of the year, Toyota anticipated 54 percent of sales would be cars. The reality has been closer to 45 percent, Holdridge said.
“Quite frankly [light truck] inventory is going to be an issue over the summer,” Holdridge said. “We’ve got some challenges in keeping up with the industry, but we like where we’ll be at the end of the summer.”
Lexus had similar success with its light trucks, which posted a 23 percent gain and logged a May sales record. This was largely thanks to strong demand for Lexus’ new NX compact crossover, which sold 16,546 units this year through May.
The GX SUV was up 11 percent in May, while the soon-to-be-replaced RX crossover slid 16 percent and the full-size LX SUV fell 15 percent.
The truck results combined with a 0.3 percent increase in Lexus car sales to lift Lexus Division 10 percent for the month to 29,671 sales.
Sales at Scion remained bleak, dropping 22 percent from May 2014 to 4,806 vehicles. For the first five months of 2015, Scion sales are down 19 percent.
Toyota’s outlook for May’s seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales remained more conservative than forecasts from rivals such Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler. The Japanese automaker is estimating an annual selling rate of 17 million vehicles for May.