Toyota Motor Corp.’s car-heavy lineup and struggling Lexus brand kept its U.S. auto sales in the red for a third consecutive month.
The Japanese automaker on Monday reported March sales of 215,224 cars and trucks, a 2.1 percent decline compared with a year ago. Its namesake brand declined 0.4 percent, while Lexus dropped 7.5 percent.
Jack Hollis, Toyota division general manager, predicted the industry “might see its first dip below a 17 million SAAR since June 2016, although it will likely be nearly flat to last March.”
Toyota’s car sales, including a small amount of Scion models, last month declined 7.4 percent, with Corolla dropping 4.4 percent and the top-selling Camry falling 3.6 percent to 35,648 units sold. Prius sales tumbled 19 percent to less than 10,000 units for a third consecutive month.
Double-digit increases for the Lexus LX, GX and NX and Toyota Highlander, 4Runner and RAV4 led the automaker’s light-truck sales to increase 5.6 percent in March. The Toyota brand, Hollis said, set a new light-truck record for the month and quarter.
Toyota’s overall sales for the first quarter were down 6.4 percent to 532,611 vehicles sold -- Toyota down 4 percent and Lexus sliding 17 percent. The company continues to sell off models from its discontinued Scion brand.
The company’s car sales were down 15 percent during the first three months of the year, while truck sales increased 2 percent.
Toyota has struggled to gain any significant sales momentum in the past two years, as consumer preference and cheap gasoline drive people into utility vehicles.
Since January 2016, the company has only reported positive monthly sales increases five times. Lexus, which is on a sixth-month sales decline, has only reported two positive months during that time period.
Lexus car sales last month dropped 28 percent to under 10,000 total units, while light-truck sales increased 9.5 percent to 18,145 units sold.
Every Lexus car experienced double-digit declines in March, including a 52 percent decline of the midsize GS and 48 percent drop of the compact RC coupe. Lexus light-truck sales were led by a 31 percent uptick of the midsize GX and a 24 percent increase of the compact NX.