DALLAS -- Toyota's double-digit sales jump in January is not sustainable over the long term, but it does mark a trend toward a heavier mix of light trucks that will boost the brand in the coming year, executives say.
The automaker is finally seeing its inventory better reflect U.S. tastes toward crossovers, pickups and SUVs and away from the sensible sedans that made it an American favorite.
"I think the primary reason for such a strong January and such a strong start is similar to what it was in December: Our production and inventory is coming more in line with the entire industry," Jack Hollis, Toyota general manager, told Automotive News. "Do I think it's sustainable at 14.5 percent market share and 17 percent year-on-year growth every month? No," he said.
Over the past four months, U.S. buyers have been trending toward light trucks over cars at about a 64-36 percent split, but Toyota's mix was closer to 58-42, Hollis said.
In January, the brand cracked the 60 percent mark for light-truck sales, and that continues to improve. "As we see that, we are gaining more of what the industry is selling," he said. The RAV4 was the nation's best-selling crossover last year, eclipsed only by pickup trucks.
Lexus' sales mix has hit about 70 percent light trucks on improving inventory, said Jeff Bracken, general manager for the brand.
Both Toyota and Lexus posted record deliveries of light trucks in January, with the Toyota Tacoma pickup surging 34 percent and the Lexus NX crossover up 42 percent compared with January 2017.