Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. recorded its first year-over-year sales decline since August with last month’s 7.3% slide.

While most auto makers posted gains in November, Toyota isn’t panicking because its retail deliveries rose, a top official says.

“What you’re seeing is the declines in our overall fleet volumes,” Bob Carter, Toyota Div. group vice president and general manager tells media today during a conference call. “When we look at the incentives available to fleet consumers, we have just chosen not to participate at those levels.”

Carter says Toyota sold 6,900 units to fleets last month, compared with about 15,000 in like-2009. But retail deliveries jumped 5,000 units to 105,000.

Car sales continued to lag for the auto maker, as Toyota- and Lexus-brand cars suffered declines of 23.4% and 12.4%, respectively, according to Ward’s data.

All Lexus cars were in negative territory, with the slow-selling V-8-powered GS 460 plunging furthest – down 78.7% from year-ago.

With the exception of the new Avalon large sedan and Prius hybrid, all Toyota cars slumped last month. The Matrix compact hatchback took the biggest tumble, down 51.6% from like-2009.

The Camry continues to be the best-selling passenger car in the U.S., although Carter admits segment competition is fierce.

Things were rosier on the light-truck side, with both Lexus and Toyota posting increases.

The new Lexus GX 470 SUV saw a hefty 531% jump on 1,376 units sold.

Another big SUV, the 4Runner, was the Toyota brand’s biggest gaining light-truck, up 130.5% over year-ago.

For the Scion brand, whose sales are recorded under Toyota-brand cars, the next-generation tC gave the youth marque its only increase, up 79.2%.

Scion’s boxy xB and xD models, although down, suffered lesser drops than in recent months, off 3.3% and 5.6%, respectively.

Both Carter and Brian Smith, Lexus vice president sales and dealer development, note higher trim levels are dominating light-truck sales.

“Not only is there a shift to SUVs, but a shift to highly equipped SUVs,” Carter says.

Meanwhile, Smith expects Lexus to snag the No.1-selling luxury brand crown for the 11th straight year, unless “commercial van” sales are tallied, he says, in a dig at competitor Mercedes-Benz.

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, an incremental product for the ’10 model year, has occasionally boosted the tri-star brand’s numbers above Lexus this year.

Through November, Toyota’s sales are flat vs. like-2009, up just 0.2% to 1.586 million units.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com