Weather and a seasonal 20% drop in fleet sales hampered’s February results, say company officials.
The automaker sold 159,284 units in the U.S. last month, down 4.3% from like-2013. There were the same number of sales days in both February 2013 and February 2014.
“The unusually harsh winter…certainly had an impact on auto sales in February,” Bill Fay, group vice president-Div., tells media in a conference call. “We’ve had some disruptions in production and rail service,” particularly in Canada, he says.
As has been the case for months, Toyota-brand cars slumped while light trucks rose.
Nearly every Toyota car nameplate was in the red last month, including the Prius, whose liftback and V wagon variants lost 34.6% of their February 2013 volume, with 9,139 units sold.
Sales of the subcompact Prius C also fell, down 14.8%. Only the low-volume Prius plug-in hybrid gained momentum, up 50.2% to 1,041 units.
Fay says green cars in general have been off this year, but the Prius likely also is suffering from advanced age, as the liftback, which accounted for three-quarters of the 9,139 deliveries, is 5 years old. There are also more competitors to the Prius.
Other Toyota cars declining in February included both gasoline-only and hybrid variants of the Camry and Avalon.
The Camry was bested as the top-selling midsize car in the U.S. in February by the Altima, but Fay isn’t shaken, pointing to increased incentives and fleet sales for the.
A general sluggishness in the midsize segment should recede once better weather takes hold, he predicts, although Toyota will monitor competitors’ deals and adjust incentives if necessary.
While the Corolla rose just 2.3%, it was the compact-car leader last month and had its best February since 2007, Fay says.
Toyota light trucks were up 3.5%, thanks partially to all-time record February tallies for the RAV4 compact CUV and Highlander midsize CUV.
RAV4 deliveries of 16,350 units were 23.2% higher than year-ago, while Highlander sales spiked 34.7% to 11,947.
At Lexus, cars outperformed light trucks, up 19.3% vs. a decline of 3.9%, driving overall sales for the luxury brand up 8.7% to 18,855 units.
The Lexus GS 350 and IS lineup were particularly strong, offsetting unusual declines in the ES series.
The RX also posted a rare drop, the CUV’s first since May 2013, WardsAuto data shows. The RX 350 fell 18.1% and the RX 450h 17.9%.
Scion’s long slide shows no signs of abating, as the youth brand again was in the red, down 10.4% last month.
The tC coupe was the volume leader and rose 9.6%; the xD subcompact also realized a gain. Sales of the rear-wheel-drive FR-S sports car fell 24.0% to 1,040 units.
Toyota this month launches its first national marketing campaign of 2014, “#1 for Everyone,” featuring low interest and lease payments on popular models.
Fay says a new 24-month lease, launched in January, is proving popular in certain U.S. regions and will continue into this month.
He says Toyota is sticking with its 2014 U.S. light-vehicle forecast of 16 million units and still expects the No.1 Japanese automaker to outperform the overall industry for the year.