’s U.S. sales continue to bounce back, climbing 8.7% in February, compared with year-ago, on a daily-rate basis.
All threebrands enjoyed increases, and most model lines posted gains.
“The stability we saw in February in the face of a number of challenges is an indication of the overall strength of the market as we head into the spring selling season,” Toyota Div. Group Vice President Bill Fay tells media in a conference call to discuss sales results.
The Toyota Avalon large sedan recorded its best month since November 2007, the auto maker says, with deliveries up 29.3% to 4,342 units, compared with prior-year, WardsAuto data shows.
Combined sales of the Prius range fell 9.9% in the month to 17,812 units, with the liftback and V wagon models down a combined 29.3%. The Prius plug-in’s 693 deliveries and the subcompact Prius C’s 3,148 units were not enough to push the nameplate above last year.
Fay blames the Prius decline on the lack of advertising for the cars, compared with last year when Toyota conducted a wide campaign promoting the family of hybrids.
Sales of the standard Camry slid 8.3%, but the hybrid model rose 15.2% from prior-year. Fay says he is comfortable with Camry sales, nevertheless. However, he says ad campaigns for newer competitors, such as theAccord and Fusion, no doubt are luring some midsize-sedan customers elsewhere.
February joined January as a strong month for Toyota light trucks. All models but the Highlander Hybrid, down 3.1%, posted gains. The new RAV4 cross/utility vehicle sold 13,277 units in the month, plus 52 RAV4 electric models in California, the only U.S. state to retail the CUV. Tundra pickup deliveries climbed 20.3%, and Venza CUV sales spiked 46.1%.
The FR-S solely was responsible for the Scion brand’s 6.5% gain on year-ago, tallying 1,369 deliveries in February. However, it was the car’s poorest result since November and was nearly half the record 2,684 units sold last June. Fay says the traditional winter slump is to blame, and Toyota currently is ramping up FR-S production in anticipation of better spring sales.
The Scion iQ suffered the biggest decline among the remaining Scion models, with deliveries plunging 60.1%.
Lexus Div. sales rose 8.3% in the month. Demand for the new ES remained strong, up 27.3%, while LS sales surged 58.9%.
Most other Lexus cars saw results fell, including the GS 350, whose year-ago sales were halved, and the CT 200h hybrid, tumbling 25.0% from like-2012. Deliveries of Lexus’ perennial best-seller, the RX CUV, jumped 29.7%, although the hybrid RX slipped 4.7%.
Tim Morrison, Lexus vice president-sales, says the brand officially has sold out of the discontinued HS hybrid sedan in the U.S., and no deliveries were recorded in February. The car still is available overseas.
Toyota’s fleet percentage in February once again was higher than normal, with 14.3% of total deliveries. Fay says the first quarter is a “big fleet quarter,” while second- and third-quarter sales should retreat to their traditional 8%-10% levels.
Toyota begins its first national marketing campaign of 2013 in March, “No.1 for Everyone,” that features attractive lease deals and financing on most core Toyota models, Fay says.
“We’re very encouraged that March is usually one of the best months of the year, and we intend to keep that momentum going,” he says, adding that auto sales seem impervious at this point to fallout from Washington’s budget cutbacks.