Toyota’s midsize sedan, compact CUV and fullsize pickup each saw sales spike last month, giving the automaker its best March by volume since 2008.

A reprieve from Mother Nature also helped.

“The industry began to emerge from one of the harshest winters on record with a really solid sales month in March,” Bill Fay, group vice president-Toyota Div. tells the media in a conference call.

Toyota, Lexus and Scion sales collectively rose 8.9% on a daily-selling-rate basis to 215,348 units, the Japanese automaker’s best U.S. tally in seven months.

Some 21,063 units went to fleet customers in March, down from 25,076 year-ago, Fay says.

Continuing a theme for Toyota, car deliveries were not as strong as for light trucks, with the former rising just 1.1% from March 2013 but the latter group jumping 14.6%.

The Camry was one of the few Toyota cars to increase sales last month, with deliveries of the non-hybrid model up 17.8%. With March volume, the Camry surpassed the Nissan Altima in year-to-date sales, 94,283 to Altima’s 89,285. The Altima had been ahead through February in the midsize-sedan segment.

Only two other Toyota-brand cars gained last month: the plug-in hybrid Prius, up 91.8% on modest volume, and the Avalon Hybrid, up 2.8% from year-ago.

For another month the remaining Prius variants, the liftback and V wagon, as well as the C subcompact, saw sales decline from year-ago.

Fay says hybrid sales should increase industrywide in the second quarter, which he expects will benefit the Prius lineup. “That segment has been a little bit soft.”

A refresh and heavy marketing last month seemed to do wonders for the Tundra, up 29.8%.

Newness and wall-to-wall advertising of the new ’14 Highlander boosted the gas-engine-only variant’s sales 20.8% to 12,686 units. Highlander Hybrid deliveries fell 27.5% to 333.

Toyota’s 4Runner and FJ Cruiser SUVs saw big increases on comparatively lower volume.

Despite more than a year since its redesign, the RAV4 CUV continues to cook, with sales of 19,660 non-EV units good enough for a 24.9% increase from like-2013.

Thanks to the 4Runner, Highlander and RAV4, Toyota’s CUV/SUV segment had the best first quarter in company history, Fay says.

The Lexus brand had its best March in seven years, with one of the biggest year-on-year gains in the industry, 28.0% on a DSR basis to 20,593 units.

Both cars and utilities were strong for the luxury marque in March, with the new IS driving that model’s sales up 125.3% from year-ago, when the brand was clearing out the previous generation from dealer stock.

The IS’ 4,893 March sales came within 507 units of the perennial best-selling Lexus sedan, the ES 350, which rose 7.1% last month to 5,400 units. ES 300h hybrid sales slipped 7.3% to 1,384 deliveries.

A model refresh and TV commercials during several high-profile events, such as the NCAA college basketball tournament and last night’s series finale of “How I Met Your Mother” on CBS, seem to have benefited Lexus’ CT 200h compact hybrid hatchback, whose sales rose 44.6% from year-ago.

All Lexus utilities barring the RX 450h CUV posted March increases, with the GX SUV up the most, 152.7% on modest volume.

Scion’s struggle to get back in the black continues, as the youth brand’s March sales fall 4.5% on declines in all but one model.

The tC coupe rose 18.4% to 1,860 units, making it Scion’s best seller last month. FR-S sports car volume placed the model third among Scions. On a DSR basis the FR-S slumped 16.8% from year-ago.

In the first quarter, Toyota sold 520,997 vehicles in the U.S., down 1.6% from January-March 2013.

Toyota predicts a seasonally adjusted annual rate for the U.S. light-vehicle industry of 16.3 million for March, up from 15.3 million year-ago, and 15.6 million for Q1.

Toyota will continue to use incentives “tactically,” Fay says, predicting no big jumps in spending from March.

While TrueCar estimates Toyota’s incentive spending rose 18.7% in March from like-2013, and 3.4% from February 2014, it had the lowest average incentive among the eight major automakers tracked, $1,864.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com