SAN DIEGO – Toyota is boosting its U.S. sales expectation for the 11th-generation Corolla compact car, which launches in September, to 300,000 units.

That's up from the 290,000 deliveries targeted by the auto maker in early June. Credit Toyota’s optimism to a steady sales pace for the outgoing model, a top company official says.

"I think we're tracking right around 300,000 (units), so 300,000 is probably a pretty good number for this year," Bill Fay, group vice president-Toyota Div., tells WardsAuto during a '14 Corolla media event here.

Corolla deliveries rose 5.3% through July to 181,559, trailing the segment-leading Honda Civic by roughly 10,000 units, WardsAuto data shows.

However, Fay tempers his sales expectations for the Corolla in 2014, predicting 330,000 units, although an earlier forecast of 350,000 is not out of the question.

The 330,000-unit estimate would come close to the record 335,119 Corollas Toyota sold in the U.S. in 2006, minus 52,000 units of the discontinued Matrix hatchback model.

Despite new highly acclaimed segment offerings such as the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte grabbing market share, Fay is confident the Corolla still can command 2006-like volume.

"We think with the improvements in the ('14 model), and the pricing and the packaging, and we're pretty happy with the marketing – I think we're pretty optimistic," he says.

The Corolla’s top rival in terms of cross-shopping remains the Civic. The two cars have traded the top spot in U.S. compact sales over the past 10 years, with the Civic usurping the Corolla last year, 317,909 units to 286,473.

Total sales in WardsAuto's Upper Small car category climbed 8.7% through July to 1.33 million units, making it the third best-selling segment in the U.S. after Upper Middle cars, which include the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Chevy Malibu, and Middle Cross/Utility Vehicles that include the Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe and Toyota RAV4.

Fay says the 330,000-unit Corolla sales goal for next year depends on Toyota bringing its new Blue Springs, MS, plant up to speed. The facility opened in fall 2011, building the 10th generation model.

Although Blue Springs is operating on two shifts, it still is not at full capacity of 150,000 units annually. WardsAuto production data shows the plant’s output tumbled 16.4% in the May-July period, although production for the year’s first seven months rose 26.9% to 87,861.

Toyota's Cambridge, ON, Canada, factory continues to assemble the Corolla, and Fay estimates it will account for the bulk of U.S. units, likely assembling 60% of '14 models.

More details about the '14 Corolla will be released Aug. 27, including pricing. Toyota already has said the revised car will be available in four grades, including the new LE Eco grade. The 11th generation also will use the same 1.8L 4-cyl. engine as the current model, although certain grades have a new continuously variable transmission.

Toyota's marketing plan for the Corolla is multifaceted, with all forms of media, including social media, playing a key role in the advertising campaign. A TV commercial shown to media here showcases previous generations as well as the new model alongside music and fashions of the 1970s, 1980s and today.

Toyota has sold more than 10 million Corollas since the first-generation model went on sale in the U.S. in 1968, Of the 24 million new cars the auto maker has delivered in the U.S. over the past 45 years, 38% were Corollas, Fay says.

Toyota is counting on the ’14 Corolla, which sports a more daring exterior look and a completely reworked interior, to attract younger buyers to the nameplate. The demographics of the current Corolla buyer closely mimic the compact segment's demographics, with an average age of 52.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com