Toyota’s 207,952 May sales marks the auto maker’s best monthly tally in the U.S. since the “Cash for Clunkers” month of August 2009, WardsAuto data shows.

As has been the case for much of the year, light trucks powered the Toyota brand’s growth in May, up 3.2%. Car sales rose a more modest 1.3%.

The aging FJ Cruiser posted the biggest year-on-year jump in the auto maker’s light-truck portfolio, up 30.0%, with the Tacoma compact pickup following with a 20.0% hike.

The Tacoma and large Tundra, up 13.5% in May, gave Toyota its best pickup month since August 2008, Bill Fay, group vice president-Toyota Div., tells media during a conference call today.

The new-for-’13 RAV4 continues to boost that model’s fortunes. The 20,780 RAV4s sold in May represented the cross/utility vehicle’s best month in three years, Fay says.

Sales of the gas-engine RAV4 rose 7.5% last month; the California-only RAV4 EV registered 84 deliveries.

On the car side, increased demand for the Avalon large sedan and Prius liftback, V and C models offset declines in the Camry lineup.

The hybrid Camry slipped 3.1%, while sales of the conventionally powered Camry fell 0.6% from like-2012.

Despite those dips, Fay says Camry has reestablished itself as the segment leader, reclaiming the No.1 spot in the midsize car segment in the U.S. after seeing the Nissan Altima and Honda Accord jump ahead earlier in the year.

Selling 40,000 units “of anything is really good activity there,” he says of Camry’s 39,216 May volume.

Corolla sales slipped 11.8% as that model winds down its lifecycle. Toyota will introduce the next-generation ’14 Corolla on Thursday in Los Angeles.

Lexus tallied 22,229 units, but cars were the positive performers for that brand. Deliveries of the ES 350 rose 51.7% from May 2012, and both LS variants, the LS 460 and LS 600h hybrid, gained over year-ago.

Jeff Bracken, Lexus group vice president, says the ES 300h hybrid model has been a key driver of growth for that nameplate, with 25% of total ES sales in May the hybrid.

The LS’s performance was driven by the new F Sport grade introduced with the ’13 model year.

The Lexus CT 200h hybrid hatchback, which posted declining sales in recent months, recorded a 4.8% gain in May.

All Lexus utility vehicles were down, including the brand’s top-selling RX, which Bracken blames on strong year-ago comparisons.

At Scion, the FR-S continues to support the flagging brand. Of the 6,586 Scions sold last month, 1,937 were the sports car, the second-best tally yet for the model. The tiny iQ took the biggest plunge of any of the brand’s models, down 41.4%.

Fay sees only positive momentum for Toyota and the U.S. new-vehicle market for the remainder of the year, with consumer confidence at a 5-year high and gas prices relatively steady.

“We’re very optimistic, very bullish looking ahead,” he says.

The auto maker will continue 0% financing and/or low lease deals on most of its prominent nameplates, although it is transitioning away from a national marketing program to a more regionally based one for June.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com