RAV4 powers Toyota lighttruck sales in October

RAV4 powers Toyota light-truck sales in October.

Toyota Sees 4.8% October Increase on Strong Light-Truck Sales

The U.S. government shutdown accounted for only a minor drop in sales early in the month, says the Toyota Div.’s top U.S. official.

Toyota saw its October U.S. deliveries grow 4.8% on a daily-selling-rate basis, due to the strong performance of light-truck models at both the Toyota and Lexus brands.

Toyota, Lexus and Scion delivered 168,976 units last month, WardsAuto data shows. Through October, total Toyota U.S. sales were up 8.1% on volume.

“October reinforced the strength of the automotive market and the resiliency of the American consumer…despite some headwinds from the government shutdown,” Toyota Div. Group Vice President Bill Fay tells media today during a conference call.

Fay says Toyota experienced only minor disruptions in demand due to the shutdown, primarily around Washington D.C. The Atlantic Region, which comprises Washington, was one of Toyota’s best based on sales made last weekend, Fay says.

Toyota’s retail deliveries, up 11.8%, powered its October growth, while its fleet volume fell 18%, comprising just 8% of the mix.

One of Toyota’s best light-truck performances last month was the RAV4 CUV. Thanks to a weak year-ago comparison, when Toyota was selling down the previous generation, gas-engine-only RAV4 sales rose 55.6% on a DSR basis, to 17,590 sales.

Prius sales slumped last month, as combined sales of the liftback and V wagon models fell 12.6% and the subcompact Prius C was off 12.2% from October 2012.

Only the plug-in Prius hybrid was ahead, up 6.8%.

Camry sales also declined in October, with hybrid and conventional models both down more than 6.0%.

Fay discounts Consumer Reports’ magazine’s removal of its “recommended” label from the Camry earlier this week as having anything to do with the model’s decline. The magazine cited the Camry’s below-average performance in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small-overlap frontal test as the reason for the removal.

“I think (the) midsize segment was a little bit softer (than usual) during the month,” he says of Camry’s falloff.

“The Consumer Reports issue, we’re obviously disappointed, (but) it’s important to note that Camry is as safe as it ever was,” Fay says, noting the current generation receives five stars for safety from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Admin.

The Yaris subcompact recorded the steepest decline of any Toyota-brand car last month, falling 71.1% from year-ago, with just 775 sold.

The new ’14 Corolla powered that model’s sales up 9.9% to 23,637 units. Toyota says just 20% of that number is the outgoing ’13 compact sedan.

The gas-engine-only Avalon was the fastest-growing Toyota nameplate in October, rising 157.0%. The previous-generation Avalon also was being sold down in October 2012.

Toyota tallied 1,398 sales of the Avalon hybrid last month.

Other Toyota-brand light trucks in the black in October include the 4Runner SUV, (9.7%); the gasoline Highlander CUV, (2.6%); and the Tundra fullsize pickup, (18.1%).

Toyota’s refreshed ’14 Tundra went on sale Oct. 1 and contributed heavily to the increase, Fay says, noting 20% of deliveries were the highest trim levels.

The few Toyota light trucks posting declines include the FJ Cruiser (-16.0%); the Tacoma compact pickup (-2.4%); and the Venza (-39.2%).

Scion continued to struggle, with sales down 19.2%. The FR-S sports car again was the only model to gain, up 7.3% from year-ago. However, it was the brand’s third-best-seller behind the tC coupe, with 1,233 deliveries to the tC’s 1,499, and boxy xB.

Scion’s tiny iQ took a 70.7% plunge in October, with 246 sold.

Thanks to strong results for the new IS sport sedan and a good month for the LS large luxury 4-door, Lexus car sales posted a 5.5% October increase.

IS sales rose 62.5% from like-2012 to 3,570 units, making it second in car volume to the Lexus ES sedan.

Sales for the conventional ES model were flat and hybrid-variant deliveries declined 13.4%.

Among Lexus cars, the GS hybrid had the largest drop, down 51.9%, followed by the CT 200h hybrid hatchback, off 32.4%.

All three Lexus utility vehicles were in the black last month, with GX SUV sales spiking the most, up 58.7%, a jump Lexus Group Vice President Jeff Bracken credits to the GX’s rare inclusion in a marketing campaign.

LX large SUV deliveries rose 27.1% and sales of both the hybrid and conventional RX CUV grew, 21.5% and 9.1%, respectively.

Bracken says Lexus is on track to meet its 270,000-unit sales target for 2013.

Fay says Toyota is optimistic about the U.S. market, particularly the final two months of 2013.

“We see the retail market remaining stronger for autos than other sectors,” he says, citing available credit, good pent-up demand, the relative affordability of cars and an active marketplace.

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