Lexus RX 350 posts decline in September

Lexus RX 350 posts decline in September.

Toyota Slumps in September, Falls to Fourth Place

A 60% decline in fleet deliveries last month harmed the No.1 Japanese brand’s sales, while Lexus continued its hot streak.

Toyota sales fell 2.5% on a daily-selling-rate basis in September to 167,279, a tally that placed the automaker fourth in U.S. sales.

Fiat-Chrysler usurped Toyota’s usual third-place position in monthly U.S. deliveries for the first time in three years, WardsAuto data shows.

Toyota’s strong performance in August, when sales rose 10.2%, pulled ahead some September purchases. A 60% reduction in Toyota Div. fleet sales, largely reflecting the transition to the new ’15 Camry, also contributed to the weak month.

Fleet sales made up just 4% of total Toyota Div. sales, says Bill Fay, Toyota Div. group vice president.

“It was a month of transition for us,” Fay tells media today of September.

Sales of both the hybrid and conventional Camry fell last month, 38.0% and 11.8%, as Toyota sold down the ’14 model and launched the ’15 Camry.

Fay says Camry retail sales climbed 15% in September and that only a small sliver, roughly 1,000, were sold to fleets.

The Camry, with 28,507 monthly deliveries, was outsold by rival midsize sedan the Honda Accord for the first time since December 2013, WardsAuto data shows. The Accord racked up 32,956 sales.

Toyota’s second-best-selling car, the C-segment Corolla, also stumbled, down 14.9% vs. September 2013, when the current generation was launching.

Prius sales continued to underwhelm, which Fay blames on Toyota selling out of the ’14 liftback variant in August, low fuel prices and the advanced age of the lineup.

Prius liftback and V wagon sales were down 10.2% last month, bringing their 9-month volume down 16.2%.

Prius C sales slipped 6.8% and that car is off 4.7% calendar-year-to-date.

Deliveries of the low-volume plug-in hybrid Prius plummeted 70.6% in September but the model is up 48.5% for the year.

Toyota will be refreshing the V and C Priuses next year, Fay says. An all-new generation of the liftback also is expected in 2015.

Toyota’s light trucks fared better than the brand’s passenger cars. While just three models were in the black, the 4Runner and FJ Cruiser SUVs and the gasoline-engine RAV4 CUV, their gains were hefty enough to bring Toyota light-truck sales up 12.4% vs. like-2013.

The current-generation RAV4 CUV continues to benefit from higher inventories and strong demand despite almost two years on the market.

Sales of the gas-engine model rose 37.4% from year-ago to 22,599, coming close to the Honda CR-V’s 23,722 September deliveries but nowhere near August’s record-shattering 35,614.

The CR-V is the longtime volume leader in U.S. midsize CUV sales.  

The Tacoma midsize pickup was flat last month, up 0.1%.

Lexus continued its hot streak, with sales up 7.3% on a DSR basis in September to 21,852, its 12th straight year-over-year gain.

Cars were stronger than light trucks for the brand, despite the 99.8% jump for the GX SUV, sales of which were jump-started by a lower-priced base grade introduced in ’14.

The Lexus car improving the most last month was the refreshed CT 200h hybrid hatchback, up 29.5% to 1,078 units.

Lexus’ highest-volume passenger car, the ES 350, rose 20.9% and the larger GS 350 was up 26.9%.

Both the RX 350 and RX 450h saw rare declines, down 4.5% and 18.3%, respectively, as the midsize CUVs approach six years on the market.

The Scion youth brand saw its worst month in four years in September, with sales on a DSR basis down 22.4% from September 2013. Scion’s previous low-water mark was a 61.1% decline in August 2010, WardsAuto data shows.

All Scion models were in the red last month, with the xB off the least, 8.9%, and the iQ off the most, 55.9%.

Toyota maintains a healthy outlook for the fourth quarter, Fay says, largely due to the launch of the ’15 Camry.

“We’re optimistic for the fourth quarter,” he says. “We’ve had seven straight months with (an industry seasonally adjusted annual rate) over 16 million (units).”

A wide-ranging marketing campaign using the tagline “One Bold Choice Leads to Another” gets under way in Q4, with Fay noting the blitz is similar to the marketing muscle Toyota usually puts behind a full-model change.

Lexus, too, is high on the final quarter of the year, as the brand will launch the all-new RC and RC F coupes in early November and the all-new NX small CUV near the end of 2014.

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