Toyota Says U.S. Sales Rebound Won’t Begin Until September

Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), replenishing auto inventory thinned by Japan’s earthquake in March, said it’s not likely to begin posting U.S. sales gains again for at least two more months.

Sales for Toyota, Asia’s largest automaker, will fall again in July after dropping 33 percent in May and 21 percent in June, Bob Carter, Toyota’s group vice president for U.S. sales, said yesterday. Supplies of cars and light trucks are still below average, and it will be weeks before dealers are fully restocked, he said.

“Our market share will begin recovering this month, but it will be September or maybe October before we’re really growing again,” Carter said in an interview in Cle Elum, Washington. “We were in too deep a hole, and we’re still digging out.”

Japan’s magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami disrupted assembly operations for Toyota and Honda Motor Co. as a result of shortages of parts and electricity. Toyota’s U.S. sales slid 4 percent in the year’s first half, while the total market gained 13 percent, according to Autodata Corp., a Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based research company.

Edmunds.com, an automotive pricing and data company in Santa Monica, California, said today Toyota’s sales will likely fall 21 percent in July from a year ago, while TrueCar.com, also based in Santa Monica, estimated the Toyota City, Japan-based company’s sales will drop 33 percent. Both released their estimates in e-mailed statements.

Automakers are scheduled to report U.S. sales for July on Aug. 2. Toyota has said most of its production in Japan and North America will recover by September.

The company’s first-half market share was 12.8 percent, down from 15.1 percent a earlier, according to Autodata.

‘Long Way to Go’

“Inventory issues are not seriously holding back Toyota anymore, and a 25 percent month-over-month boost in incentives are helping the company finally pick up the sales momentum that it needed,” Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at Edmunds.com, said in an e-mailed statement today.

“But with sales expected to be off more than 20 percent compared to July 2010, Toyota still has a long way to go,” she said.

While U.S. auto demand should continue to recover this year, sales aren’t growing as fast as Toyota expected because of weak consumer confidence, Carter said.

“That’s the most important thing for us, and right now the consumer doesn’t seem to be that confident about jobs and the overall economy,” he said.

Toyota’s American depositary receipts, each representing two ordinary shares, fell 74 cents to $81.43 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The company’s U.S. sales unit is based in Torrance, California.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Ohnsman in Los Angeles at aohnsman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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