Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), Asia’s largest automaker, expects to start reversing a U.S. sales slide that began in May after Japan’s earthquake as vehicle production rebounds and deliveries of the new Camry sedan expand.
Wholesale orders for Toyota brand cars and trucks are back to normal this month, and vehicle inventory is rising, Bob Carter, group vice president for U.S. sales, said in an interview. Toyota’s last U.S. sales gain was in April. The company’s U.S. market share through August fell to 12.7 percent from 15.2 percent a year earlier.
“You’ll start seeing us show year-over-year retail increases starting in October,” Carter said in Richmond, California, on Sept. 16. The company’s focus is getting cars to individual buyers, rather than business and rental fleets, he said. “We’ve virtually shut down the fleet business,” he said.
Toyota last week restored full production at all North American auto-assembly plants and said most would add overtime shifts. The company temporarily halted all production after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and then slowed output due to parts and power shortages triggered by the natural disaster.
The quake also cut supplies of Japan-built Prius hybrids and luxury Lexus models, causing the Toyota City, Japan-based company’s U.S. sales to drop 7.8 percent this year through August while industrywide deliveries grew 10.5 percent.
Carter didn’t estimate Toyota’s September sales. The company’s sales may be flat this month compared with a year ago, said Jesse Toprak, an industry analyst with TrueCar.com, an auto pricing and data service based in Santa Monica, California.
“The fourth quarter is definitely going to be the best quarter for them so far this year,” Toprak said. “They will have the supply problem mostly solved and some new products.”
Gains in the final quarter of 2011 will come from Camry, increased supplies of Prius and the new Prius v wagon, a refreshed Tacoma pickup and new Scion iQ, Carter said. Toyota’s incentives will be “competitive,” and won’t rise dramatically, he said.
“We’d rather price them at a good value, as we did with Camry,” Carter said. “We want to advertise them, not incentivize them.”
Toyota’s U.S. sales unit is based in Torrance, California. The company’s American depositary receipts, equal to two ordinary shares, rose 3 cents to $70.84 at 4:03 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.
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