“We’re starting to see improvement in consumer confidence and, combined with rising fuel prices and aging vehicles, the market is starting to move,” Bob Carter, Toyota’s group vice president for U.S. sales, told reporters yesterday at the New York auto show. “It’s happening quicker than anyone thought.”
U.S. light-vehicle sales rose 13 percent in the year’s first quarter to 3.47 million. Toyota, Asia’s largest automaker, followed Ford Motor Co. (F) in boosting its 2012 forecast. Ford on April 4 projected that U.S. vehicle sales, including medium- and heavy-duty trucks, would total 14.5 million to 15 million, up from a previous estimate of 13.5 million to 14.5 million.
Rising gasoline prices are bringing buyers into showrooms looking to replace their older cars with more fuel-efficient models, Carter said.
“Today, the No. 1 attribute is mpg,” Carter said. “We’re very bullish in the industry.”
Toyota is seeking to increase U.S. sales 15 percent this year, which would bring it to about 1.89 million vehicles, or about 600,000 fewer than General Motors Co. (GM) sold last year in its home market. Natural disasters in Japan and Thailand reduced supplies of parts and assembled vehicles last year, contributing to a 6.7 percent U.S. sales slide for the Toyota City, Japan- based automaker. The company’s deliveries rose 12 percent in 2012’s first quarter to 487,284.
Toyota is No. 3 in U.S. vehicle sales behind Detroit-based General Motors Co. and Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford.
GM captured 17.5 percent of the market in the first quarter after its light-vehicle sales rose 2.7 percent to 608,320, according to researcher Autodata Corp. GM’s share of the market slid from 19.4 percent a year earlier because its gains didn’t match the industrywide increase.
Ford’s light-vehicle sales increased 8.5 percent to 537,822 while its share of the market, like GM’s, slid. Ford held 15.5 percent of the market in the quarter, down from 16.2 percent.
Toyota’s U.S. share also declined, to 14.1 percent from 14.2 percent a year earlier. The company trailed Ford’s deliveries by about 50,500 and GM’s by about 120,000.
Today in New York, Toyota also showed its restyled Avalon that goes on sale late this year. The new version of the full- size sedan, designed in California, engineered in Michigan and built in Kentucky, is “the beginning of a new era for vehicle development in the U.S. for the American market,” Carter said.
The company didn’t announce prices or a sales goal for the car.
The company’s U.S. sales unit is based in Torrance, California. Toyota’s American depositary receipts rose 0.3 percent to $83.86 at the close in New York. They have gained 27 percent so far this year.
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