Toyota Forecasts Higher U.S. Sales in May as Prius Gains

Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), the world’s largest automaker, forecast an increase in its U.S. vehicle deliveries in May from a year earlier, aided by an improvement in sales of the Prius hybrid line.

Sales of Prius hatchbacks, v wagons, c subcompacts and a plug-in version will top May 2012’s 21,477, Carly Schaffner, a company spokeswoman, said in an interview yesterday. She declined to provide a specific figure for either Prius or total company sales in May. Prius sales through April were 12 percent below the Toyota City, Japan-based company’s year-earlier volume and not on pace for a full-year target of 250,000 units.

Toyota was the only one of the six largest automakers by U.S. sales to report a drop in April, with deliveries down 1.1 percent from a year earlier on declines for Camry sedans and Prius. The company has said lower U.S. fuel prices this year have hurt Prius demand, which typically tracks gasoline cost.

Bill Fay, Toyota’s group vice president for U.S. sales, said in an April interview the carmaker would begin a new Prius television ad campaign in June to aid demand. The program will run for six weeks, starting in mid-June, Schaffner said.

Toyota rose 0.5 percent to 6,090 yen at 10:05 a.m. in Tokyo trading, compared with a 2.3 percent advance for the benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average. The stock has surged 52 percent this year, beating the 34 percent climb of the Nikkei. The company’s U.S. sales unit is in Torrance, California.

Toyota, which retook its global sales crown from General Motors Co. (GM) last year, is looking forward to its highest profit in six years for the current fiscal 12 months ending in March. Still, in North America, the company’s biggest overseas market, Toyota faces a resurgent Detroit where GM, Ford Motor Co. (F) and Chrysler Group LLC are offering their best vehicle lineup in a generation.

Automakers are to report May sales on June 3.

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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