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Toyota Short on RAV4, Tacoma, Camry SE in U.S., Carter Says

Toyota Motor Corp., seeking its best U.S. sales in four years, said it’s seeking to deliver more RAV4 crossovers, Tacoma trucks and a particular Camry sedan grade to dealers on stronger demand for the models than anticipated.

“There’s two series where we’re really focused on getting more of: that’s RAV4 and the biggest one right now is Tacoma,” Bob Carter, Toyota’s group vice president of U.S. sales, said in an interview yesterday at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Las Vegas.

The company also needs its U.S. plants to make more of the SE grade of its new Camry as sales of that version have increased, Carter said.

The upbeat outlook for Toyota, Asia’s largest automaker, is a switch after three years of recession, recalls and natural disasters prevented it from meeting its U.S. goals. Toyota this year wants to sell at least 1.9 million cars and trucks in the U.S., the most since 2008 and an increase more than 15 percent from 2011’s 1.64 millon.

Sales of Camry, the best-selling car in the U.S. for a decade, have improved on demand for the SE, a sportier version of the family sedan, Carter said. Sales of all Camrys jumped 56 percent in January from a year ago, Toyota said Feb. 1.

The appeal of the SE model, starting at $23,000, to younger female customers has cut the average age of all Camry buyers to 45, lower than the segment’s average, he said.

The SE accounted for only 7 percent of sales of the previous generation Camry, and has already risen to 35 percent, Carter said.

“Now we’re taking it up to 40-42 percent of our production mix,” he said. “It’s on fire right now.”

Toyota, based in Toyota City, Japan, builds Camrys at its Georgetown, Kentucky, plant and under contract at Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Subaru plant in Lafayette, Indiana. The RAV4 is assembled in Woodstock, Ontario, and Tacoma at plants in San Antonio and Mexico.

Toyota’s American depositary receipts gained 2.4 percent to $79.61 at the close in New York, the highest closing price in six months. The company’s U.S. sales unit is in Torrance, California.

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