Avalon propels Toyota sales in U.S.

JIJI

Toyota Motor Corp. led major automakers in sales growth in the United States last month, partly aided by the launch of the Avalon luxury sedan.

The automaker’s sales of new cars and light trucks jumped 26.6 percent from the year before to 157,725 units, U.S. research firm Autodata Corp. reported Friday.

Toyota’s robust performance was backed by recovery in consumer confidence in its brand, which had been shaken by quality problems. The company beat runnerup Ford Motor Co. by a considerable margin in Consumer Reports magazine’s car brand perception survey also released Friday.

The yen’s recent fall “really had no impact in the way we’ve approached our marketing or business at all,” a senior sales executive at Toyota said. “Over 70 percent of what we sell in North America is produced at local plants.”

But U.S. automakers are nonetheless concerned about possible discounts by their Japanese rivals on the back of the yen’s weakness. A high-ranking sales executive at General Motors Co. said: “It’s too soon to see a change in behavior, but you can certainly see changes in expectation so we are watching it very carefully.”

Among Toyota’s domestic rivals, Honda Motor Co. saw its U.S. sales of light vehicles climb 12.8 percent in January while Nissan Motor Co.’s total sales gained 2.0 percent.