Toyota down 4.7% as cars undercut truck gains

Toyota Motor Sales started 2016 with a tap on the brakes, reporting a 4.7 percent decline in January sales from a year ago to 161,283 vehicles.

With two fewer selling days than in January 2015 and bad weather socking the Eastern Seaboard, Toyota Division’s sales fell 3.9 percent last month to 140,350 vehicles. But the brand’s crossovers, minivans and SUVs weathered the storm, rising 0.9 percent, while pickups gained 1.7 percent, sweetening Toyota’s outlook for the year.

“The industry is off to a healthy start in 2016,” Bill Fay, general manager of Toyota Division, said in a statement. “For Toyota Division, RAV4 led the way with a record January, and pickup truck sales continued to rise, setting a new January Toyota Division light-truck record.”

Sales of the RAV4 — benefiting from a recent midcycle freshening and new SE and hybrid variants — were up 8.7 percent. The Highlander’s 1.8 percent gain was enough to make this the best January for the nameplate since 2008. The 4Runner, Land Cruiser and Sienna minivan were also up for the month.

Toyota’s car lineup started the year weaker, dropping 11 percent. Every car with a Toyota badge posted a double-digit loss, except the Camry, which essentially broke even with a 0.3 percent increase.

“This is just one month, but it is concerning to Toyota, which relies heavily on vehicles such as Corolla, Camry and Prius,” said Akshay Anand, analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

Toyota’s subpar sedan performance also bled into Lexus sales. As a brand, Lexus was down 9.5 percent to 20,933 vehicles, with double-digit percentage declines across its car lineup, from the CT hatchback to the volume-selling ES.

Lexus light trucks relieved some of the pain with a 7 percent gain. But even that was clouded by the redesigned RX failing to turn into the sales powerhouse Lexus needs it to be. The brand’s best-selling nameplate rose only 5.9 percent to 6,956 sales in January.

“The RX didn’t have growth that some expected,” Anand said. “It will be a telling February for the juggernaut.”

The Scion brand, reported under the Toyota Division’s results, rode the launch of two new cars, the iA and iM, to a 38 percent increase in January sales.

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