Toyota’s Year Ends on a Soft Note

This past year was undoubtedly one of great improvement for automakers across the globe, and Toyota’s (NYSE:TM) 2013 was no exception. It’s Corolla and Camry sedans remained among the top ten best selling vehicles in the U.S., and a slew of redesigned models have helped the manufacturer hold onto its lead as the largest automaker by volume. However, Toyota’s December numbers fell a bit short of analyst estimates, judging by the figures that the company released on Friday.

Unit sales declined 1.7 percent over December of 2012 on a raw-volume basis, which was left unadjusted for 25 selling days in December 2013, versus 26 selling days in 2012, as analysts were expecting a gain of 3.6 percent. Despite the discrepancy, Toyota’s U.S. shares are trading around flat during midday Friday trading, as sales gained 2.2 percent on a daily selling rate level. “With the same number of selling days in 2013 and 2012, [Toyota] reported annual sales of 2,236,042 vehicles, up 7.4 percent versus last year on both a DSR and raw-volume basis,” the company said in its statement.

“The auto industry was a consistent bright spot in the economic recovery throughout 2013,” said Bill Fay in the statement, who is the Toyota division group vice president and general manager.  “We expect the economy will continue to gain strength in 2014, with car sales rising to pre-recession levels.”

Toyota proclaimed the Camry sedan as being the best selling car in America for the entire year, and sales of its Avalon large sedan spiked 20 percent during December alone. Further, “Lexus had its best sales month in seven years and the luxury segment outperformed the overall auto industry in December” said Jeff Bracken, who is the Lexus group vice president and general manager.  “We expect the luxury market will continue to expand in 2014.” On that note, the Lexus IS sedan — which has received a substantial redesign recently — posted triple digit gains for December, and remained up 26 percent for the year.

Despite the IS’ outperformance, it was the Lexus ES — it’s more mid-seize sedan — that was volume leader, with monthly sales of 8,213 units for December. All told, Lexus saw December sales of 34,757 units, which represents an 18.1 percent gain on a DSR basis — and a 13.6 percent increase on a raw volume basis — year-over-year.

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