Toyota Expects March Sales to Increase by 30 Percent

Despite being ravaged by recalls and new reports of “unintended acceleration,” Toyota expects its March 2010 sales figures to be up by 30-35 percent compared to last March.

Toyota saw its North American sales falter somewhat after it recalled nearly 8.5 million vehicles. That said, the company sees some steady improvement, leading executives — including Toyota Motors Sales U.S.A. president Jim Lentz — to believe the automaker may have rounded the corner.

“It’s a matter of time. The dealers are doing a great job taking care of customers with their existing cars,” Lentz told journalists at the NADA/IIHS Global Insight Forum in New York. “That’s where you start to rebuild the brand.

“Our loyal customers are coming back. The challenge is going to be attracting conquest buyers. They are going to come back. It will not be weeks. It will be measured in months, hopefully not years.”

Toyota’s bump in March sales comes from both its cars and trucks, although the latter is really bolstering the sales increase. Spearheading that jump is the Rav4 compact SUV. Although the cute-ute is a bit dated, sales reportedly increased to 22,000 units — an incredible 10,000-vehicle increase over Rav4 sales in March of 2009.

Of course, that boost was likely spurred by a recent incentive program, which offered 36-month leases on base 4×4 models for $199 a month and $1299 down. Other incentives included $1000 cash back on any Rav4 purchase, or 0% APR financing for 60 months. All are generous, and Lentz even noted that Rav4 incentives “may be a bit high.”

Toyota won’t release its final sales data for March for a few weeks yet, but stay tuned for the official numbers.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required)

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