CHICAGO Toyota Motor
Sales USA Inc.s top executive expects 2013 sales in the
United States to top this year.
Jim Lentz, president and chief
executive officer of the Torrance, Calif.-based automaker,
noted that public opinion of the auto industry has taken a huge
Automakers "stepped up their
game," he said at the National Automobile Dealers
Association/J.D. Power & Associates Western
Automotive Conference in Los Angeles. "We paid closer attention
to our customers; we worked through issues with regulators; we
formed alliances and partnerships to meet future needs; and we
made the best cars weve ever produced."
Lentz said the U.S. economy grew
2 percent in the third quarter, unemployment dropped to a
three-and-a-half-year low, the consumer confidence index jumped
to a five-year high and the housing market has turned the
"Our annual U.S. sales forecast
for 2012 is 14.3 million vehicles, an increase of about 1.5
million over 2011. The forecast ahead looks even better:
Analysts predict sales will reach 16 million (vehicles) again
in just a few years," Lentz told conference attendees.
The roots of such optimism
include pent-up demand. "In the U.S., there are more than 245
million cars on the road and the average age of these vehicles
has hit a record high of 11 years. More than 20 percent of
these cars are over 16 years old," he said.
Vehicle loans have never been
cheaper, and younger buyers are returning to the market at a
higher rate than any other age category, Lentz said, citing a
J.D. Power study. That trend "bodes well for market
Automakers also are finding a
growing consumer base among Hispanicsa segment of the
U.S. population that "will have a projected buying power of
$1.5 trillion by 2015."
Fuel economy will continue to be a driver of new vehicle
sales, Lentz said. "Today in the U.S., there are nearly 300
fuel-efficient models, including 40 hybrids, 33 clean diesels,
plug-ins and pure electric vehicles that achieve 30 miles per
gallon or more. Thats up by an incredible 330 percent in
just six years."