Posted by Dale Buss on August 3, 2010 05:50 PM
At first blush, the July sales results for Toyota in the US automotive market, released today, were not encouraging: Sales declined by more than 3 percent this July compared with a year ago, while General Motors’ sales increased for the month by 6 percent and Ford’s by 3 percent.
But that’s what monthly conference calls between industry sales executives and automotive journalists are for, and that’s where Toyota Division General Manager Bob Carter quickly informed the press on Tuesday that, in the case of these numbers, down was up.
“When you put the small declines in proper perspective,” Carter said, “you’ll see why we consider July to be a very good month for Toyota” even though overall industry sales were up by about 5 percent.
Here’s what Carter was figuring.
First, Toyota’s sales suffered tremendously in July by comparison with sales a year earlier because the federal government’s hyper-stimulative “cash for clunkers” rebate program kicked in during the last five days of July, 2009. And Toyota’s small, fuel-efficient cars -- Corolla and Yaris among them – were some of the biggest hits right out of the chute.
Second, Toyota’s U.S. sales last month were strong compared with sales this just-passed June – up more than 20 percent, as Carter noted.
And, third – in an especially good bit of news for Toyota’s efforts to come back from its safety-recall woes – the company is back in the business of brand “conquesting.” Carter pointed out that, for the first month this year, in July more than half of Toyota-brand buyers traded in a vehicle made by a competitor. That was even better than levels that Toyota typically was used to before its spate of safety problems earlier this year.
“Toyota is getting over what happened in terms of recalls,” said Edmunds.com U.S. Industry Analyst Jessica Caldwell. “They’re not out of the woods, but that was an encouraging sign.”