Toyota's U.S. Lead Over Volkswagen |

Automotive

Published on August 1st, 2014 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez

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Toyota’s U.S. Lead Over Volkswagen

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Toyota is outpacing VW in the United States, where it benefits from U.S. buyers’ desire to drive sport utility vehicles, which are on pace to outsell sedans in the market for the first time. Rising deliveries of the new Toyota Highlander and Lexus GX drove U.S. market share gains as Volkswagen posted sales declines and pledged to introduce a mid-size SUV in 2016.

“They’ve gotten so good at building products that really hit with customers,” said Jim Press, a former U.S. sales chief and 37-year Toyota veteran who now consults for the Renault-Nissan alliance. “Contrast that to Volkswagen: they don’t have this market figured out. They’ve failed to succeed in North America because they don’t really understand it.”

In the U.S., deliveries of the Highlander SUV surged 17 percent this year through June, while sales of the RAV4 crossover climbed 15 percent. Toyota also more than doubled deliveries of its refreshed Lexus GX SUV.

Including more fuel-efficient, car-like crossover models, SUVs accounted for 36.5 percent of U.S. new-vehicle registrations this year through May, compared with 35.4 percent for sedans, researcher IHS Automotive said this month. Sedans, which held the top spot for decades, had led 36.6 percent to 33.9 percent a year earlier. Toyota and Lexus SUV models outsold Volkswagen and Audi by 7-to-1 in the U.S. this year through June, according to researcher Autodata Corp. To revive flagging U.S. sales, VW plans to add a seven-seat SUV to its lineup in 2016 and build the model at its Tennessee factory.

Nakanishi expects Toyota to start announcing investment plans for new plants in the near future. It could open a new plant in Mexico, according to analysts and media reports. Toyota and Volkswagen both have forecast more than 10 million deliveries for 2014. Toyota sold 9.98 million vehicles last year to lead the industry for the second consecutive year, followed by Volkswagen’s 9.73 million and GM’s 9.71 million.

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