Out of recall crisis, Toyota in comeback mode, eyes 9% sales growth in US | autos | Hindustan Times
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Out of recall crisis, Toyota in comeback mode, eyes 9% sales growth in US

The public isn’t cutting Toyota Motor much slack, but the world’s top automaker is looking to shake off the recall crisis and at least match the growth in its key US market this year in what could bode well for its lusterless shares.

autos Updated: Jan 13, 2011 22:07 IST

The public isn’t cutting Toyota Motor much slack, but the world’s top automaker is looking to shake off the recall crisis and at least match the growth in its key US market this year in what could bode well for its lusterless shares.

Almost exactly one year since its worst safety crisis erupted, Toyota executives at the Detroit auto show downplayed the company’s poor performance in the US last year, saying the pieces were in place for a healthy recovery.

Toyota was the only automaker to post a sales decline last year, dropping 1.8 points of US market share to 15.2% as it began 2010 with a month-long sales and production halt to clean up after a debilitating series of recalls.

Attending his first US auto show ever, President Akio Toyoda conceded that 2010 was a tough year but steered journalists’ attention towards the achievements made against the odds last year.

“Despite the fact that the past year was an extremely trying year, our dealers actually left us an outstanding performance by achieving No. 1 selling car with Camry, maintaining Toyota as the No. 1 retail brand, with Lexus also being the No. 1 luxury brand,” Toyoda told reporters in Detroit.

Toyota’s US sales, including those to rental car companies and other fleet customers, fell 0.4% in 2010, but sales to individual consumers rose 0.4%, the company said.

“I think the short-term damage (from the recalls) was big ... (but) we were able to learn so much over the past year, including where we need to listen to customers more,” Toyoda said.

Toyota has forecast sales growth of 9% to 1.90 million vehicles in the US this year fuelled by 10 new models including the Camry. It will also add a small Prius minivan, unveiled at the Detroit auto show.

But competition promises to be stiff, as locals General Motors and Ford Motor beef up their small-car lineup in a segment traditionally dominated by Japanese automakers. Hyundai Motor will also continue to nip at Toyota’s heels.

Analysts said investors have largely got past the recall story and seem to be itching to return to Toyota shares, although the vote is split on whether they should.

“I have many investors now asking me, When should I start buying Toyota?,”UBS Securities analyst Tatsuo Yoshida said. Toyota’s shares were the worst performer among Japanese automakers in the past year, falling 13%.