Although Toyota isn’t into fleet sales, most part of the increased U.S. sales from this year was due to a boost from rental-car companies and other fleets.
In January, Toyota sold 24,409 cars and trucks to fleets (47% up compared to January 2011) and made up for rental sales which were halted last year because of earthquake-related shortages. Without those corporate customers, US sales would have been up less than 1% instead of 7.5%. Two models , the Toyota Yaris subcompact and Toyota Avalon sedan, saw huge sales increases.
Toyota considered that fleet sales and rental-car sales were less profitable than sales to individuals, could also hurt the resale values and the brand’s image. But, 93% of Toyota’s January fleet sales went to rental-car companies, the rest went to corporate customers.
Although this change brought a sales increase, Toyota declared that fleet sales won’t be a long-term trend and that it’s only making up for contracts it couldn’t fulfill last year after Japan’s earthquake limited car production. Still, the carmaker is under pressure to perform better since sales have fallen the past two years because of safety recalls and earthquake-related shortages.