Toyota Boosts US Sales Forecasts to 14 million-unit range image

Toyota Motor Corp. has increased its forecast for 2012 US sales of vehicles from 13.6 million to the low- to mid-14 million-unit range, citing rising consumer confidence.

“We’re starting to see improvement in consumer confidence and, combined with rising fuel prices and aging vehicles, the market is starting to move,” Bob Carter Group Vice President and General Manager for the Toyota Division said.

The announcement comes shortly after Consumer confidence climbed last week to the highest level in four years and unemployment claims fell, pointing to a brighter job market that may invigorate the U.S. economy.

Consumer confidence has made a recovery since it fell to an all-time low of 25.3 in February 2009. But the March reading is below the 90 reading that indicates a healthy economy. The index hasn’t been near 90 since December 2007.

In addition, Employers added 120,000 jobs last month in United States and the unemployment rate fell from 8.3 per cent in February to 8.2 per cent, the lowest since January 2009, but that was largely because many Americans stopped looking for work.

But rising gas prices have sparked worries that already fragile consumers could start to feel squeezed, putting a dent in the economy. Prices at the pump reached $3.92 a gallon last week.

Toyota is No. 3 in U.S. vehicle sales behind Detroit-based General Motors Co. and Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford.
Japan’s Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. reported a sales increase of 15.4 percent March to March.

The average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the U.S. in March was 24.1 miles per gallon, up 4 miles per gallon or 20 percent from October 2007, the first month the University of Michigan began monitoring the trend.