Toyota sees sales fall 5.5% in December

By Dow Jones Newswires
Posted Jan. 4 at 1:39 p.m.

Toyota Motor Corp.’s  U.S. auto sales dropped 5.5 percent in December, the seventh monthly drop in 2010, as a decline in car sales again more than offset stronger demand for larger vehicles.

Adding to the woes, Toyota sold 6,554 fewer vehicles in 2010 than a year earlier, coming in at 1.76 million. It was the only major U.S. automaker to report a sales decline for the year, though absent the two fewer selling days in 2010, Toyota reported sales for the year were up 0.3 percent on a daily selling rate.

The company was the first automaker to report lower December sales on Tuesday, after the Detroit Three reported increases. U.S. auto sales rose in December for the 11th straight month and likely hit their strongest pace of the year, according to automakers. But Toyota has struggled from the aftermath of its massive recall in early 2010.

The world’s largest car maker by sales volume reported it sold 177,488 vehicles in the U.S. last month, down from 187,860 a year earlier but up 37 percent from November. Toyota-division sales were down 5.9 percent from a year ago, while the luxury brand Lexus had a 4.5 percent decline.

Companywide car sales fell 16 percent, while truck sales climbed 11 percent and sport-utility vehicles were up 8.4 percent. Like many of its peers, Toyota has reported impressive growth for trucks and sport-utility vehicles in recent months.

December had 27 selling days, one less than last year.

The company’s American depositary shares were up 13 cents, to $79.56, in afternoon trading.

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