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Toyota Outsells VW, GM in H1 on SUV Demand

UK-Spec Toyota RAV4 -  Toyota Outsells VW, GM in H1 on SUV Demand

By Craig Trudell and Masatsugu Horie

Toyota¬† kept its global sales lead over Volkswagen as the RAV4 maker benefited from Americans’ rising demand for SUVs.

Deliveries for Toyota, including its Hino and Daihatsu units, climbed 3.8 percent to 5.1 million vehicles in the first half, the company said. By comparison, Volkswagen reported sales of 4.97 million units, excluding heavy trucks.

Japan’s largest listed company has gained from U.S. buyers’ desire to drive sport utility vehicles, which are on pace to outsell sedans in the market for the first time. Paced by rising deliveries of the new Toyota Highlander and Lexus GX, the automaker gained market share as Volkswagen posted U.S. 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., sales of the Highlander SUV surged 17 percent this year through June, while deliveries of the RAV4 crossover climbed 15 percent. The Toyota City, Japan-based automaker also more than doubled deliveries of its refreshed Lexus GX SUV.

Including more fuel-efficient, carlike 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, 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 sales in the world’s second-largest auto market, the Wolfsburg, Germany-based company plans to add a seven-seat sport-utility vehicle to its lineup in 2016 and build the model at its Tennessee factory.

Toyota and Volkswagen both outsold General Motors during the first six months of the year. Worldwide deliveries for the largest U.S. automaker increased 1.4 percent to 4.92 million cars and trucks as rising sales in China and the U.S. helped offset declines in Europe and South America.