U.S. retail sales will be stagnant for the rest of 2012 and Toyota Motor Corp.'s U.S. CEO Jim Lentz thinks that it’s due to consumer nervousness. He said that the industry has stalled since the first quarter. Lentz had spoken to reporters at the Center for Automotive Research's 2012 Management Briefing Seminars.
He said that consumers continue to stay away from incurring debts. Lentz’s concerns seem to oppose the concept of a recovery industry but he clarified that he focused on retail sales, aside from expanding volumes that are entering fleet sales. Lentz predicts that when fleet sales are excluded, the industry is course to retail about 11.3 million-11.6 million new vehicles to consumers for this calendar year.
He said that in the past few months, this figure has been mainly flat. He said that sales are sluggish because of persistent consumer nervousness about the economy. He said that this will continue until after this November’s presidential election. Toyota's own sales volume has been surging the past months. Toyota Division sales increased by 24% in July 2012 over July of last year.
Toyota's U.S. inventory was drained with the impact of the earthquake in Japan last year. Sales had also been low. He thinks that overall industry trends are still encouraging, particularly as consumer credit becomes more available.
He also pointed out that lenders have become more active in the subprime credit market. But then, Toyota's own captive finance company hasn’t done the same. He thinks that when consumers regain their confidence, retail sales will go up quickly. [source: Automotive News - sub. required]