Updated: February 22, 2012 at 1:09 am PST
Although selling cars to rental car companies usually cheapens a brand’s image, Toyota’s sales actually benefited from the decision and gave the company a good running start in the industry for the beginning of 2012.
Brands do not tend to sell their cars to rental agencies – the surplus of cars that the manufacturers give to the rental companies tend to saturate the market with models and can devalue a company’s image and their cars. However, choosing to sell nearly 50% more cars this year versus last year is what gave Toyota a 7.5% increase in U.S. sales (in contrast with the less than 1% increase that was projected).
Toyota does not expect to keep selling to rental companies and fleets in this way. The decision was based solely to make up for the contracts that were unable to be completed last year due to the earthquake in Tokyo and the consequent limited car production. In fact, although they made drastic changes in their economic strategy, they still performed lower than the total U.S. average – about an 11% increase.
Contrastingly, Toyota’s competitors General Motors and Ford Motors both have a larger amount of sales related to rental cars, both almost having 30% of their cars being sold to rental car “fleets” in January alone. Toyota’s 18% of cars sold in fleet sales for January should siphon off and drop back down to normal levels around March (expected to be less than 10%). Let us hope that the fleet sales and the release of nearly 20 new and restructured vehicles will increase Toyota’s sales for the rest of 2012.