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Toyota's Lentz Sees Gasoline Above $4 in 2012

Toyota USA President Jim Lentz forecasts retail gasoline prices surpassing $4 a gallon in 2012. "I think so," Lentz says. "The chances of it going substantially higher than that are pretty great."

The Toyota exhibit during a media preview day at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan.
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The Toyota exhibit during a media preview day at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan.

Lentz made the comments to CNBC's Phil LeBeau at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

For Toyota, 2011 was a tough year as it grappled with production setbacks after the tsnumani in Japan and sales declines, including weakness in its Lexus division.

“We started building the momentum actually in the fourth quarter of '11,” Lentz says. He forecasts 40 percent of volume in 2012 will come from brand new or refreshed products. "We're really excited about 2012."

Toyota is focused on sales gains. "The plan for this year is to grow sales to almost $1.9 million," Lentz says.

Part of Toyota's strategy is an expansion of the Prius line. The company is forecast to sell about 200,000 Prius hybrids in 2012.

Lentz says the higher price of gasoline will help boost sales of the hybrid.

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