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Will Toyota Rebound to #1 in 2012?

Friday, 3 Feb 2012 | 11:54 AM ET
The Toyota logo is displayed on the grill of brand new Toyota RAV4s on the sales lot at City Toyota in Daly City, California.
Getty Images
The Toyota logo is displayed on the grill of brand new Toyota RAV4s on the sales lot at City Toyota in Daly City, California.

Lost amid the Super Bowlhype and the better than expected jobs numberwas a very strong prediction from Toyota.

The Japanese automaker says it expects global sales in 2012 to rebound to an all-time high.

We’re not talking about an all-time high for Toyota .

If Toyota hits its sales target it will be an all-time record for annual sales by any automaker.

Here are Toyota’s 2012 projections:

  • Japan Sales: 2.32 million (up 30%)
  • International sales: 7.26 million (up 18%)
  • Global sales: 9.58 Million (up 21%)
  • All-time annual sales record: 9.55 million (GM 1978)

What’s behind the dramatically higher sales expectation?

A big reason is because there will a greater supply of cars and trucks now that Toyota has recovered from the Thai floods and the devastating tsunamithat struck Japan last year. That’s important because Toyota believes there are hundreds of thousands of Toyota owners who have been waiting to buy. Now that there’s a greater selection at dealerships, the expectation is those loyal customers will trade in for a new model.

Toyota is also counting on the refreshed Camry and the expanded line-up of Prius hybrids to generate big sales. Last year, Camry sales dropped 5.9% and Prius sales fell 3.2%; both hurt by tight supply. This year, the expectation is for both to have substantially higher sales. In January, the Camry was the second best-selling vehicle in the U.S. and Prius sales were up 8.7%

Finally, as the economy improves in the U.S. so will auto sales. The assumption in the industry is that Toyota will get its traditional market share. Add in improving auto sales in Japan and it is easy to see why Toyota is so optimistic about this year.

Is the Japanese automaker too optimistic? Will it beat out GM and Volkswagen to finish #1 globally? It’s too early to say. One thing is clear: Toyota is expecting a big year.

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___________________________ Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.comand Follow me on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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