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This year is shaping up to be far better in terms of overall sales for nearly all mainstream manufacturers. However, the lone exception is a venerable sales champion—Toyota. Among all the brands who have reported their May sales as of this writing, only Toyota is down year-over-year while most automakers experienced notable growth.

Toyota’s sales lag its competitors

Generally speaking, May could be considered a positive month for mainstream automotive sales, according to figures gathered by GoodCarBadCar, despite a still somewhat constrained supply and far higher automotive loan interest rates compared to May 2022.

For example, Mazda’s numbers for May were up a staggering 117% compared to May of 2022. Honda’s increased by 58%, and Ford, Subaru, Volvo and Hyundai all experienced double-digit percentage increases.

This has helped drive a 20-22% annual growth for Hyundai, Honda, and Mazda. Subaru annual sales are up 13% over this time last year, outpacing the 1% growth for Volvo and 9% increase for Ford.

These increases could be attributed to a more robust stock of cars on dealer lots compared to this time last year, but if that’s also the case for Toyota, it underscores that fewer buyers are heading to the company’s lots. Toyota’s May numbers are up 6% from last year, but annual sales are down 4%.

Fluctuations in overall figures are to be expected for any automaker—and Toyota is hardly lagging overall with 821,000 units moved so far this year—but with all other brands experiencing notable growth, Toyota’s numbers could be cause for concern within the company’s ranks.

Several models are dragging down Toyota numbers

The Toyota Corolla continually reclaims its crown as the best-selling compact car in overall annual sales, something it has accomplished for decades, including last year. But it seems sales for the automaker’s smallest sedan are holding back Toyota’s overall sales. The Corolla’s numbers were down 31% year-over-year in May, and the model is down a notable 21% in annual sales through the first five months of the year.

The RAV4 continued its streak as one of the most popular cars outside of the Big Three’s half-ton pickups for 2023, but sales of the compact SUV are down 11% annually through May. Another SUV option in Toyota’s ranks, the three-row, midsize Highlander, has dropped off 7% so far this year.

Numbers for the hybrid-only midsize Venza crossover were down 47%in May and have fallen off 33%annually, just slightly worse than a 30% annual decrease for the Prius lineup.

Is any of this true cause for concern?

Toyota didn’t attribute its lagging annual sales to any specific factors, such as supply or inventory, in its first-quarter sales report, suggesting the automaker’s number of units sold through the year could either be viewed as a blip on the radar, or it simply doesn’t want to bring attention to the fact 2023 isn’t shaping up to be a great year.

The ebb and flow of overall sales are always expected, but it could be considered a negative harbinger that Toyota seems to be the only mainstream automaker that isn’t thriving so far this year compared to the first several months of 2022. It remains to be seen if Toyota is becoming slightly less appealing to buyers overall, or if those brands are finally catching up a bit on the Japanese automotive giant.


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