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Toyota raises some prices as auto sales heat up

By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — While stronger-than-expected auto sales are prompting industry analysts to raise their forecasts of how many cars Americans will buy this year, automakers are simply raising prices.

Toyota Motor Corp. said it will take a midyear price increase of $90 to $250 on six models, starting with vehicles produced in May. Depending on the model, the increase represents an increase of 0.3 percent to 1.5 percent.

The models receiving price increases include the 2012 Toyota Prius v, Camry and Camry Hybrid, Highlander Hybrid, Tacoma pickup truck and the 2013 Scion tC.

They are all fuel-efficient vehicles, which so far this year have been the hottest segment of the U.S. auto market, a result of how higher gas prices have shifted consumer preferences.

Toyota did not comment on its reasons for the price increases when it made the announcement.

The price increase comes against a backdrop of what looks to be the highest monthly U.S. auto sales since 2007.

“We are looking at a record-breaking month for many manufacturers in March with Hyundai, Nissan and Volkswagen expected to have their highest unit sales ever in the U.S.,” said Jesse Toprak, an analyst for auto price information company

“We also forecast that Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda and Toyota will have an extremely strong month, with some of the highest unit sales in years. Due to stronger-than-expected recovery, we’ve increased our sales forecast another 3.6 percent, from 14.0 million unit sales to 14.5 million unit sales in 2012,” Toprak said.

Hyundai is taking a different approach, though the end result is that consumers also pay more.

Instead of raising sticker prices, the automaker is reducing discounts, said John Krafcik, chief executive of Hyundai Motor America.

Hyundai’s average transaction price has risen to 96.5 percent of the sticker price from 86 percent three years ago, Krafcik said.

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