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Toyota's US sales set to skid for fourth straight year

Japanese automaker plans 31 new models to expand market share

Toyota Motor's Jim Lentz spoke with reporters Jan. 15 at the North American International Auto Show in the U.S. city of Detroit. (Photo by Takeshi Shiraishi)

DETROIT, U.S. -- Toyota Motor sees its U.S. sales sliding for a fourth straight year in 2019 as climbing interest rates for auto loans slow overall car sales in the country.

The company expects sales to drop 2.3% to 2.37 million units, said Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America. The automaker intends to introduce more new models in the U.S. as it fights for a greater share of the shrinking market.

Lentz, who also serves as a senior managing officer at the Japanese parent, spoke Tuesday at the North American International Auto Show in the U.S. auto hub of Detroit.

While stressing that Toyota is optimistic about the U.S. economic forecast, Lentz said the company expects the American auto market to shrink from the 17.2 million cars sold in 2018. Toyota forecasts sales of 16.6 million to 16.8 million units in the market this year due to rising raw material prices from steel and aluminum tariffs as well as higher interest rates.

Toyota controls the third-largest share of the American auto market at 14%, behind only General Motors and Ford Motor. To protect that share, the Japanese automaker plans to release 31 new models in the U.S. through 2021, including partial improvements. That figure represents seven more new models than in the three years through 2018.

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