UPDATE 1-Toyota expects to gain China sales momentum with new cars despite August slip
(Adds comments from Toyota spokesman)
BEIJING Sept 2 (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp is counting on a trio of significantly redesigned cars to help gain sales momentum in China and is on track to meet its goal to sell 900,000 vehicles in the country this year, a company spokesman said on Monday.
Speaking after releasing data that showed a 4.2 percent year-on-year decline in its China sales last month, Takanori Yokoi, a Beijing-based Toyota spokesman, said the drop was due largely to its customers holding off purchases ahead of the launch of the redesigned RAV4 compact sport-utility vehicle.
The new RAV4 began hitting showrooms in China during the final week of August.
Toyota and its two local joint-venture partners sold about 72,100 automobiles in China in August, down 4.2 percent from a year earlier, it said in a texted message sent to reporters.
That followed a 3.5 percent year-on-year drop in July and a 9 percent rise in June.
Despite the two consecutive months of year-on-year sales declines, Yokoi said the Japanese company expects its China sales to regain momentum now that the new RAV4 is becoming fully available at its dealers across China.
He said two additional products - the redesigned Vios and Yaris small cars that Toyota plans to launch in China during the fourth quarter - are also likely to add to that momentum.
Toyota recently set the pricing for the new Yaris car, and Yokoi said its starting price has been set at 69,800 yuan ($11,400). The company has not announced its pricing strategy for the Vios.
"We're fairly confident that we are going to meet our sales goal" of selling 900,000 vehicles this year, up 7.1 percent from 2012, Yokoi said.
The spokesman said Toyota generally sells slightly more than 10,000 RAV4 cars a month. But as customers postponed purchases in anticipation of the freshly redesigned RAV4 model, volume dropped to slightly more than 1,000.
"That sales drop alone more or less fully explains our August sales decline," Yokoi said.
In the first eight months of this year, through the end of August, Toyota sold a total of about 564,600 vehicles in China, down 5.3 percent from a year earlier.
Toyota operates joint ventures in China with FAW Group and Guangzhou Automobile Group. ($1 = 6.1195 Chinese yuan) (Editing by Kazunori Takada and Chris Gallagher)
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