January 11, 2018 / 1:15 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Toyota sees U.S. auto industry 2018 sales at 16.8 mln units -exec

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By David Shepardson

Jan 10 (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp sees U.S. auto industry new vehicle sales at 16.8 million units in 2018, Jim Lentz, the Japanese automaker's top executive in North America told Reuters on Wednesday.

U.S. new vehicle sales fell 2 percent in 2017 to around 17.23 million units, after hitting a record high of 17.55 million units in 2016, and are widely expected to fall further in 2018.

"We think it is going to continue to drop a little, probably around 16.8 (million units) for the industry," Lentz told Reuters on the sidelines of an event to announce a joint $1.6 billion auto plant with Mazda Motor Corp in Alabama.

The drop in sales in 2017 and anticipated further decline this year has raised concerns of over-supply of unsold new vehicles, which would pressure automakers to cut prices.

Lentz said Toyota has aligned its own inventories of unsold vehicles with its projections for overall U.S. industry sales in 2018.

"We're in good shape," he said. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Writing by Nick Carey; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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