Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. reported sales of 178,131 cars in December, up 0.4 percent from 177,488 cars from a year ago and far better than the 1 percent drop analysts polled by Bloomberg had expected. 

Toyota also said it expects sales in India to rise this year by 32 percent to 180,00 units, led by sales of its Etios sedan and Liva hatchback cars, according to the Wall Street Journal. It also sees potential for Lexus models in India, because the growth of luxury car demand, and will launch Lexus sales in India in 2013. 

Toyota brands sold a total of 152,776 units in the U.S. last month, up 1.9 percent compared to the previous year, while Lexus cars had sales of 25,255, down 8 percent from the previous year.

We are encouraged by the strong close of 2011 as December was our best volume month of the year. We successfully launched several new vehicles, including the all-new Camry, which retained its number one position for the tenth straight year, along with the Prius v, which attracted new customers to the Toyota family, Jim Lentz, president and COO of Toyota's U.S. division, said Thursday in a statement.

We begin 2012 with high expectations fueled by a strengthening economy, increasing consumer confidence and the biggest surge of new and updated products in our history. 

Toyota's annual U.S. sales totaled 1.64 million cars in 2011, down 7 percent from the previous year. Sales rose in China by 4 percent to 883,000 vehicles, but it was the smallest increase in seven years.

The Japan-based carmaker attributed the declines to car shortgages caused by last year's earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Flooding in Thailand also hurt the production of car components.

Toyota's declines followed reports of strong sales by American carmakers GM, Ford and Chrysler, which were unaffected by natural disasters.

Production is expected to recover for this year and catch up to demand. In December, Toyota predicted a 20 percent increase in global sales in 2012 to a record 8.48 million units.