In an effort to better handle the brand's growing customer base and keep sales revving, Toyota is scrambling to boost Toyota-division dealers' service capacity to provide timely maintenance and repairs, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.

"Servicing experience is a very, very critical element that determines what your customer's next purchase is going to be," Bob Carter reportedly said as vice president of Toyota-division sales for the company's American sales unit before he was promoted earlier this year to become a group vice president and general manager of the Lexus division.

"Customers may come into the dealership every three to five years, but they are in the service shop every three to five months."

In an initiative launched late last year, Carter said Toyota's American sales unit in Torrance, Calif. has been trying to forecast sales and service capacity needs of more than 1,200 Toyota-brand dealers in the US three to five years down the road, the WSJ said.

So far, as part of the initiative, Toyota dealers have committed about $US1.8 billion in facility and capacity expansion over the next two years, a company spokesman told the Wall Street Journal. The company has about 300 dealers under construction to improve their facilities right now, the spokesman said.

"Frankly that's just the first wave of expansion," Carter reportedly said.

The WSJ sid the lack of capacity is acute at Toyota. Toyota dealers, which used to sell on average 834 new cars a year per store 10 years ago, now move 1,448 new vehicles per outlet a year.

Toyota executives reportedly believe that unless they convince their dealers to expand significantly and quickly, the Toyota brand's already-sub-par customer-satisfaction scores will get even worse. They believe expanding dealers' sales and service capacity as a way to improve customer satisfaction while keeping sales revving.

Such expansion involves hiring more sales and service workers, increasing spare-parts storage, and building larger showrooms and parking and display areas, but Carter told the Wall Street Journal the company deems expanding dealers' service capacity to be one of the most urgent and critical tasks facing Toyota dealers.