Oct. 2,2009 — Hyundai Motor Co.bucked a U.S. slump in September, increasing vehicle sales for the third month in a row while Toyota Motor Corp.and Honda Motor Co. saw demand drop after “cash for clunkers” rebates ended.
Hyundai, South Korea’s largest automaker, posted a 27 percent sales increase while affiliate Kia Motors Corp.had a 24 percent gain. That compared with declines of 13 percent for Toyota, Japan’s largest carmaker, 20 percent for Honda and 7 percent at Nissan Motor Co. Industrywide sales fell 23 percent, Autodata Corp. said, led by General Motors Co.’s 45 percent drop.
“Dealership traffic evaporated in the absence of the cash for clunkers incentive program,” said Efraim Levy, an auto analyst at Standard & Poor’s Equity Research in New York. “We expect the September lull to be temporary, as the comparisons get easier and we see economic gains.”
The industry is coming off an August surge that snapped a streak of monthly sales declines dating to 2007. Buyers responded to the U.S. government’s offer of as much as $4,500 to trade in older vehicles for more fuel-efficient ones. Hyundai raised incentives to keep customers coming after the rebates ended in August, said industry analyst Jesse Toprak.
“They’re still being very aggressive with incentives, spending nearly double in September what they did last year,” said Toprak, head of industry analysis forTrueCar Inc., an automotive pricing and data service in Santa Monica, California.
Hyundai shares didn’t trade in Seoul today as the market is closed for a holiday. The stock fell 8.1 percent to 102,500 won yesterday.
Seoul-based Hyundai spent about $3,200 per vehicle last month, up from about $1,700 in September 2008, Toprak said.
Hyundai also had more vehicles at U.S. dealerships, allowing it to take advantage of tight supplies at competitors.
“After about Sept. 20, inventories simply weren’t there” for Toyota and Honda, Toprak said.
Sales for Hyundai totaled 31,511 last month. The maker of Sonata sedans has boosted its U.S. market share to 4.4 percent this year from 3.1 percent a year ago, the biggest increase in the industry, according to Autodata.
Going into the fourth quarter, the automaker is “cautiously optimistic,” Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai’s vice president of U.S. sales, said in a statement.
Japanese and South Korean carmakers sold a combined 347,171 vehicles, grabbing a 46.5 percent market share last month, compared with 43.8 percent for GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC.
Toyota, the world’s largest automaker and second in the U.S. to Detroit-based GM, sold 126,015 Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles, down from 144,260 a year earlier.
The company is boosting production of models such as Corolla small cars, Camry sedans and RAV4 compact sport-utility vehicles, as it still has limited inventory after demand surged in August, Don Esmond, Toyota’s senior vice president of U.S. sales, said in a conference call yesterday.
Toyota, based in Toyota City, Japan, began October with just an 18-day supply of vehicles, he said.
Sales of luxury Lexus models jumped 12 percent, helped by the new HS hybrid sedan and demand for RX SUVs.
After the industrywide sales slump in the first half of the year, “we’re closing on a brighter note,” Esmond said.
Toyota’s market share in September was 16.9 percent, up 1.9 points from a year ago, according to Autodata.
Toyota fell 3.1 percent, or 110 yen, to 3,400 yen at 10:45 a.m. in Tokyo Stock Exchange trading.
Honda, fourth in U.S. sales, sold 77,229 Honda and Acura- brand vehicles last month, down from 96,626 a year earlier. Sales of nearly every car and light truck in the Tokyo-based company’s lineup fell last month, except for Pilot SUVs.
The midsize light truck appeared to benefit from lower fuel prices, said Chris Martin, a Honda spokesman.
Honda’s market share was 10.4 percent in September, up from 10 percent a year earlier.
Nissan sold 55,393 vehicles, down from 59,565 a year earlier. The carmaker’s market share in September rose to 7.4 percent from 6.2 percent, Autodata said.
“We saw some good things happening in the month, in terms of dealer traffic,”Al Castignetti, vice president of the U.S. Nissan brand, said in an interview. “We’re still in the throes of a recession.”
Nissan’s market share rose to 7.4 percent from 6.2 percent, Autodata said.
Honda fell 2.5 percent to 2,695 yen at 10:47 a.m. in Tokyo trading, while Nissan dropped 4 percent to 577 yen.
U.S. Sales in September for Asia-based Automakers Sep-09 Sep-09 Change % DSR %* Toyota 126,015 144,260 -12.6% -16.1% Honda 77,229 96,626 -20.1% -23.3% Nissan 55,393 59,565 -7.0% -10.7% Hyundai 31,511 24,765 27.2% 22.2% Kia 21,623 17,383 24.4% 19.4% Mazda 14,234 16,169 -12.0% -15.5% Subaru 14,593 14,491 0.7% -3.3% Mitsubishi 4,712 7,378 -36.1% -38.7% Suzuki 1,861 4,083 -54.4% -56.2% Isuzu 0 258 -100.0% -100.0% * Daily selling-rate basis; ** Isuzu Motors Ltd. ended U.S. sales in January 2009.