Toyota back-to-back U.S. sales increases,as auto demand continued recovering in April

May 4 (Bloomberg) — Toyota Motor Corp.extended discounts that brought back-to-back U.S. sales increases, and Nissan Motor Co. led the largest Asia-based carmakers’ gains for the second month in a row as auto demand continued recovering in April.

Deliveries for Nissan rose 35 percent from a year earlier, while Toyota yesterday reported a 24 percent advance after continuing no-interest loans and discount leases on most of its namesake brand’s models in April. Honda Motor Co. posted a 13 percent increase andHyundai Motor Co. sales were up 30 percent.

“Toyota’s incentives pretty much set the pace,” said James Bell, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book in Irvine, California. “Everybody being up a little bit is tied to the Toyota program — it’s raising the tide for the industry.”

Toyota recalls of more than 8 million autos globally for flaws linked to unintended acceleration and congressional hearings that tainted its image led the world’s largest automaker in March to introduce discounts across its lineup. For now, that strategy will remain in place.

“Our brand has taken some bruises over the past couple of months,” Bob Carter, U.S. vice president of Toyota sales, said in a conference call yesterday. “I don’t see us changing our incentives in the short term.”

Sales Jump

The Tokyo Stock Exchange is closed for a holiday. Hyundai rose 3,500 won, or 2.6 percent, to 138,000 won in Korea Stock Exchange trading. Affiliate Kia Motors Corp., which boosted sales 17 percent, gained 1,150 won, or 4.1 percent, to 28,950 won in Seoul.

U.S. industrywide auto sales rose 20 percent in April to 982,131 cars and light trucks, according to Autodata Corp., a research firm based in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. U.S. sales have risen for six consecutive months.

The Asia-based brands boosted their combined U.S. market share to 46.5 percent, a 1 percentage point gain from a year earlier, Autodata said.

General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, the U.S.-based automakers, held 45 percent, a one-point drop. Sales rose 6.4 percent for GM and 25 percent each for Ford and Chrysler.

Toyota sold 157,439 Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles last month, rising from 126,540 a year earlier. The Toyota City, Japan-based company said the increases were led by Corolla small cars, Prius hybrids, Avalon sedans, Highlander and RAV4 sport- utility vehicles, and Sienna minivans.

The automaker, which last month recalled Lexus GX 460 SUVs to adjust stability controls, is expanding production of most models in North America because of rising demand, Carter said.

Toyota Incentives

The incentives being extended through May include no- interest loans on seven models, discounted leases on 10 others and two years of no-cost maintenance for all new vehicles, Carter said.

“It’s largely in the same direction” as April, with some regional variation, particularly for Camry sedans, he said.

Toyota incentives averaged $2,498 per vehicle in April, up from $1,634 a year earlier, according to Edmunds.com, a Santa Monica, California-based provider of industry data.

Toyota’s market share for the month rose to 16 percent, from 15.4 percent in April 2009, according to Autodata.

Honda, Japan’s second-largest automaker, sold 113,697 Honda and Acura vehicles, compared with 101,029 a year earlier. The Tokyo-based company benefited from demand for Accord sedans, CR- V, Pilot and Acura MDX SUVs, and Ridgeline pickup trucks.

Honda’s market share for the month was 11.6 percent, a drop of 0.9 percentage point, according to Autodata.

Nissan’s Gains

Nissan reported sales of 63,769 Nissan and Infiniti vehicles, an increase from 47,190. The Yokohama, Japan-based company had the biggest volume increase among Japanese and South Korean automakers in the U.S. this year through April.

Small cars such as the Versa and Sentra posted percentage gains of more than 38 percent, while sales of light trucks including Frontier and Titan pickups and Murano, Rogue, Pathfinder and Armada SUVs were “surprisingly strong,” said Al Castignetti, Nissan’s vice president of U.S. sales.

“The exit of a lot of domestic production of SUVs has opened that segment up,” he said in a telephone interview yesterday. Nissan is considering boosting light-truck production, “but we need to also see what happens with fuel prices,” Castignetti said.

Nissan’s market share rose to 6.5 percent in April from 5.8 percent a year earlier, Autodata said.

Toyota’s American depositary receipts fell $2, or 2.6 percent, to $75.69 at 12:30 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Honda’s ADRs fell 99 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $32.69 in New York and Nissan’s fell 51 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $16.86 in over-the-counter trading.

Hyundai, Kia

Hyundai, South Korea’s largest automaker, boosted sales to 44,023 vehicles, from 33,952 a year earlier. The Seoul-based company’s gains were led by the revamped Sonata sedan, with a 57 percent surge to 18,536 units.

“Sonata is probably the best mass-volume car Hyundai has ever made,” saidJesse Toprak, an analyst at TrueCar.com in Santa Monica, California.

If demand remains near the current pace “this year has a shot at being an all-time sales record” for Hyundai, said John Krafcik, the company’s U.S. head, in a Bloomberg Television interview. “Consumers really are getting back into the market.”

Hyundai’s U.S. market share last month climbed 0.4 percentage point to 4.5 percent, according to Autodata. The carmaker rose 4.1 percent to 140,000 won at 11:19 a.m. in Seoul.

Kia boosted sales to 30,306 vehicles, helped by the new Sorento SUV that the Seoul-based company began building in West Point, Georgia, this year. It gained 4 percent to 28,900 won in Seoul.

Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Subaru, a Toyota affiliate, reported a 48 percent sales increase, the biggest percentage gain in the industry. Mazda Motor Corp.’s sales rose 17 percent.

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