Honda Motor Co. (7267) and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) led U.S. sales gains in August amid the industry’s strongest month since 2009, reclaiming market share lost a year earlier because of Japan’s natural disasters.
Honda, Japan’s third-largest carmaker, posted an increase of 60 percent yesterday, compared with the 59 percent average of seven analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Toyota’s sales rose 46 percent, compared with a 40 percent average projection. Nissan Motor Co.’s deliveries grew 7.6 percent, short of the 12 percent average estimate.
Toyota and Honda “didn’t go crazy on incentives, which were in check compared to last year,” said Jesse Toprak, an analyst at TrueCar.com, an automotive pricing and data company in Santa Monica, California. “They stayed fairly aggressive where they needed to, particularly Honda with the Accord as it gets ready to launch the new model.”
Their gains contributed to a 14.5 million seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate for cars and light trucks, according to researcher Autodata Corp. That was the fastest pace since August 2009, when the U.S. government offered incentives to exchange older vehicles for new, more fuel-efficient models. Last month’s rate also beat the 14.2 million average of 15 analysts’ estimates in a Bloomberg survey.
Honda was pushing to boost Accord sales as the Tokyo-based carmaker prepares to sell a revamped version this month and as competition grows with Toyota’s Camry, a new Nissan Altima and the September arrival of Ford Motor Co.’s redesigned Fusion. Updated models have helped make midsize cars the biggest vehicle segment this year.
Accord sales surged 89 percent in August to 34,848, second to Toyota’s Camry at 36,720. Nissan’s Altima was third with 25,889.
Industrywide sales of midsize models rose 26 percent in August and 22 percent to 2.52 million vehicles this year, according to Autodata. Total car and light-truck sales rose 20 percent last month to 1.29 million, according to the Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based research firm.
“People are inspired by the glut of new product in the market,” said Jessica Caldwell, an industry analyst for Edmunds.com, an auto pricing and data website in Santa Monica. “Especially since they are in the position to get rid of their ailing older vehicles.”
Among U.S.-based carmakers, sales rose 10 percent at General Motors Co. (GM:US), 13 percent at Ford and 14 percent at Chrysler Group LLC.
Honda rose 1.4 percent to 2,506 yen at 9:23 a.m. in Tokyo trading, while Toyota climbed 1.5 percent to 3,125 yen. Nissan fell 1.1 percent to 728 yen.
Japanese and South Korean automakers sold a combined 586,227 light vehicles last month, 45.6 percent of new vehicle sales, according to Autodata. Market share for the U.S.-based companies was 45.3 percent on 581,591 deliveries.
Sales of cars rose 28 percent to 650,576, topping the gain of 13 percent to 634,626 for light trucks, Autodata reported.
Sales of cars, which typically have higher fuel efficiency than trucks, may have gained in part because August’s national average price for regular unleaded gasoline climbed 8.7 percent, the biggest monthly increase since April 2011, to $3.83 a gallon, according to AAA, the biggest U.S. motorist group.
Toyota, Asia’s largest automaker, reported August sales of 188,520 Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles, up from 129,483 a year earlier. The Toyota City, Japan-based company is running North American factories at the fastest pace in five years to increase supplies of Camrys, Corolla small cars and RAV4 compact sport- utility vehicles.
The Lexus luxury brand had a 34 percent increase to push its sales past both Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s BMW and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz for the first time since December 2010.
The addition of the new ES and GS sedans helped Lexus boost deliveries to 24,237, Tim Morrison, the brand’s vice president for U.S. sales, told reporters on a conference call yesterday.
“ES was the last big one that we were waiting for,” he said of the sedan, which was introduced in late July.
Combined sales for the Prius hybrid line also contributed to Toyota’s gains, more than doubling to 21,111.
The automaker’s market share was 14.7 percent last month, up from 12.1 percent a year earlier, according to Autodata. Toyota and Honda both lost sales and market share last year as Japan’s March 2011 earthquake and tsunami crimped production.
Honda, fifth in the U.S. by sales volume, delivered 131,321 vehicles to customers in August, up from 82,321. Along with the Accord’s gains, sales more than doubled for the Civic small car and climbed 44 percent for the CR-V crossover. The Civic and CR- V are the top sellers in their segments.
The company’s Acura luxury line posted a 73 percent gain, led by increases for MDX and RDX sport-utility vehicles.
“This has been a great time for people to buy cars because the deals in the past month have been extraordinary,” Maryann Keller, principal of Maryann Keller & Associates, a consulting firm in Stamford, Connecticut, said today on the “Bloomberg Surveillance” television show.
Dealers are “anxious to get rid of the 2012 Civics and 2012 Accords because they’ve got new models coming into showrooms now,” Keller said.
Honda spent an average of $2,419 a vehicle on incentives, up 7.7 percent from a year ago, and just below the industry’s $2,478 average, according to Autodata. Toyota’s average was $1,934 and Nissan’s was $2,762, Autodata said.
The rise in Honda’s incentives in recent months came mainly from spending for the 2012 Accord, John Mendel, the company’s U.S. executive vice president, said in an Aug. 23 interview. That includes discounted lease offers and 0.9 percent financing for as long as 60 months, according to Honda’s website. The arrival of the 2013 Accord this month will bring a reduction in that spending, Mendel said.
The company’s basic view with regard to incentives is “we’re not going to do anything stupid,” he said. “The bottom line is if it’s higher than zero, it’s higher than we want it.”
Honda’s market share in August was 10.2 percent, up from 7.7 percent a year earlier, Autodata said.
Nissan deliveries rose to 98,515 last month from 91,541 a year earlier. The company got a boost from Sentra and Versa small cars and luxury Infiniti JX crossovers and GS cars, as well as the Altima.
Nissan’s market share was 7.7 percent last month, down from 8.5 percent as the Yokohama, Japan-based company’s sales gain trailed the industry’s.
South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. (005380) and affiliate Kia Motors Corp. (000270) combined to sell 11 percent more vehicles in August than a year earlier. That was less than the 19 percent average estimate of five analysts.
Hyundai, which increased sales 4.4 percent to 61,099, said in a statement that deliveries of Sonata and Genesis sedans slipped in August from a year earlier. Kia’s sales of the Optima sedan more than doubled to 13,949, as the company’ total rose 21 percent to 50,028, according to a statement.
Subaru, the auto brand of Japan’s Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (7270), had a 36 percent increase in August deliveries while those at Mazda Motor Corp. (7261) fell 1.8 percent.
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