Toy­ota bucks US growth as Honda, Nis­san, Hyundai sales rise

The Pak Banker - - Company& -

LOS AN­GE­LES: Hyundai Mo­tor Co., the fastest grow­ing mass-mar­ket auto com­pany in the U.S., posted a 45 per­cent sales gain last month on the strength of its Sonata sedans and Ge­n­e­sis lux­ury cars as Toy­ota Mo­tor Corp. missed out on resur­gence in de­mand.

Hyundai's sales grew to 40,723 ve­hi­cles in Novem­ber, a record for the month. Toy­ota's sales fell 3.3 per­cent, the sole de­cline among ma­jor au­tomak­ers, and sec­ond con­sec­u­tive monthly drop for the world's largest car com­pany. Honda Mo­tor Co.'s sales rose 21 per­cent and Nis­san Mo­tor Co.'s grew 27 per­cent.

"Sonata has done phe­nom­e­nally in the mid­size car seg­ment," said Jeff Schus­ter, di­rec­tor of fore­cast­ing at re­searcher J.D. Power & As­so­ci­ates in Troy, Michi­gan. "Camry and Corolla re­ally un­der­per­formed last month, which I think has to do with very com­pet­i­tive ve­hi­cles."

Hyundai's gains came as in­dus­try­wide sales in­creased 17 per­cent in Novem­ber, led by de­mand for pick­ups, crossovers ve­hi­cles and other light trucks. Seoul-based Hyundai's surge this year co­in­cided with Toy­ota's ef­forts to re­as­sure U.S. buy­ers about its qual­ity af­ter record re­calls and the strength­en­ing of the nation's cur­rency to a 15-year high against the dol­lar, which trims the com­pet­i­tive­ness of its ex­porters.

Toy­ota fell 0.5 per­cent to 3,295 yen in Tokyo as of 12:36 p.m. Honda rose 2.1 per­cent and Nis­san gained 2.5 per­cent. Hyundai Mo­tor shares fell 0.6 per­cent in Seoul.

In­dus­try­wide light-ve­hi­cle sales con­tin­ued at an an­nu­al­ized 12.3 mil­lion rate for a sec­ond month, the fastest pace since the U.S. govern­ment's "cash for clunkers" pro­gram in 2009, said Au­to­data Corp. Asia-based brands boosted sales 16 per­cent to 400,358 ve­hi­cles, trail­ing the in­dus­try's 17 per­cent in­crease. As a re­sult, Ja­panese and South Korean car­mak­ers' mar­ket share fell 0.5 per­cent­age point to 45.8 per­cent, Au­to­data said.

Among the U.S.-based mak­ers, GM re­ported an 11 per­cent sales gain, Ford Mo­tor Co. posted a 24 per­cent in­crease and Chrysler Group LLC said it had a 17 per­cent ad­vance.

Toy­ota sold 129,317 Toy­ota, Lexus and Scion ve­hi­cles last month, down from 133,700 a year ear­lier. The Toy­ota City, Ja­pan-based com­pany's de­cline was led by its top-sell­ing Camry and Corolla cars, down 24 per­cent and 26 per­cent, re­spec­tively.

"Toy­ota used to be the de­fault brand choice, but now con­sumers are look­ing around, check­ing out Hyundai and Kia and lik­ing what they see," said Re­becca Lind­land, an in­dus­try an­a­lyst with IHS Au­to­mo­tive. "Mar­ket share is up for grabs."

The drop for mid­size Cam­rys and Corolla small cars was the re­sult of tougher com­pe­ti­tion and a de­ci­sion to re­duce sales to fleets, said U.S. Group Vice Pres­i­dent Bob Carter.

"We had a sig­nif­i­cant de­cline in fleet vol­ume for the month, in fact it was the low­est level of the year," he said in a con­fer­ence call yes­ter­day. Sales to fleets, which tend to be less profitable, fell 58 per­cent, ac­count­ing for just 6 per­cent of Toy­ota's U.S. de­liv­er­ies last month, Carter said.

To boost sales in De­cem­ber, the com­pany has be­gun a year-end cam­paign that will fo­cus mainly on noin­t­er­est loans and dis­counted leases, he said.

Toy­ota's mar­ket share for the month was 14.8 per­cent, down from 17.9 per­cent a year ear­lier, ac­cord­ing to Au­to­data.

The com­pany is re­pair­ing more than 8 mil­lion ve­hi­cles this year to fix prob­lems re­lat­ing to un­in­tended ac­cel­er­a­tion and has con­tin­ued to re­call Lexus and Toy­ota mod­els for other de­fects.

"There's still lin­ger­ing con­cern, some im­pact Toy­ota is feel­ing from its re­calls," J.D. Power's Schus­ter said.

Sales at Hyundai, South Korea's largest au­tomaker, in­creased from 28,045 a year ear­lier. Sales surged 72 per­cent for the Sonata sedan, while Tuc­son cross­over vol­ume more than tripled.

Kia Mo­tors Corp., partly owned by Hyundai, re­ported a 48 per­cent gain to 26,601 ve­hi­cles for the month, on higher sales of Soul wag­ons and Sorento SUVs.

"Brand per­cep­tion has im­proved fast in the U.S. af­ter Hyundai and Kia started to sell new mod­els that have im­proved qual­ity," said Cho Soo Hong, an an­a­lyst at Woori In­vest­ment & Se­cu­ri­ties Co. in Seoul. "The global fi­nan­cial cri­sis and Toy­ota's re­calls also helped speed up nar­row­ing the gap be­tween con­sumers' per­cep­tion and ac­tual qual­ity im­prove­ment made in Hyundai and Kia cars." Hyundai's mar­ket share grew to 4.7 per­cent, from 3.8 per­cent a year ear­lier. In the year's first 11 months Hyundai's U.S. sales rose 23 per­cent, the biggest gain among high-vol­ume brands. Com­bined sales in the U.S. for Hyundai and Kia, which share ve­hi­cle plat­forms, pow­er­trains and a chair­man, top those of Nis­san's this year through Novem­ber, at 819,250 com­pared with 814,840 for Nis­san.

If the lead con­tin­ues in De­cem­ber that would rank the part­ner com­pa­nies sixth in U.S. sales vol­ume for first time, be­hind GM, Ford, Toy­ota, Honda, Chrysler. -Bloomberg

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