Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s promotion of Camry sedans and Prius hybrids with cheap loans and leases helped the carmaker top analysts’ estimates in June as Asian brands benefited from the fastest U.S. sales pace in 67 months.
Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker, raised its deliveries 9.8 percent last month, topping a projected 6.2 percent gain. Honda Motor Co. (7267) posted a 9.7 percent increase, Nissan Motor Co. (7201)’s sales rose 13 percent and combined sales for Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. (000270) grew 0.4 percent, topping expectations of a decline. Asian brands recorded a combined 9.5 percent U.S. sales gain, better than the 9.2 percent industrywide increase.
Americans are buying new cars and trucks at the fastest rate since 2007 as they replace the oldest vehicles ever on U.S. roads. That’s boosting demand for vehicles across all segments and makes as Japanese and South Korean automakers work to defend their traditional strength in small and mid-size cars from the most competitive models from U.S. carmakers in a generation.
“When the pie itself is growing, every piece gets bigger,” said Karl Brauer, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book, an industry pricing and data provider in Irvine, California. “With pent-up demand we’re still just seeing the tip of the iceberg. If the economy just keeps getting better things can really take off.”
Total U.S. sales were 1.4 million units, up from 1.29 million in June 2012, according to Autodata Corp., based in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. U.S. market share for Asian automakers was 44.1 percent, up 0.1 percentage point from a year earlier. That trailed a combined 46.7 percent for General Motors Co. (GM) (GM), Ford Motor Co. (F) (F) and Chrysler Group LLC, Autodata said.
Toyota, which has a goal of keeping Camry the best-selling U.S. car for a 12th consecutive year, sold 195,235 Toyota, Lexus and Scion cars and trucks last month.
Offers of no-interest loans on Camry and Prius, as well as a renewed advertising campaign for the four-model Prius lineup, brought respective gains of 12 percent and 10 percent, Bill Fay, group vice president of U.S. Toyota sales, said on a conference call yesterday.
“We’ve had some great success with the Camry this year, it’s the top-selling car in America,” Fay said in a Bloomberg TV interview today. Mid-size sedans are “a competitive segment and we had to stay competitive with our consumer offers,” he said.
Camry sales were 207,626 in the first half, ahead of Honda’s Accord with 186,860, according to figures from the companies. Toyota yesterday said cumulative U.S. Camry sales surpassed 10 million in the past 30 years.
Low-interest finance offers for Camry, Prius and other models will continue through July, before model-year clearance sales begin in August, Fay said.
“They’re prepared to work hard to move that vehicle owing to all the tougher competition,” Brauer said of Camry. “Toyota (7203) is fully aware the pressure is on in the second half from both Accord and the Ford Fusion, which is also doing really well.”
Sales of Prius, the world’s top-selling hybrid, are on pace to reach as many as 250,000 this year, Fay said yesterday.
The yen, which has declined about 20 percent since Oct. 31, isn’t affecting Toyota’s U.S. sales, as 70 percent of vehicles sold here are built in North America, he told Bloomberg TV.
“That gives us a very stable base when the yen fluctuates,” Fay said. “To have such a big footprint of production here in the U.S. that somewhat insulates us.”
Market share for the Toyota City, Japan-based company rose to 13.9 percent last month from 13.8 percent a year earlier, Autodata said.
Honda’s sales of 136,915 Honda and Acura vehicles surpassed the Tokyo-based company’s 124,808 deliveries in June 2012. Still, that fell just short of a 10 percent gain that was the average estimate of eight analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
Accord sales climbed 9.5 percent to 31,677 and compact Civic deliveries followed at 29,724, an 8.1 percent increase, Honda said. The company, which has no fleet sales unit, wants its top-selling models to lead their segments in retail sales.
“Our goal for 2013 is to be the leader in retail sales for all four of our highest-volume models: Accord, Civic, CR-V and Odyssey,” John Mendel, Honda’s U.S. sales chief, said in an e-mailed statement. Sales of Accord, Honda’s best-selling model, grew 20 percent in the first half.
Sales of Honda’s premium Acura brand fell 10 percent, depressing the company’s total, as deliveries of MDX sport-utility vehicles slid 25 percent ahead of a new version that went on sale last week.
Nissan’s percentage gain last month matched the average of eight estimates. The Yokohama, Japan-based company’s sales surged 25 percent in May, triple the industrywide increase, after lowering base prices for seven models, including its top-selling Altima sedan. Altima deliveries rose 23 percent in June.
The new Pathfinder SUV, which more than tripled from a year earlier, underpinned the June increase, said Fred Diaz, vice president of U.S. Nissan sales. Deliveries of all-electric Leaf hatchbacks more than quadrupled in June. That pushed the car to a record 9,839 sales in the first half, topping its full-year sales in 2012.
“I like the momentum we’re having with Leaf,” Diaz said in a phone interview. Sales of the lithium-ion battery powered car, now built at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee, plant, should stay at about 2,000 units a month in the second half, he said.
Combined sales for Hyundai and affiliate Kia, which operate separately, totaled 115,543 last month, up from 115,139 a year earlier. Deliveries for the Hyundai brand rose 1.9 percent to 65,007, a company record for the month, while Kia’s slipped 1.5 percent, the Seoul-based companies said in separate statements.
Subaru, the auto brand of Tokyo-based Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (7270), posted the biggest percentage increase last month, raising sales of its cars and light trucks 42 percent to 39,235 units. Subaru’s sales jumped 25 percent in the first half.
Gains for the automaker, which is expanding its Lafayette, Indiana, plant to meet rising U.S. sales, were led by all-wheel-drive Outback sedans and compact Forester SUVs, Subaru said in an e-mailed statement.
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