Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., beneficiaries last year of U.S. “cash for clunkers” incentives, had the steepest August sales declines among large carmakers because of the program’s end and a slowing economy.
Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, sold 34 percent fewer vehicles in the U.S. than in August 2009, while Honda’s volume plunged 33 percent. Sales for Nissan Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. fell 27 percent and 11 percent, respectively.
Asia-based brands had a combined 29 percent decline, compared with a 14 percent dip for U.S.-based General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC, and topping a 21 percent industrywide drop.
While Toyota sales were expected to fall considering the boost it got last year from rebates for trade-ins, “this month’s results are even worse than expected,” said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst at Santa Monica, California-based Edmunds.com. “Toyota still is suffering a hangover from its numerous recalls this year.”
U.S. auto sales last month were the slowest for August in 28 years as model-year closeout deals failed to lure people concerned about the economy and their jobs. Consumers avoided showrooms as fear of a double-dip recession grows following the 27 percent slide in existing home sales in July, said Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends at TrueCar.com.
Industrywide sales totaled 997,468, down from 1.26 million a year earlier, according to Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based Autodata Corp. Asia-based brands captured 46.9 percent of sales, down from 52.3 percent a year earlier, while GM, Ford and Chrysler raised their market share 3.6 percentage points to 44.3 percent, according to Autodata.
Toyota sold 148,388 Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles last month, down from 225,088 a year earlier. Corolla small cars, Camry sedans and Prius hybrids, fuel-efficient models that benefited from last year’s federal rebates, led declines for the Toyota City, Japan-based company last month, falling 53 percent, 43 percent and 38 percent, respectively.
“Year-over-year comparisons aren’t relevant to a year ago, owing to ‘Cash for clunkers,’” Bob Carter, Toyota’s group vice president for U.S. sales, said in a conference call yesterday. Given current economic conditions, “we’re characterizing August as a fair month for Toyota,” he said.
‘Return to Normal’
The company, which recalled a record number of vehicles this year, is seeing a “return to normal” based on vehicle trade-ins, Carter said. As of July, about 57 percent of cars and trucks traded in at U.S. dealerships for new Toyota models were from competing brands, returning to the level prior to the recalls, he said.
Toyota will continue through September a sales promotion offering two years of free maintenance, Carter said. The program that began earlier this year was to expire at the end of August.
The company’s shares fell 0.3 percent to close at 2,850 yen in Tokyo trading. The stock declined 26 percent in the first eight months of the year to the lowest since March 2009.
Toyota’s U.S. market share dropped to 14.9 percent last month from 17.8 percent a year earlier, according to Autodata.
Honda said it sold 108,729 Honda and Acura models, down from 161,439 a year earlier. Declines for the Tokyo-based company were led by its Accord, Civic and Fit cars, down 43 percent, 47 percent and 53 percent, respectively.
Market share for Honda, fourth in U.S. sales behind GM, Ford and Toyota, declined 1.9 percentage points to 10.9 percent, according to Autodata.
Nissan, Japan’s third-largest automaker, sold 76,827 Nissan and Infiniti models, a drop from 105,312 a year ago. The Yokohama, Japan-based company’s Versa and Sentra small cars, its main beneficiaries of cash-for-clunkers discounts in 2009, had respective declines of 60 percent and 50 percent last month, Nissan said.
Honda rose 1.9 percent to 2,859 yen and Nissan advanced 3 percent to 664 yen in Tokyo.
Even with grimmer economic news in August, Nissan dealers reported a jump in store visits late in the month and financing options have improved, Al Castignetti, Nissan’s vice president of U.S. sales, said in an interview.
“One of the bright spots out there was the easing of credit,” Castignetti said. “It’s loosening up a little, which makes things easier.”
Nissan’s market share was 7.7 percent last month, compared with 8.3 percent a year earlier, according to Autodata.
Hyundai, South Korea’s largest automaker, said its deliveries fell to 53,603 last month from 60,467 a year earlier.
As Hyundai’s sales decline trailed that of the industry, the Seoul-based company’s market share rose to 5.4 percent from 4.8 percent, according to Autodata.
“Even with an erratic stock market, sluggish home sales and faltering consumer confidence over the past several months, Hyundai continues to significantly outperform the industry and gain market share,” Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai’s vice president of U.S. sales, said in a statement.
Hyundai fell 0.7 percent to 143,000 won in Seoul trading.
Kia Motors Corp., Hyundai’s affiliate, sold 32,465 autos, down 19 percent from a year earlier. Sales for Subaru, the auto brand of Toyota-affiliated Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., declined 22 percent, and Hiroshima, Japan-based Mazda Motor Corp. said its volume dipped 26 percent.
Among smaller Asia-based brands, Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s sales declined 37 percent and Suzuki Motor Corp. plunged 68 percent.
Some automakers report sales figures adjusting for the number of selling days in a month. In August 2010 there were 25 selling days, compared with 26 in August 2009. On that basis, Toyota’s sales dropped 31 percent, Honda’s fell 30 percent, Nissan’s declined 24 percent and Hyundai had a 7.8 percent dip.