Toyota, Honda Miss U.S. Growth Goals as Nissan, Hyundai Rise

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Toyota, Honda Fail to Record U.S. Auto Sales Gains as Pledge
The Honda Motor Co. Ltd. logo is seen on the front of Civic GX vehicle during preview day at the Alternative Transportation Expo and Conference (AltCar) in Santa Monica. Photographer: Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg

Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. posted U.S. sales declines for October, rather than the increases they had forecast, while Nissan Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. led gains among Asian carmakers amid improving demand.

Deliveries fell 7.9 percent from a year earlier for Toyota, Asia’s biggest automaker, and 0.5 percent for Honda, as both of the Japanese companies did better than analysts had estimated. Sales rose 18 percent for Nissan, 23 percent for Hyundai and 21 percent for Kia Motors Corp. Overall U.S. auto sales grew 7.5 percent, according to Autodata Corp.

“We came up a little short,” Bob Carter, Toyota’s group vice president of U.S. sales, said on a conference call yesterday, blaming a lower-than-expected supply of Corolla small cars. A sales gain in October “was an aggressive goal, given our inventory situation at the time, but something we wanted to shoot for.”

Toyota and Honda are trying to rebound from output losses caused by Japan’s March earthquake and now must contend with possible parts shortages due to flooding in Thailand. Even with their declines, industrywide U.S. sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 13.3 million cars and light trucks, beating the 13.2 million average of 14 analyst estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. It was the fastest pace since February.

Toyota sales were expected to fall 9.1 percent, the average of five estimates. The average for Honda was a 2.5 percent drop.

Among U.S.-based competitors, General Motors Co.’s sales rose 1.7 percent, Ford Motor Co.’s grew 6.2 percent and Chrysler LLC reported a 27 percent increase.

Late Skid

Toyota fell 2.4 percent to 2,535 yen as of 9:25 a.m. in Tokyo trading, compared with a 2 percent decline in Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average. Honda lost 2.6 percent and Nissan dropped 2.5 percent. Hyundai lost 0.2 percent in Seoul.

“The pace for both Toyota and Honda through the first three weeks of the month was pretty strong, so it still seemed possible” that they would report sales gains, said Jesse Toprak, an analyst at, an industry pricing and data service in Santa Monica, California. “The meltdown in the financial markets the last few days of the month and unseasonable weather in the East Coast did play a role in slowing sales at the end of the month.”

Toyota’s Carter forecast an October gain after the Toyota City, Japan-based company reported September sales. Tokyo-based Honda’s U.S. sales chief John Mendel predicted a sales increase in an interview last week.

Toyota reported sales of 134,046 Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles last month, a drop from 145,474 a year earlier.

Toyota’s Market Share

The October decline cut Toyota’s U.S. market share for the month to 13.1 percent from 15.3 percent a year earlier, according to Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based Autodata.

Production is still improving, and supplies of the new Camry sedan jumped to 35,000 units for sale this month, Carter said. Still, Toyota canceled overtime shifts at North American plants in Indiana, Kentucky and Canada as it assesses the effect of the Thai floods on parts.

Honda, which Mendel estimates missed out on 200,000 deliveries since the March earthquake, may lose some U.S. and Canadian output through late December because of parts shortages caused by the floods, he told dealers this week.

Honda, Nissan

“The Japanese, who are just putting inventory back on dealer lots, are now going to be again faced with more production shortfalls,” Maryann Keller, principal of a self-titled auto-industry consulting firm in Stamford, Connecticut, said in a Bloomberg Radio interview. U.S. auto sales are still “in a modest upward trend,” she said.

Honda’s October sales fell to 98,333 Honda and Acura vehicles from 98,811 a year earlier. The company said that adjusting for one fewer selling day compared with October 2010, the deliveries rose 3.3 percent.

The company’s market share for the month was 9.6 percent, down from 10.4 percent a year earlier, Autodata said.

Nissan, Japan’s second-largest automaker, said its U.S. sales rose 18 percent last month, beating the 16 percent average of five analyst estimates. The Yokohama-based company’s deliveries totaled 82,346, up from 69,773, including gains of more than 40 percent for Versa and Sentra small cars and a 37 percent increase for Juke crossovers.

Market share for Nissan rose to 8.1 percent from 7.3 percent, according to Autodata.

“We’d have done even better if it weren’t for that northeaster that screwed things up in the East Coast,” Al Castignetti, Nissan’s vice president of U.S. sales, said in an interview. He estimated that the Nissan brand lost about 1,000 sales last weekend as a result of the storm.

The U.S. Northeast’s biggest October snowstorm in decades knocked out power to more than 3 million homes and businesses.

Hyundai, Kia

Hyundai, South Korea’s largest automaker, reported a sales increase of 23 percent to 52,402 units for the month. The Seoul-based company’s gains were led by Sonata and Elantra sedans and the new three-door Veloster hatchback.

Kia, a Hyundai affiliate and South Korea’s second-biggest automaker, said its sales rose 21 percent to 37,690 vehicles, paced by deliveries of Optima sedans and Soul wagons.

Combined sales for the two companies, which operate separately, increased 22 percent in October. The average estimate of three analysts was for a 15 percent gain.

Hyundai’s U.S. market share advanced to 5.1 percent from 4.5 percent a year earlier, while Seoul-based Kia’s was up 0.4 percentage point to 3.7 percent, Autodata said.

“I don’t think Hyundai can continue to grow at this 20 percent pace next year,” said Toprak, the TrueCar analyst. “But we should still see stable growth for Hyundai and Kia through 2012.”

Subaru, the auto brand of Japan’s Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., reported a 12 percent decline, while Mazda Motor Corp.’s deliveries grew 1.7 percent. Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s sales declined 14 percent and Suzuki Motor Corp.’s fell 4.7 percent.

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