Toyota, other Asian brands post gains in U.S. auto sales

Asian automakers posted healthy gains in U.S. car sales last month.

The increased sales may help reverse marketshare gains made by the big American automakers over the past year.

Toyota said its January U.S. sales rose 7.5% to 124,540 vehicles compared with the same month a year earlier.  Honda said its sales rose 9% to 83,009 in January.

It was helped by the first full month of sales of the redesigned Honda CR-V sport-utility vehicle.  The small SUV set a January record with sales of 18,960, up 16.0% from the same month in 2010.

Both Toyota and Honda are rebounding from inventory shortages caused by last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

"Honda's return to full strength on the manufacturing front is already beginning to pay dividends on the sales floor," said John Mendel, Honda’s U.S. executive vice president of sales.

Nissan said its U.S. sales rose 10% in January to 79,313 vehicles compared with the same month a year earlier.


Nissan’s gains were in part of a result of higher incentives and discounts for its vehicles, said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with auto information company


"Right now Nissan is competing in a market full of new products, while Nissan has nothing new except the Versa,” Caldwell said. While the incentive strategy is suited for “today's bargain-hunting buyer, this is not a viable long-term strategy. When Nissan brings out the new Altima and Sentra, the company will be better equipped to compete."

Hyundai sales increased 15% to 42,694 vehicles.

"January was a good month.... We set an all-time sales record for the month, saw continued stabilization in the general economy, and witnessed the Hyundai Elantra crowned as North American Car of the Year," said Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai Motor America's executive vice president, national sales.

Kia said its January sales rose 28% to 35,517 vehicles, its best January ever in the U.S. market.

Subaru got a boost from its redesigned Impreza, which logged a 176% gain from the model it replaced. January sales rose 21% to 22,807 vehicles.

Meanwhile, S&P Capital IQ analyst Efraim Levy notes that the 6% sales decline suffered by General Motors in January is not as bad as it first appears.

He says that while Ford, Chrysler and Volkswagen posted gains for the month, GM faces some difficult year-to-year comparisons, as sales rose 22% in January 2011.

 “With sales surging 46% last February, unfavorable comparisons should persist for another month. However, new and updated products in the U.S. should help GM boost U.S. sales for the year,” Levy said.


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