September was not a good month for the US auto industry particularly for the Asian carmakers Toyota (TM), Honda (HMC) and Nissan (NSANY). All of them witnessed a plunge in sales as there were fewer sales days reported in the month. A senior analyst of Edmunds.com said “A big factor was that Labor Day weekend sales were pulled ahead into August”. Sales dropped to 1,139,050 cars and trucks for the month, which is 4.2% down from last year comparable month according to Autodata.
Japan’s Big Three See a Poor Month
Toyota’s position slipped to the third spot after it crossed Ford’s sales number in just the previous month. The Japanese carmaker sold 164,457 vehicles, 4.3% down from prior year comparable period when it sold 171,910 vehicles. Camry remained the best selling model and there were 31,871 deliveries during the month, but sales were down 7% relative to last year figures. Nissan Altima, a Camry competitor, also posted 13% lower deliveries in comparison to last year. Toyota’s revamped Corolla hit the market in September “and it’s off to a great start” according to Bill Fay, Toyota’s Us Vice President brand sales.
On the other hand, Ford (F) enjoyed the sales of its hybrid model and posted solid sales figure by selling 184,452 cars and trucks. In fact, the second Detroit maker was very close to General Motors (GM) which was marginally ahead with 187,195 deliveries.
Honda Motors sales also slipped 9.9% to 105,563 vehicles. It lost its fourth position to Chrysler which witnessed sales gain of 1.4% by selling 139,860 units. Nissan also posted bigger than expected decline in September as sales decreased 5.5% while analysts expected the drop to be around 4.8%. The company sold 86,868 vehicles during the month.
Japan’s big three, particularly Toyota and Honda suffered from supply constraints of some popular models. In fact the combined sales of the Japanese and Korean automakers fell by 7.2% and their market share reduced to 44.6% down from 46.1%. According to Autodata, Toyota’s market share marginally came down to 14.4% in September which was 14.5% a year ago.
Toyota sold 15,890 Prius hybrid. The hatchback version of this model was in tight supply. The inventory level of both Corolla and Tundra were also not at the desired level. Honda also faced inventory issues with Odyssey minivans the Acura SUV as per a company spokesperson. The company’s Civic sales were encouraging with 6.7% rise while Accord deliveries saw 14% drop during the month. Honda’s market share shrank to 9.3% compared to 9.9% a year earlier.
The lead automaker Toyota has implemented cost reduction techniques along with working on improving the efficiency of its production units. The rest of the year is expected to be better for the Japanese auto giants US is rebounding, and its population has a soft spot for cars. The improvement in the home building sector, improving consumer confidence, and the forthcoming holiday season is expected to keep the automobile industry rolling. Also since average US cars are aging and there is huge pent-up demand, sales are expected to be better in the last quarter of the year.