Honda, Hyundai Lead Asian Automakers’ U.S . Market-Share Gains

The chickens the Detroit Duds bred have come home to roost with a vengence.
Honda, Hyundai Lead Asian Automakers’ U.S. Market-Share Gains http://tinyurl.com/cvpbsc
May 2 (Bloomberg) -- Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co.’s April U.S. sales fell at a slower rate than the industry, as Asian carmakers added market share again. Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. said conditions may improve in May.
Sales slid 25 percent for Honda and 14 percent for Hyundai, as the industry total tumbled 34 percent from a year earlier. Even as deliveries dropped 42 percent for Toyota and 38 percent for Nissan, the Asia-based companies raised their combined U.S. share 0.8 percentage point to 45.5 percent, Autodata Corp. said.
“Among Asian brands, Hyundai and Honda are in the best position,” Jesse Toprak, director of industry analysis for auto-research firm Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, California, said in an interview. “Hyundai’s value-brand image is helping them in these times when consumers are worried about money and jobs. Honda has the right product mix to be ready for any kind of change in consumer demand.”
April ended with Chrysler LLC’s Chapter 11 filing, the swine flu outbreak and General Motors Corp. racing to beat a June 1 deadline to restructure without ending up in court. That tempered any benefits from rising consumer confidence, and industry sales contracted for an 18th consecutive month.
“The cloud of bankruptcy is still very much hanging there,” said Rebecca Lindland, an IHS Global Insight analyst in Lexington, Massachusetts. “We can’t just see these little glimmers of hope in consumer confidence. We need to see an actual sustained recovery in the economy.”
April sales ran at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 9.3 million units, according to Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey- based Autodata. That was less than the 9.9 million estimate of 7 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
Toyota
Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, sold 126,540 cars and light trucks in the U.S. last month, a decline from 217,700 a year earlier and fewer than analysts expected.
Still, the company is seeing signs of improvement and as a result boosted North American output of Camry sedans and RAV4 sport-utility vehicles, Bob Carter, U.S. vice president of Toyota-brand sales, said in a conference call yesterday.
“Dealers are asking for more Camry and RAV4 inventory, so we’re increasing production,” he said, without elaborating. Output cuts Toyota has made at North American plants since last year have trimmed inventory levels to about 58 days, he said.
The U.S. contraction of the past six months “is nearing its end,” Carter said.
April market share for the Toyota City, Japan-based company shrank 2 percentage points from a year earlier to 15.4 percent, according to Autodata.
Honda
Honda’s sales fell to 101,029 vehicles from 135,180 a year earlier, said Chris Martin, a spokesman for the second-biggest Japanese automaker.
The company’s increased incentives for Accord allowed the sedan to become the top-selling U.S. vehicle, surpassing Ford Motor Co.’s F-Series pickups and Toyota’s Camry for the month. Civic, Honda’s top-selling small car, also outsold Camry, while trailing F-Series.
Average incentive spending rose 7.9 percent at Honda to $1,439 a vehicle, Edmunds.com said. Honda’s Martin wouldn’t give a figure, while Toyota’s Carter said Accord incentive spending surged “more than 50 percent” last month.
Honda’s market share jumped 1.5 percentage points to 12.3 percent. The Tokyo-based company ranked ahead of Chrysler as fourth in U.S. sales volume, behind GM, Ford and Toyota.
Nissan, Hyundai
Nissan, sixth in U.S. sales, sold 47,190 vehicles, a drop from 75,855. Sales and customer visits to dealers began improving in late April, Al Castignetti, the Tokyo-based company’s U.S. vice president, said in an interview.
“I’m a lot more optimistic about May than I’ve been about another month in a while,” he said.
The 14 percent decline for South Korea’s Hyundai, seventh in U.S. sales, was the smallest among major automakers Kia Motors Corp., an affiliate of Seoul-based Hyundai, reported a 15 percent decrease.
Automakers’ spending on incentives averaged $3,031 a vehicle, a 29 percent increase from a year earlier, according to Edmunds.com. That was down from the record of $3,165 in March.
Consumer sentiment surged last month to its highest since before the collapse of credit markets late last year, according to a Reuters/University of Michigan index released yesterday.
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