Japanese Automakers Regain a Foothold and Make Gains in Emerging Markets

John Humphrey

After slogging through several years of turbulent times that included a mix of vehicle quality challenges, widespread internal restructuring, and a rash of unavoidable natural disasters, Japanese automakers are starting to regain their footing and reassert themselves in markets around the world. In particular, Japan’s largest brands—Toyota, Nissan, and Honda—are performing especially well in the world’s largest emerging markets—China, India, and Brazil. For example:

• In China—a market where total passenger-vehicle sales grew 9% in the first 6 months of the year to 6.9 million units—Nissan sales increased 18% during the same period (making Nissan the second-best-selling brand in China, behind perennial leader Volkswagen). Toyota’s sales jumped 31% (making it the third-best-selling brand), while Honda sales grew 17% (making it the seventh-best-selling brand).

• In India, Japanese brands by far outpaced their competitors in year-over-year growth. Passenger-vehicle sales in India are up 12% through the first half of the year to 1.3 million vehicles. Toyota sales are up 69% (making it in the fifth-best-selling brand), Honda sales have climbed 85% (the eighth-best-selling brand in India) and Nissan sales are up 160% (making it the 10-best-selling brand).

• In Brazil, where Japanese automakers are relative latecomers to the market, Japanese brands are beginning to acquire market share. Industry sales declined 2% in the first half of the year, but Toyota (up 9%), Nissan (up 30%), and Honda (up 5%) were able to stand firm against this decline—even as a majority of their major competitors saw flat or negative growth. Continue reading ›

July Marks Fifth Month of 14.0-Million-Plus Sales Pace

July was the fifth of seven months this year that ended with an average annual selling pace, or SAAR, above 14.0 million units, according to analysis of Power Information Network® (PIN) retail transaction data by J.D. Power with LMC Automotive.* Two fewer selling days in July this year (24) vs. last year’s same month (26) meant that automakers sold 18% more new cars and light trucks in the U.S. market, which translated to a SAAR of 14.1 million units. Sales continue to be strong through the first seven months of 2012, and total light-vehicle sales are up 14% from a year ago. A few more highlights are summarized from a final July sales update by PIN and LMC Automotive:

• In July, retail deliveries totaled nearly 970,000 units, which was up 17.8% from a year ago and up 6.8% from June’s retail sales, when selling-day adjusted. This translated to a retail SAAR of 11.5M units, down nearly 500,000 units from last month, but up a significant 2.0 million units from a year ago.

• Fleet sales climbed 19.4% from year-ago totals, but declined 21.7% from June on a selling-day-adjusted basis. July is traditionally a weak fleet sales month, and this month’s performance resulted in the lowest mix of fleet sales this year, according to Dave Cutting, senior manager of North American forecasting at LMC Automotive. The fleet SAAR averaged 2.5 million units. Continue reading ›

May U.S. Sales: Bolstered by Toyota and Honda Delivery Gains

The strength of new car and light-truck sales during May helped offset some concern about a slowing U.S. economy. There is still pent-up demand in the U.S. market as vehicle owners replace their aging cars and trucks, while an easing in credit makes it easier to finance long-term loans, which helps drive sales growth, according to analysis from J.D. Power’s Power Information Network® (PIN) and LMC Automotive.*

In May, total light-vehicle sales reached nearly 1.335 million units, up 16% from the same month a year ago (on a selling-day adjusted basis).** May’s seasonally adjusted annual sales pace (SAAR) averaged only 13.8 million units, which was below April’s 14.4 million-unit pace, but better than last May’s 11.7 million-unit pace.

The sales gains in May were led by Japanese automakers’ year-over-year double-digit increases, which were signs of a full recovery from last year, when these automakers were hampered by production setbacks in Japan following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in that country. Continue reading ›

Some Unexpected Brands May Gain Sales with Engine Downsizing

Tyson Jominy

As we see new-vehicle buyers and lessees continue to shift from large to midsize vehicle segments and from midsize to small or compact segments, there has been a decrease in the size of engines. In addition, we are seeing that consumers who do not downsize are finding more fuel-efficient powertrain options at the segment and model level, according to our Power Information Network® (PIN) retail transaction data.

Detroit Automakers will Not be Left in the Lurch

An interesting change related to the shift to smaller engines this time around is who is leading the charge, and therefore who will stand to reap the gains. Two Detroit automaker brands, Ford and Chevrolet, are exclusively offering 4-cylinder engines in their freshened midsize cars—Fusion and Malibu, respectively. In addition, Ford offers 4-cylinder powertrains in their midsize crossovers and now offers a V-6 in the F-150 that is selling very briskly. In fact, the Ford EcoBoost powertrain sub-brand is turning out to be one of the early automotive successes of the decade. Continue reading ›

Chrysler and VW Groups, Mazda Post Jackpot US Sales Increases in January

Although January often is the weakest sales month of the year in the US auto market, many automakers posted double-digit sales gains over the same month in 2010, indicating a good beginning for 2012. It appears that total light-vehicle sales might rise by more than 11% over January 2011 and that would translate to a 14.1 million-unit seasaonally adjusted selling rate (SAAR), according to J.D. Power and LMC Automotive analysis.*

All multi-franchise automakers, except for General Motors, posted increases, as did two of four independents—Mazda and Subaru. Fiat-Chrysler and Volkswagen Groups led the January gains with year-over-year increases of 48% and 44%, respectively. Not only did Chrysler Group LLC report stronger sales for its Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram brands than a year ago, but the company also said it earned a net profit of $183 million in 2011 vs. a loss of $652 million in the prior year.** VW Group sales in January were bolstered by strong demand for the Passat, now built in Tennessee. Among the independents, Mazda was a star with deliveries soaring 68%. Continue reading ›

US Auto Market Experiences Solid Ending To a Good Sales Year

The US auto market finished 2011 on a robust note in spite of concerns about both the domestic and global economies, as well as significant setbacks to production and inventory levels for two major Japanese automakers following the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Nearly 10% more new cars and light trucks were sold in the US market during the past year in comparison to 2010—12.75 million unit sales in 2011 vs. 11.56 million unit sales in 2010. The final (retail and fleet) sales tally was only slightly stronger than projected by J.D. Power’s Power Information Network® (PIN) and LMC Automotive a few weeks ago in their monthly forecast. Continue reading ›

Hyundai Production Up Most; Detroit 3 Post Significant Gains

Through the first 10 months of 2011, production in North America has risen by 9% from a year ago—or by 920,000 units, based on research from LMC Automotive.

Hyundai Group production was up by nearly half (+48%) with higher output of existing models and the fact that more models are being produced locally in . . . Continue Reading Hyundai Production Up Most; Detroit 3 Post Significant Gains

Models from Japanese Makers Rank Highest in Seven Segments

Models from Japanese automakers rank highest in seven of 11 award segments in this year’s China Initial Quality Study. Models of Chinese domestic brands rank highest in initial quality in the mini van and lower premium midsize segments. The study features analysis on 155 different passenger-vehicle models covering 56 different makes. Continue reading ›

North American First-Half Output Rises 8% from 2010

Despite setbacks related to the Japan crisis, North American (US, Canada, and Mexico) production levels for the first half of the year are 8% higher than in the same period of 2010. In the first 6 months of 2011, 6.4 million units were built, up from 5.9 million units in the first 6 months . . . Continue Reading North American First-Half Output Rises 8% from 2010

General Motors Models Still Enjoy High Consideration in China

Tim Dunne

The models with highest consideration rates in each of nine segments among consumers in China who intend to purchase a new vehicle within the next 12 months include three General Motors brand models and three German brand models, according to the  J.D. Power Asia Pacific 2011 China New-Vehicle Intender Study.SM

One of the reasons for high consideration for GM and its brands’ models is that the US automaker has had a presence in China for a long time (in China auto years). In fact, GM announced their joint venture (JV) with SAIC in 1997, and began selling cars in China in 1998 or 1999. Buick and Chevrolet are well-known brands. GM is also well known because it is a big company. Big is a good characteristic in China—and bigger is always better. Continue reading ›