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Kia logs fastest-growing car sales in L.A., Toyota still biggest

January 18, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
  • Kia had the fastest growth of any car brand in the Los Angeles region last year.
Kia had the fastest growth of any car brand in the Los Angeles region last… (EPA / Michael Nelson )

Helped by big gains from Kia and Chrysler, new-car sales in the Los Angeles metropolitan area grew 14% last year, well ahead of the 12% increase automakers garnered nationally, according to an analysis of new-car registrations by auto information company Edmunds.com.

Kia was the fastest-growing automotive brand among new-car buyers in the region, growing L.A.-area sales 105% last year. That compares with a 36% gain nationally.

“Kia has stood out in the marketplace by defining itself with sporty design and attractive product value,” says Jessica Caldwell, an Edmunds.com analyst. “The brand has also developed an effective marketing icon with the Kia hamster, which has struck a chord with Gen Y and has placed the Kia Soul as one of the brand’s top-selling vehicles."

The Edmunds data looked only at retail sales and does not include vehicles sold to rental car companies, commercial customers and government agencies.

Chrysler Group’s eponymous brand was the second-fastest growing brand, up 68% last year. Chrysler’s Jeep brand saw the third-largest growth, climbing 64%. It was helped by sales of the new-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee, which rose 191% in region last year, according to Edmunds.

Toyota was the top seller of any brand in the region last year, although its L.A.-area sales fell 5% as it struggled with pricing and supply challenges following the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Edmunds said.

Nationally, Toyota is showing the beginnings of a rebound. Toyota regained its top spot for brand loyalty on kbb.com, the auto information website operated by Kelley Blue Book, in the fourth quarter of 2011. Toyota last appeared in the top position in the third quarter of 2010.  

Honda had the second-most sales in the L.A. area last year, Edmunds said.  It was followed by Ford, Nissan and Mercedes-Benz.

The top-five selling vehicles by retail sales were the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, Honda Accord, Toyota Corolla and Toyota Prius.

In Kelley Blue Book’s brand loyalty report, Toyota’s shopping loyalty in the fourth quarter was at 50.6%, a 2.7 percentage point jump from the previous quarter. Hyundai was close behind at 50.2%. Ford jumped up to third from No. 5 in the quarter with a 47.1% brand loyalty. Kia was fourth at 46.5%, while Honda was fifth at 46.4%.

Kelley Blue Book defines loyalty by measuring the number of owners of a brand who are currently shopping the same brand for their next vehicle.

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