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Japanese automakers' U.S. sales jump as they recover from tsunami

June 01, 2012|By Ryan Faughnder
  • In May, Toyota sold 202,973 vehicles in the U.S., an increase of 87% from the same month in 2011.
In May, Toyota sold 202,973 vehicles in the U.S., an increase of 87% from… (Toshifumi Kitamura / AFP/Getty…)

Monthly U.S. sales from Toyota shot up 87% year-over-year as the company rebounded from the earthquake and tsunami that hammered Japanese factories and slowed production last year.

U.S. sales by Toyota in May totaled 202,973 units in May.

This was in part because of last year's slowdown in production because of the disasters that hit Japan.

“Last year, the earthquakes hit in March, and May is when everything started to tank,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at Edmunds, an automotive information company in Santa Monica.

Toyota sold 21,477 Prius hybrids last month, compared to 6,924 in May 2011. Its Camry sales increased 94% to 39,571. 

“Even without the easy year-over-year comps, Toyota would’ve done pretty well,” Caldwell said.

U.S. auto sales were strong overall in May, with Ford, Chrysler, General Motors and Volkswagen posting double-digit sales gains over last year despite indications of a weak job market.

Analysts cited overall pent-up demand and loosening credit for the pick-up in sales. 

Honda, which also suffered from the Japanese disasters, sold 133,997 units, an increase of 47.6% compared to May 2011.

John Mendel, American Honda's executive vice president of sales, said in a press release that the company's recovery is in high-gear, "irrespective of last year’s production supply problems."

Nissan North America reported U.S. sales totaling 91,794 vehicles, up 20.5% from May 2011. Nissan's trucks gained 55%, while cars gained 5%. 

South Korean carmaker Hyundai sold 67,019 vehicles in May, following a weak April. May sales were up 13% versus last year.

“Hyundai has struggled due to low inventory,” Caldwell said. “They haven’t had enough production facility to meet demand.”

Hyundai's Elantra, for example, has performed better than the company expected, and the demand for the vehicle outstripped supply, Caldwell said.

Many companies scaled back production in 2008 and 2009 when demand was low and ran into trouble when it picked back up.

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