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Toyota and Volkswagen make strong gains in U.S. market

Asian brands sold 536,000 vehicles in April, accounting for 45.3% of the market, up from 44.9% a year earlier, with Toyota accounting for nearly all the gain. VW grew the most among European brands.

May 04, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times
  • Prius sedans at a Toyota dealership in the south Denver suburb of Littleton, Colo.
Prius sedans at a Toyota dealership in the south Denver suburb of Littleton,… (David Zalubowski, AP )

Toyota Motor Corp.and Volkswagen are leading a charge of import brands in U.S. auto sales, eating into market-share gains made by the Detroit automakers over the last year.

The domestic automakers sold 530,000 vehicles in April, accounting for 44.8% of the market. That share was down from 46.5% in the same month last year, according to Autodata Corp.

Asian brands sold 536,000 vehicles in April, accounting for 45.3% of the market. That's up from a share of 44.9% a year earlier.

European car companies sold 118,000 vehicles, accounting for about 10% of the market. That's up from 8.6% a year earlier.

A resurgent Toyota accounted for virtually all of the gain among the Asian brands.

Its sales rose 11.6%, compared with industry sales growth of 2.3% in April. Its market share rose to 15% from 13.8% a year earlier. The only other Asian brand to log a measurable market share gain was Subaru, which rose to 2.2% of the market from 2.1%.

Honda Motor Co.,Nissan Motor Co.andKia Motors Corp.lost ground.

Toyota's success is coming from its redesigned Camry, which sold nearly 37,000 units and was up 21% from a year earlier, and its Prius hybrids, which doubled their sales from the same period last year.

The Camry is the most popular passenger car in America, and the Prius is now third behind the second-place Honda Accord.

Toyota's market position has declined in recent years, following a series of large recalls and then inventory problems created by last year's earthquake in Japan.

Rebecca Lindland, an analyst at IHA Automotive, called Toyota's gains "amazing." She noted that Toyota's strategy of expanding the Prius line of hybrids to include a station wagon and a small car have paid off.

Among the European brands, Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz all grabbed a bigger slice of auto sales last month. But the VW brand, helped by strong sales of its Jetta and Passat sedans, grew the most. VW's market share rose to 3.2% from 2.5%.

jerry.hirsch@latimes.com

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