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Strong U.S. rebound for Asian automakers in August

September 04, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
  • Toyotas are lined up for sale at a dealership in Santa Monica.
Toyotas are lined up for sale at a dealership in Santa Monica. (Getty Images )

U.S. auto sales surged in August with the Asian brands rebounding quickly from problems that have hurt their results in recent years.

American Honda Motor Co. said its U.S. sales soared almost 60% to 131,321 vehicles last month compared to the same period a year earlier.

"It's clear that demand for Honda products continues to be strong, and we're on track to post our best yearly sales results in four years," said John Mendel, American Honda’s executive vice president of sales.

Toyota Motor Corp. said its U.S. sales rose 46% to 188,520 vehicles in August.

Both companies are recovering from production and inventory problems that were caused by the Japanese earthquake last year and slashed their market share in the U.S. Additionally, Toyota is rebuilding its image from 2010, when millions of vehicle recalls hurt sales.

“Customer loyalty for the Asian brands turned out to be stronger than we gave credit to,” said Jesse Toprak, an analyst with auto price information company TrueCar.com. “Toyota and Honda recovered their market share losses much faster than we anticipated.”

Honda last month benefited from strong sales of its CR-V small sport-utility vehicle, its Civic compact sedan and the 2012 model year Accord, which it was closing out to make room for a new model that comes out this month.

“Honda had one of its best months in the past two years in August,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with auto information company Edmunds.com.

Nissan North America said August sales rose 8% to 98,515 vehicles.

Its 2013 Altima was one of the best-selling family sedans in the business last month, which could become a problem in future months as competition in that segment heats up.

“Altima is still 30% of Nissan total sales, which is too much emphasis on one product,” Caldwell said.

Hyundai Motor America, the South Korean automaker, said its U.S. sales increased 4% to 66,099 vehicles.  Kia Motors America, Hyundai’s sister brand, said sales rose almost 22% to 50,028 vehicles.

American automakers also did well last month.

General Motors Co. said its U.S. sales rose 10% to 240,520 in August compared with the same month a year earlier.

Ford Motor Co. reported that sales increased 13% to 197,249 vehicles as shoppers gravitated to smaller cars.

“As fuel prices rose again during August, we saw growing numbers of people gravitate toward our fuel-efficient vehicles — cars, utilities and trucks,” said Ken Czubay, Ford’s U.S. sales chief.

Chrysler Group said its sales rose 14% to 148,472 vehicles compared with the same month a year earlier. It was the automaker’s best August sales since 2007. Chrysler’s gain was driven in part by sales of its new Dodge Dart compact sedan. Ram truck sales also were strong.

Volkswagen of America said sales of its VW brand rose 63% to 41,011 vehicles, its best August since 1973.

“What you are seeing is a steady solid recovery in the auto industry without a big spike up or down and we are starting to see a little of that starting in the housing market,” said Frank Trivieri, Volkswagen’s vice president of sales.

Overall, the auto industry looked to be on track to sell about 14.5 million vehicles this year.

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Follow me on Twitter (@LATimesJerry), Facebook and Google+.

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