Japanese Automakers Lead U.s. Sales in June

By: RyanThomas

The Nissan Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., and the Toyota Motor Corp. grabbed a notable record share of U.S. sales in June. The increase in sales is attributed to the rising demand for fuel-efficient cars.

Sales increased 23 percent for Nissan, 11 percent for Honda and ten percent for Toyota. Meanwhile, the market share for the General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler Group dived to a record low 50.3 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Japanese gained as new products and improvements in quality surveys for U.S.-based rivals failed to translate into higher sales. Additionally, U.S. demand and the yen's 2.7 percent decline against the dollar may prompt Japanese automakers to increase their profit forecasts.

"Gas prices are tied to Japanese car sales in the U.S., so high prices in May boosted sales, particularly of small cars,'' said Takashi Aoki, who manages about 130 billion yen at Mizuho Asset Management Co. in Tokyo. "Japanese carmakers will probably revise their earnings forecasts at mid-year because of the weak yen."

Satoshi Aoki, Honda's chairman, said that the automaker may raise its profit forecast for the current fiscal year because of the yen's decline. With gasoline prices still near $3 a gallon, U.S. consumers view vehicles from the Asian companies more favorably, said Jack Nerad, Kelley Blue Books' senior market analyst.

"There is still the perception of quality and reliability for the Asians that the domestics don't seem to be able to match," said Nerad, who is based in Irvine, California. "Any fuel-price increase is always a positive for the Asians, and the Japanese specifically, again mainly based on perception."

The shines at its brightest in June as the company reported its biggest monthly gain in more than a year. The record was bolstered by an 83 percent surge for Altima sedans and higher sales of Sentra small cars and Versa subcompacts. The new coupe version of the Altima midsize car added 2,286 sales, said Fred Standish, Nissan's spokesman.

Toyota was significantly backed by the demand for fuel-efficient vehicles such as the Prius hybrid, as gasoline prices surged $3 a gallon in the U.S. for a third straight year. The average price is $2.953 nationwide, compared with $2.926 a year earlier, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

Prius sales increased 83 percent to 17,756. Toyota also posted gains of 33 percent for the Yaris small car and 11 percent for the Camry sedan. Sales of the redesigned Tundra pickup more than doubled to a record 21,727, as the Japanese automaker boosted incentives June 15 on the truck to as much as $3,500 or no- interest loans for as long as 60 months, citing competing offers.

"Our incentive actions are being driven by the segment,'' said Jim Lentz, the executive vice president of Toyota's U.S. sales unit. "We still use incentives only tactically, when necessary.''

Toyota overtook GM in global vehicle sales in the first quarter. The Toyota City, Japan-based company is also gaining on Ford to become No. 2 in the U.S. In June, Toyota sold a record 245,739 cars and light trucks in the U.S., 200 fewer than Ford. In the first half, the Dearborn automaker held a 39,558-vehicle lead, about a tenth of its 319,208-unit advantage a year earlier.

Jesse Toprak, an auto analyst at Santa Monica, California- based Edmunds.com, called the Tundra discounts "unusually'' high for a Toyota model that is fewer than six months old. "It shows us how determined Toyota is to grab market share in the profitable truck segment,'' he said. Toyota's market share in June rose two percent from a year earlier to 16.9 percent.

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