US auto sales: A good month for the Japanese

by SR on December 5, 2012

US auto market, seasonally adjusted annualised rate of sales, million units

Honda and Nissan go

The SAAR for the US auto market hit 15.46 million units in November 2012, the highest figure since February 2008 (see chart above). It seems fair to attribute some of that strength to a combination of sales deferred from October due to Hurricane Sandy and sales to replace cars damaged during the same storm. Total shipments for January to November 2012 now stand at 13.09 million units, up 13.7% year-on-year.

The market share chart for the major suppliers is given below.

US light vehicle market, share by OEM (%)

In absolute terms, Nissan had the best month, with its share of the US auto market leaping by more than a full percentage point from 7.3% in October 2012 to 8.4% in November 2012. That’s a great performance, but one has to be careful of the numbers on a monthly basis because different OEMs tend to make a push for share at different times of the year. For four consecutive years now Nissan has pushed for – and got – an increase in market share in November.

For that reason, Honda’s performance was a little more noteworthy, even though it managed to raise its share of the US light vehicle market by only 0.4 percentage points from October to reach 10.2% in November 2012. However, unlike Nissan, November is not a ‘push’ month for Honda and Honda typically gives away a little share in November. So this was a decent performance, probably helped by the relaunched Honda Civic.

At the other end of the scale, GM (share down 1.6 percentage points), Chrysler (minus 0.8 percentage points) and KIA (falling 0.3 percentage points) all fared poorly. Market share at Toyota, Hyundai and Ford was essentially unchanged for the month.

Toyota orders in Japan

Toyota orders for autos in Japan

Back in Japan, Toyota’s orders in October 2012 seem to have fallen sharply year-on-year by 12% to 96,000 units. (Note that in Japan new cars are not usually bought off the lot but are ordered with a lead time of about 2 weeks. These order figures are not officially disclosed but the Chubu Keizai daily newspaper often reports them. The fall in orders relative to October 2011 seems to me to be a natural consequence of the very strong push in sales and output that Toyota was making in the autumn of last year. However, an article in the Chukei noted that Toyota’s domestic orders are apparently picking up as the year winds down, helped by new model relaunches such as that of the luxury Crown sedan in Japan.

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