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Auto sales: Toyota, Honda slide while rivals post October gains

November 1, 2011 | 11:37 am


The biggest Japanese automakers continue to have trouble in the U.S. market.

Toyota said its October U.S. sales fell 8% to 134,046 vehicles. 

The company has struggled to rebound from a series of large recalls and more lately production and inventory disruptions caused by the Japanese earthquake back in March. 

Now both Toyota and Honda are suffering from new problems in their parts supply chain caused by flooding in Thailand.  Both are dialing back production, even at their North American factories.

Honda said its October sales fell 1% to 87,218 vehicles.

However, Nissan North America said its U.S. sale rose 18% to 82,346 vehicles. Its Nissan brand set an October record, increasing 22% for the month. However the company's Infiniti luxury car division went in reverse. Sales fell 14% compared with the same month a year earlier.

The Nissan brand sales were helped by better availability of vehicles compared with Toyota and Honda. Nissan was less affected by production disruptions and inventory shortages caused by the earthquake. 

Any new shortages that develop for Honda and Toyota because of the flooding in Thailand will probably benefit Nissan in the coming months, said Bill Visnic, an analyst with auto information company

Other foreign automakers also are doing well in the U.S. market.

Hyundai said its sales rose 23% to 52,402 vehicles. The South Korean automaker's year-to-date sales of 545,316 vehicles broke its full-year sales record of 538,228 set in 2010. The company is on pace to sell more than 600,000 vehicles this year.

Kia, Hyundai's corporate sibling, also had a strong month. It posted its best-ever October, logging sales of 37,690 vehicles, a 21% increase over the same period last year and the company's 14th straight monthly sales record.  It also has surpassed all previous annual sales records, having sold more than 405,000 vehicles so far this year.

Meanwhile, BMW Group reported combined October sales of is BMW and Mini brands reached 27,288 vehicles, an increase of 18% from the same month a year earlier.

“Auto sales are probably the best indicator of economic direction and the critical fourth quarter has made a good start,” said Ludwig Willisch, chief executive of BMW of North America.

Mercedes-Benz USA reported October sales of 24,449 vehicles, a 28% increase from a year ago and the company's highest October U.S. sales on record.

The domestic auto companies all posted gains in October.

Ford Motor Co.'s sales rose 6% to 167,803 vehicles, with sport-utility vehicles including the Escape and Explorer selling briskly.

General Motors Co. said its sales rose only a modest 2%, to 186.895 vehicles, compared with October of 2010.

Chrysler Group said its sales rose 27% to 114,512 vehicles, its best October since 2007.


Can auto industry sustain sales gains?

General Motors October auto sales stall 

European brands have reliability woes

-- Jerry Hirsch

Photo: A 2012 Toyota Camry on display at a car dealership in San Jose, Calif. Credit: Associated Press