Toyota Motor Corp.’s sales rose 41.5 percent and Honda Motor Co.’s were up 31 percent in September compared with a year earlier, when their inventories were hurt by the earthquake. Honda sales of the Civic and Accord sedans rose 57 percent. Nissan Motor Co., which recovered more quickly from the earthquake, says sales fell 1 percent last month, partly because the company has just begun shipping its new Altima sedan to dealers.
Detroit didn’t fare as well. Chrysler Group reported a 12 percent increase, thanks to strong sales of the Dodge Avenger and the new Dodge Dart small car. But General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. sales were either up slightly or flat.
Ford saw a slowdown in sales of the Fusion sedan as it began shipping a new model to dealerships. The Fusion normally makes up 12 percent of the company’s monthly sales. Ford is also losing some customers who used to buy Ranger small pickups. Ford stopped selling the vehicle at the end of last year. Only about half of Ranger buyers are replacing their trucks with Ford products, Merkle says.
At GM, car sales increased 29 percent, led by the Chevy Cruze compact. Sales of the Sonic subcompact were five times higher than last year. But sales of the Chevy Silverado pickup, GM’s top-selling vehicle, fell almost 17 percent. GM blamed a 55-percent decrease in sales to rental companies as the company shifts between 2012 and 2013 models.
Volkswagen AG sales rose 34 percent, as sales of the Passat sedan nearly tripled over last year. Discounts helped. Auto buying site TrueCar.com says Volkswagen had the biggest increase in incentive spending of any automaker, up 29 percent to an average of $2,462. Volkswagen is offering zero-percent interest deals on the Passat through October.
Hyundai Motor Co.’s sales climbed 15 percent on strong demand for the Elantra small car, which was up 27 percent.