DETROIT – Just when Detroit seemed to be luring them away, Americans are embracing Japanese cars again.
Toyota and Honda lost ground last year after the Japanese earthquake limited their supplies. But Julys U.S. sales show theyve nearly regained what they lost, at the expense of GM and Ford.
Sales for GM, which has an Allen County truck assembly plant, fell 6 percent and Ford sales were down 4 percent compared with last July. Hondas sales were up 45 percent and Toyota jumped 26 percent. Overall car and truck sales rose 9 percent to 1.15 million, according to Autodata Corp.
Toyota and Honda have regained all of the share they lost, and much faster than we thought they would, said Jesse Toprak, vice president of market intelligence for the car buying site TrueCar.com. Their customers appear to be a lot more loyal than we gave them credit for.
Toprak and others thought that newer, better products at GM and Ford, like the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus small cars, might permanently pull customers away from the Japanese after the earthquake disrupted their supplies. Toyota had virtually no Prius hybrids to sell last summer, for example.
But rivals gains havent lasted. The Cruze, which was the best-selling subcompact in the country last July, saw sales plummet 40 percent last month. It was far outsold by the Honda Civic, whose sales jumped more than 78 percent to just over 25,000. The Toyota Corolla also topped the Cruze and Focus, even though its an older car with fewer features.
Toyota commanded 14.3 percent of the U.S. market in July, up from 12.3 percent a year ago and back to pre-earthquake levels. GM had a 17.4 percent share, which matched its pre-earthquake level and was down from 20.3 percent last July.
It was good news for the Japanese in an otherwise stagnant month for the U.S. auto industry. July sales stayed at nearly the same pace they were in June, or around 14.1 million on an annualized basis. While thats better than the 12.8 million cars and trucks sold in 2011, its a slower pace than at the start of this year.
As a result, Toprak lowered his forecast for full-year sales to 14.3 million, from 14.5 million at the start of this year.
LMC Automotive, an industry consulting firm, plans a similar cut to its forecast, said Jeff Schuster, LMCs senior vice president of forecasting.