Nissan Motor Co's US sales gain in July propelled Asia-based auto-makers to a record market share as declining demand for trucks from American competitors pushed the industry toward its worst year since 1993, GN reported.
Nissan was the only large automaker to boost sales, posting an 8.5 per cent gain. Toyota Motor Corp, Asia's biggest carmaker, had a 12 per cent drop, and Honda Motor Co's sales slid 1.6 per cent. Asian brands held 49 per cent of the market, as General Motors Corp, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler LLC's US brands shrank to a record low 42.7 per cent, according to Autodata Corp.
"The market realignment - moving to more cars, away from trucks - plays to strengths of the Japanese automakers, particularly Honda," said Jesse Toprak, director of industry analysis for automotive research firm Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, California. "Nissan benefited to some extent because Honda was short of inventory for some small-car models."
US auto sales fell 13 per cent, including a 25 per cent drop for light trucks, as gasoline prices stayed near $4 gallon amid a weak economy. July's unemployment rate rose to the highest in four years, the Labor Department said Friday. Second-quarter economic growth, announced July 30, missed the 2.3 per cent median projection in a Bloom-berg survey.
GM's sales dropped 26 per cent, Ford's fell 15 per cent and Chrysler's declined 29 per cent. The three US-based automakers rely more on light trucks, which include pickups, sport-utility vehicles and vans, than Asia-based competitors.
The slumping market spread across three continents as GM, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and Nissan posted quarterly financial results Friday that trailed analysts' estimates.
GM's $15.5 billion loss was the third worst in the 100-year history of the biggest US automaker. Tokyo-based Nissan's net income plunged 43 per cent, while earnings at Munich-based BMW slid by a third.
"A recovery in the North American market looks far off," said Yuuki Sakurai, a Tokyo-based general manager at Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance Co, which manages about $54 billion.
Sales for European brands dropped 2 per cent, even as Volkswagen AG, BMW and Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz reported gains, respectively, of 1.5 per cent, 2.1 per cent and 1.4 per cent. European carmakers' market share rose 1 point to 8.3 per cent.
The industry's annualized selling rate for July was 12.6 million vehicles, the lowest since April 1992, according to Autodata.
Toyota, second in US sales this year behind GM, sold 197,424 vehicles, a decline from 224,058. Sales of the Toyota City, Japan-based company's light trucks tumbled 27 per cent, including a 42 per cent drop for the Tundra large pickup.
The company sold 8 per cent fewer Prius gasoline-electric hatchbacks as it strains to meet demand for the fuel-efficient cars.
The total decline adjusted for two more sales days than in July 2007 was 19 per cent, Toyota said in a statement.
Toyota, which announced July 10 that it's suspending production of Tundras and Sequoia large SUVs through November, will boost supply of Corolla and Yaris small cars by 40,000 units, Bob Carter, vice president of US Toyota brand sales, said in a conference call yesterday.
Toyota's market share was 17.4 per cent, up 0.3 point from a year earlier, Autodata said. Toyota's American depositary receipts fell 97 cents to $85.08 yesterday in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.
Honda, the only major automaker to expand sales this year, said sales last month fell to 138,744 from 141,048 in July 2007.