Toyota holds its place as best-selling brand

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The Honda logo atop a dealership sign.

Honda has yet to recover from the production hit caused by the 2011 Japan earthquakes. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/StaraBlazkova/Wikipedia)

Automotive industry giants continue to jockey for position. According to Automotive News, a familiar name continues to sit atop the automotive sales throne. Toyota’s April auto sales were up 12 percent, well about the 2 percent gain experienced by the rest of the industry. It was enough to keep Toyota ahead of fast-charging rival Chrysler Group, which experienced a 20 percent surge.

Return of the juggernaut

Toyota, which has long dominated the global automotive market, staggered a bit in recent years, thanks to the automotive industry crisis and a slew of high-profile recalls that amounted to sour PR juice. The door was opened a crack for the rest of the industry to claim market share from the king, but that door may be almost closed again, said AutoNation COO Mike Maroone.

“The consumer is back for Toyota,” said Maroone. “That’s more important than Toyota getting product back.” analyst Jesse Toprak concurred.

“Toyota is back, and all the way back in just four months,” he said.

Honda takes a long, hard look in the mirror

Toprak went on to point out one of the most disappointing performers in the recovering market.

“Meanwhile, Honda may be discovering that some of its 2011 losses are permanent,” Toprak said.

Honda continues to struggle, experts note. The March 2011 Japan earthquakes disrupted production, and Honda is still trying to recover. It doesn’t help that several of its new models have turned in mediocre sales numbers. Yet Honda was far from alone. Hyundai-Kia bumped up by a barely noticeable 1 percent, while Nissan North America flat-lined for auto sales in April. Ford and General Motors gave up ground, dropping by 5 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

[You’re in the right place to buy or sell a car]

Light vehicles managed to keep the seasonally adjusted annual automotive sales rate up across the industry last month. No ground was lost from March’s 14.4 million annualized performance. April was the fourth straight month with more than 14 million light vehicle sales.

What Toyota did right

A redesigned Camry and other new models proved lucrative for Toyota. Demand for greater fuel efficiency led to a 102 percent April surge in Prius sales, and sales of the hybrid are up 56 percent for the year so far.

Toyota has also managed to restore global production quickly, something Honda has been unable to manage completely. Yet as Maroone notes, Honda still has “plenty of vehicles to sell.”

Toyota makes a move on the US

While Toyota is the leader in global automotive sales, in the U.S., the automaker is in the show position. General Motors is the current winner, while Ford has come to place. Toyota did close the gap in April, however. It pulled within 2,000 total auto sales units of Ford and within 36,000 of GM. Top brand model performance tells a similar story, as Toyota Division, which was up 14 percent over the same period last year, finished only 500 units behind Chevrolet and 18,000 behind Ford.

Buy a Honda, won’t you?


Automotive News

Bloomberg Businessweek

Boston Globe

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