Japan Big Three Climb in December

Toyota, Honda and Nissan also saw good annual results in 2015, with Toyota and Nissan setting volume records.

January 5, 2016

5 Min Read
Acura RDX sets annual record in 2015
Acura RDX sets annual record in 2015.

All three major Japanese manufacturers closed out 2015 in the black, with Honda and Nissan posting record sales.

All three also had positive Decembers, with December 2015 having two more selling days (28) than December 2014 (26).

Toyota sales rose 2.9% last month on a daily-selling-rate basis to 238,350, the Japanese automaker says.

“From our vantage point the industry had a tremendous amount of momentum going into December,” Toyota Div. Group Vice President Bill Fay tells media in a conference call. “All the stars really aligned – 28 selling days, five weekends, (and) two of those (weekends) were in the Christmas to New Year’s selling period,” he says, adding great weather and favorable deals also brought buyers into showrooms.

Toyota Div. December sales (including Scion) rose 4.4% on a DSR basis to 196,970 units and Lexus Div. sold 41,380 units. Both were December records for each division, Toyota says, and Lexus’s result was its best monthly result ever in the U.S.

However, calculated for DSR, Lexus December sales fell 3.6% shy of December 2014’s 39,879.

Lexus’s 2015 tally also was a best-ever result for the brand, with 344,601 units delivered. Yet, this likely will be too low to reclaim the luxury crown in the U.S. BMW and Mercedes-Benz both were expected to top the Japanese brand for the year.

For 2015, Toyota sold 2.499 million units, up 5.3% from 2014’s 2.374 million but falling shy of the automaker’s best U.S. result of 2.621 million in 2007, WardsAuto data shows. It also fell behind 2006’s 2.543 million sales.

Toyota and Lexus combined for record light-truck sales last year of 1.218 million units.

The RAV4 compact CUV was strong in December and for the year for Toyota, notching 31,866 sales last month and 315,412 in 2015, both records. Toyota has a goal to sell 400,000 RAV4s in the U.S., possibly as soon as 2017.

The larger Highlander CUV also set an annual record with 158,915 sales last year, but its December tally of 16,100 adjusted for DSR was 0.5% below like-2014.

Toyota also says the Corolla’s 363,332 was an all-time best annual result and the Camry again took the crown as the best-selling car in the U.S., with 429,355 units sold. Both figures best longtime rivals the Honda Civic and Accord, which tallied 355,557 and 335,384, respectively, in 2015.

While the Camry again won the best-selling-car title, its 2015 volume was on par with last year and fell shy of Toyota’s record Camry result, 2007’s 473,108 deliveries.

At Lexus, December was a poor month for car sales, with only the GS 350 and RC lines in the black, but all light trucks, barring the RX 350, rose above same-month year-ago.

The NX compact CUV and LX large SUV each had 64.0% DSR gains. Lexus sold 43,764 NXs in the vehicle’s first full year of sale, above the 40,000 it predicted.

Falling shy of its expected result was Scion, which hoped to match or exceed 2014’s 58,009 sales. It fell 3.2% shy with 56,167.

December results for Scion rose 34.1% to 5,513, with the new iA and iM small cars more than offsetting losses with all other nameplates. All those nameplates also lost volume for the year, with the brand’s best-seller the tC coupe down 8.3% to 16,459.

Honda Tops 2007 Result

Honda posted a 2.1% DSR increase in December, thanks to a strong performance from the Civic. The new Civic sedan helped propel the nameplate up 20.2% from year-ago to 32,796 units.

The Pilot, Odyssey and Accord also were in positive territory in December.

Honda had a record 2015, topping its 2007 result of 1.552 million by more than 30,000 units.

Honda’s 1.587 million sales last year were driven by light trucks.

The CR-V again took the title of the best-selling utility vehicle in the U.S., although its 345,647 units were a modest 3.2% gain over 2014 and December sales fell 10.5% below like-2014.

Since going on sale in the spring, Honda sold 41,969 units of its new HR-V subcompact CUV in 2015. The brand has said it expects 12-month sales on the order of 70,000 units.

At Acura, December sales fell 12.3% on an adjusted basis, with the normally strong RDX and MDX CUVs in the red. Acura cites low inventory of both in the fourth quarter as the culprit.

The only Acura posting a gain in December was the ILX compact sedan, up 5.2%.

Acura sales for the year rose 5.6% to 177,165, its best result since 2007.

The RDX’s 51,026 deliveries were an annual record.

Murano, Rogue Drive Nissan

Nissan sales rose 9.5% on an adjusted basis last month, with the low-volume Quest minivan the brand’s biggest gainer, up 130.9% to 1,703 units.

Nissan recorded record sales in the U.S. in 2015, with 1.485 million units sold between the Nissan and Infiniti brands it says. That’s a 7.1% increase from 2014’s 1.387 million, the previous record figure, WardsAuto data shows.

Nissan Div. also says the 1.351 million units it sold last year, up 6.4% from 2014, was an all-time best result.

Strong for Nissan in 2015 was its compact Rogue CUV, which had the biggest year-over-year increase of any Nissan-brand model, climbing 44.2% to 287,190 sales in 2015. The Rogue also saw a December gain of 65.3%.

Also in positive territory was the midsize Murano CUV, up 33.0%. The Rogue and Murano helped lift Nissan light-truck deliveries 20.0% in 2015.

The strong light-truck results tempered a 1.8% loss on the car side. While the Sentra C-car managed an 11.0% rise, other models saw smaller gains and a number of nameplates, including the Maxima and electric Leaf, backslid. Leaf sales fell 42.8% last year to 17,269.

Nissan’s Infiniti luxury division rose 16.7% in December and finished last year 13.8% ahead of 2014, with 133,498 units.

The Q50 sedan was the brand’s best-selling model in 2015, with 43,874 units sold, up 18.9% from 2014.

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