Toyota Down, Honda Flat and Nissan Rises in March

Toyota car and light-truck lineups both saw losses, as did Lexus cars, Honda light trucks and Honda’s Acura brand.

April 1, 2016

5 Min Read
Toyota RAV4 up 65 in March
Toyota RAV4 up 6.5% in March.

It was a mixed bag of results for the Japanese Big Three automakers in March, as their U.S. sales results diverged.

Toyota posted a 9.9% decline, adjusted for 27 selling days last month compared with 25 in March 2015.

Toyota and Lexus car lineups both fell sharply, with every Toyota Div. car in the red, causing a 15.6% overall car loss. Lexus cars slipped 20.8%.

While Toyota executives by and large blame the shift in Americans’ preference for CUVs and SUVs, other factors were at play in the March losses.

“March has shown a little bit of softness due to consumers being a bit more cautious about spending,” Bill Fay, group vice president-Toyota, tells media on a call to discuss sales results.

Fay and his colleague, Lexus Group Vice President Jeff Bracken, also cite Easter weekend as detrimental to their respective brands’ March figures. About two-thirds of Lexus’ U.S. dealers were closed Easter weekend, Bracken says.

“To see the volume off, albeit slightly, was certainly not our plan,” he says. “(But it’s) not a sign of any kind of sustainable issue.”

Toyota saw a reduction in core models Corolla, Camry and Prius, down a respective 15.2%, 16.1% and 30.3%.

Fay says Toyota is readjusting the mix of Corolla and Camry output, but not reducing production of either model despite consumers continuing to clamor for utility vehicles.

The new ’16 Prius liftback made up 90% of the 8,130 March deliveries of the body style, he says.

All Scion models were down from year-ago, although the new iA and iM added roughly 4,900 units, putting Scion in the black for March. Scion ceases existence with the ’17 model year.

All Lexus cars save for the low-volume LFA, which recorded two deliveries last month vs. one year-ago, were down last month. The GS had the steepest loss, 40.6%.

Toyota truck results largely were positive, but the Sienna minivan’s 13.6% decline and the Tundra large truck’s 19.5% loss were enough to bring total truck deliveries down 3.4%.

The RAV4 compact CUV continued to be bulletproof, up 6.5% to a March record of 29,045. Some 3,073 of that figure was the new hybrid RAV4.

Tacoma compact pickup sales rose 3.1%, with Fay noting Toyota continues to prioritize Tacoma over Tundra production at its San Antonio plant.

Lexus CUVs and SUVs inched up 1.4% collectively as the NX, RX and LX offset a rare decline of the GX, which has been going strong for two years now since a ’14 refresh and price repositioning.

Toyota Div. ended March with a 49-day supply at dealers and ports, while Lexus finished with a 50-day supply.

Fay cites Toyota’s 40-day supply of light trucks late last month as being too low and says the automaker continues to try to get more units out of its plants.

“We’re trying to get as much RAV4, Highlander light-truck production as soon as we can,” he says.

For Q1, Toyota sales of 569,079 were down 1.1% from Q1 2015, WardsAuto data shows.

Nissan’s Newest Nameplates Strong

Nissan saw a best-ever March in the U.S. with 163,559 deliveries, up 4.4% on an adjusted basis from March 2015’s 145,085.

The Nissan brand accounted for 149,784 units of the March tally, a 4.6% increase from like-2015.

The all-new Maxima proved popular among American car buyers, with the model having the sharpest increase of any Nissan nameplate in March, 121.1%.

The Quest has seen a resurgence this year and March continued the trend, with the minivan having the second-biggest rise of a Nissan nameplate, up 80.4% to 1,763.

Quest sales in the first quarter were up 151.2%, but at 5,750 deliveries it lags the Honda Odyssey’s 27,439 Q1 tally.

The Murano midsize CUV redesigned 18 months ago climbed 44.5% in March to 8,657.

Nissan’s compact Rogue CUV had a rare month in negative territory, dropping 6.4%. However, Rogue sales in Q1 rose 7.1% from the same period year-ago.

The Altima midsize sedan again was Nissan’s best-selling nameplate, but sales were flat, up just 0.9%. However, Altima’s 34,856 units exceeded the Honda Accord’s 30,523, making it the No.2-selling midsize sedan in the U.S. last month.

Also seeing increases at Nissan were the recently refreshed Sentra compact car (14.0%), the NV200 light-commercial van (58.8%) and the Titan fullsize pickup, with sales up 12.6% to 1,274.

Declining models included the Armada large SUV (-28.3%), the Juke small CUV (-18.5%) and the Leaf EV, off 36.5% from March 2015 and for the first quarter losing 28.3% of its Q1 2015 volume.

Infiniti sales rose 1.8% as sales of CUVs were just able to offset declining car deliveries.

The QX50, refreshed for ’16 and subject of a current marketing campaign posted a whopping 545.2% hike vs. year-ago, to 1,512 units.

The QX60 and QX70 CUVs increased 11.5% and 6.4%, respectively, while car nameplates Q60 and Q70 plunged 73.6% and 50.7%. The QX80 fullsize SUV sales saw a rare decline, down 8.3%.

The Q50 sedan, refreshed for ’16 with a new 2.0L turbo engine, bucked the car trend and posted a healthy 32.7% hike.

Through the first quarter, Nissan-brand sales were up 10.1% vs. year-ago while Infiniti was down 3.5%.

Civic, Accord Up, CR-V, Pilot Down

Honda sales were flat in March, up 1.3% on a DSR basis as a 6.3% loss at Acura offset a 2.3% increase at Honda.

Honda is the rare brand where cars did better than light trucks in March.

Honda’s Civic, thanks to the redesigned ’16 sedan and coupe, was up 12.7% in March and the Accord rose 8.6%.

But Honda’s light trucks were off. The compact CR-V CUV, which has been the leading seller among CUVs in the U.S., continues to lose volume, down 10.4%. CR-V sales in the first quarter fell 2.7%. The Pilot, redesigned for ’16, also saw a loss, down 17.8%.

However, the nearly-year-old HR-V subcompact CUV added 6,398 sales to the automaker’s tally last month.

At Acura, the 1.7% increase of the TLX sedan and the 24.1% hike in RDX midsize CUV deliveries weren’t enough to offset losses at all other car and light-truck nameplates.

Acura’s MDX large CUV, soon to be refreshed for ’17, fell 31.2%.

In Q1, Honda sales rose 7.1% to 375,703.

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