Foreign auto brands show hope for first 2019 sales gain
The sputtering U.S. auto market finally may have gotten into gear in July, with several foreign brands’ positive sales numbers lending credence to predictions the industry would register its first monthly gain of the year.
While those initial reports from July are upbeat, the enthusiasm from car-market researcher Edmunds is tempered at best. Automakers and their dealers had one more selling day last month than a year ago, leading analysts to caution that “this is not the first sign of a turnaround.”
Honda Motor Co., Hyundai Motor Co., Subaru Corp., Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen all reported July sales gains in the U.S. compared with a year ago last year. Bucking that upswing was Nissan Motor Co., which posted another month of declines in what’s shaping up to be a very painful year for the troubled carmaker.
Detroit’s three major manufacturers have stopped reporting monthly numbers, so tallies for July won’t include official figures from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor Co. or General Motors Co.
Here are highlights from the automakers that are reporting results for last month:
■ Volkswagen AG said its namesake brand climbed 2.2% to 31,188 vehicles, pulled higher by strong demand for its Atlas mid-sized SUV and Tiguan compact crossover.
“Our results continue the trend of building on our market-share growth since 2016. We expect to keep that momentum into the fall as more buyers embrace the Atlas and Tiguan,” Derrick Hatami, VW’s U.S. executive vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement.
■ Subaru posted another solid month in July with deliveries up 7.9% to 64,106 vehicles, led by sales growth of its Ascent mid-size SUV and Legacy sedan.
The monthly total was the second-highest ever for the brand, behind an all-time U.S. record of 64,541 vehicles in December.
■ Nissan continued to suffer from its annus horribilis in 2019, posting a 9.1% drop in sales to 98,880 vehicles.
Falling demand for mainstays such as its Rogue SUV and Altima sedan overshadowed a rise in deliveries of its lower-volume Kicks subcompact crossover and aging Frontier mid-sized pickup. The carmaker’s sales in the U.S. are down 8.3% this year.
The automaker plans to trim its global lineup and production capacity by 10% as part of a broad restructuring effort.
■ South Korea’s Hyundai reported strong sales growth of 12% to 57,340 vehicles, marking a full year of consecutive monthly year-over-year increases. The brand saw high demand for its Kona subcompact crossover and new Palisade mid-sized SUV.
■ U.S. sales for Japan’s largest automaker, Toyota, rose 0.2% to 209,204 cars and trucks, as higher sales of its Corolla and Camry sedans offset a dip for its best-selling RAV4 sport utility vehicle. Deliveries for the Toyota brand advanced 0.4%, while Lexus sales fell 1.5% compared with a year ago.
■ The U.S. sales unit of Honda posted a 1.9% increase in July sales, to 141,296 vehicles. Honda’s light-truck sales hit a record for the month, powered by strong demand for its compact CR-V crossover and new Passport mid-sized SUV.