Hyundai Motor Co., Korea’s largest carmaker, posted a 32 percent gain in U.S. sales in March to lead Asia-based manufacturers while Toyota Motor Corp. reported a monthly decline.
Deliveries dropped 5.7 percent for Toyota. Nissan Motor Co. said Friday it had a 27 percent gain and Honda Motor Co.’s sales rose 23 percent as the three biggest Japan-based brands braced for the full effect of the country’s March 11 earthquake, which is still disrupting auto and parts production.
“Hyundai is right in tune with what this market is demanding in terms of price and features,” said Jack Nerad, executive industry analyst for vehicle data service Kelley Blue Book in Irvine, California. “Sales will stay strong in April. The real wild card is supply, given the Japan situation.”
U.S. demand for new autos grew for a seventh month even as gasoline prices rose and manufacturers braced for further production delays because of the quake. Employers created more jobs than forecast last month, and the unemployment rate unexpectedly fell in March to a two-year low of 8.8 percent.
Industrywide sales climbed 17 percent to 1.25 million cars and light trucks, according to Autodata Corp. U.S. deliveries for Japanese and Korean brands grew 16 percent, accounting for 48.5 percent of overall sales, said Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based Autodata.
Among U.S.-based carmakers, General Motors Co.’s sales rose 9.6 percent, Ford Motor Co.’s grew 16 percent and Chrysler LLC reported a 31 percent gain.
Toyota sold 176,222 Toyota, Lexus and Scion models last month, a total damped by declines for Camry sedans and RAV4 compact sport-utility vehicles. Toyota ranked third in U.S. sales and had a market share of 14.1 percent in March, down from 17 percent a year earlier, Autodata said.
Prius deliveries jumped 58 percent to 18,605, buoyed by gasoline prices at U.S. pumps that averaged $3.54 a gallon last month, 27 percent more than a year earlier. The hybrid was Toyota’s third-best seller after the Camry and Corolla.
Supplies of the Prius have fallen because of production halts in Japan, said Bob Carter, group vice president of the U.S. sales unit for the Toyota City, Japan-based company.