||After Inventory Shortages, Japanese, Korean Brands Are Trending Up Again
Japanese and Korean automakers accounted for nearly half of all retail sales in 2012, bouncing back after inventory shortages caused by Japan's 2011 earthquake were resolved.
Asian companies passed the 50 percent milestone in 2009, when they accounted for 50.9 percent of retail volume, which grew to 51.7 percent in 2010. Their share dipped to 48.5 percent in 2011.
But 2012 registration data released last week by R.L. Polk -- which exclude fleet sales -- show that Detroit's long decline in retail share has resumed.
Although last year was a good one for almost all companies, the combined increase in retail sales for Japanese and Korean companies was more than twice as large as the increase of the Detroit 3.
The Asians last year accounted for 49.9 percent of all retail sales. The combined General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group total slipped from 41.1 percent to 39.4 percent.
Counting all sales, including fleet, the Asians' share was 45.6 percent last year, compared with 44.5 percent for the Detroit 3.
Detroit's 2011 comeback was an aberration, said Polk analyst Tom Libby.
"The numbers were abnormally low for Toyota and Honda in 2011, so we're seeing a major sales increase when they got inventory back," he said. "Before 2011, their share was tracking over the (Detroit 3)."
In 1999 the Detroit 3 held 62 percent of retail sales. By 2004 that had dropped to 53.6 percent.
The recession accelerated that trend.
The combined Japanese and South Korean brands took a majority share in 2009. By 2010, Detroit brands accounted for just 38.5 percent of the retail market. But the 2011 Japanese disaster ravaged Toyota and Honda inventories in particular.
Toyota reclaimed its title as America's No. 1 retail brand. While second-place Ford gained about 105,000 retail sales, Toyota Division added nearly 325,000. Toyota won the race by more than 111,000 units.
Chevrolet held off Honda as the No. 3 retail brand by only about 27,000 units. The Honda brand outsold Chevrolet from 2008-2010, but quake-related inventory shortages dropped Honda to fourth place in 2011. Honda Executive Vice President John Mendel expects to reclaim third place soon.
"Honda has the strongest momentum of any brand when it comes to true retail sales," he said.
In 2008, Hyundai and Kia accounted for less than 5 percent of U.S. retail sales. Last year they were just shy of 10 percent. The Koreans now outsell all European brands combined.
The Polk numbers also show that:
• Bragging rights for the top-selling luxury brand go to Mercedes-Benz over BMW by 5,025 units. Mercedes sales did not include Sprinter or Smart; BMW sales did not include Mini.
• Ford's F series remains the best-selling retail vehicle in the United States, and the Toyota Camry passed the Chevrolet Silverado for second place.
While daily rental fleet sales can depress brand and residual values, longer-term sales to government and corporate accounts can bolster the bottom line without depressing residuals.
Ford is the leading provider of commercial fleet sales to businesses, which includes corporate lease vehicles and sales of F-series trucks to contracting and farming companies. That business represents about 15 percent of Ford's total sales.
Detroit has done a fair job of weaning itself from the fleet sales that dominated its business during the recession, Libby said. Still, Detroit 3 fleet sales far outpace those of the Asian brands.
"The domestics' retail mix has improved," Libby said. "In 2009 that retail mix went down substantially, especially for Dodge, but it has since recovered. It's more normal now."
(Source: Automotive News, 04/22/13)
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