To say the automotive industry had a big November would be an understatement. November was the best month for U.S. auto sales since the government’s Cash for Clunkers incentives in 2009. Last month, almost every manufacturer posted double-digit gains based on year-over-year sales. Chrysler was up 45 percent, Volkswagen rose 40.7 percent, Hyundai grew by 22 percent, Nissan sales ticked up by 19.4 percent and Ford posted a 13.3 percent increase. Notably absent from the party: Honda and Toyota.
In September, we highlighted the struggles of both Honda and Toyota. Now, as the year begins to wind down, we’re seeing the bigger picture. While the Detroit Big 3 have all gained market share in 2011, two of Japan’s Big 3 have lost share.
The inventory for both manufacturers was deeply affected by the earthquake and Tsunami that hit Japan in March. Then, in October as inventory levels looked to return to normal, Honda and Toyota were hurt by flooding in Thailand. The flooding adversely affected part supplies and limited the amount of vehicles both manufacturers could produce. Analysts are predicting that inventory levels for Honda and Toyota won’t return to normal until sometime in 2012.
Both Honda and Toyota must want to put this year in the rear view mirror. By the end of 2011, Honda could fall to fifth place in total U.S. sales behind Hyundai/Kia and Toyota will no longer be the world’s largest automaker.
2011 has been very unkind to Honda. But the company is looking to rebound in 2012 with the introduction of new models, led by the all new Civic and CR-V. The CR-V was supposed to launch this past summer, but because of parts supply problems, the CR-V hit showrooms on December 15. Also, Honda expects to release a redesigned Accord, the company’s top selling vehicle in the U.S., sometime in 2012.
While Toyota has been stuck in reverse for most of the year, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. In November, Toyota posted its first gain since April of this year. Plus, sales for the new Prius jumped up 49 percent while the Camry gained 13 percent year-over-year.
As a consumer, you’re in the driver’s seat. In order to help their 2011 sales numbers, Honda and Toyota are offering low payments and interest rates on their best models through the end of the year. For both manufacturers, 2012 can’t come fast enough.