Monthly vehicle sales rebound over pandemic-struck March 2020

(April 5, 2021) Toyota sales rebounded and Honda, Subaru, Kia and Hyundai set U.S. records last month, signaling the industry’s robust advance from a pandemic-wracked early 2020, even as supply chain woes disrupt output. First-quarter volume rose at 3.7 percent at General Motors, edged up 0.6 percent at Ford and 5 percent at FCA US (Stellantis).

At Toyota, March sales rose 87 percent from a year earlier, while volume more than doubled at brands including Acura, Subaru, Hyundai, Mazda and Lexus. Even long-struggling Nissan managed an increase in the first quarter. And American Honda's record March volume — 148,538 cars and light trucks — was 93 percent higher than a year earlier.

The gains reflect a mix of market strength as well as favorable comparisons to March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic almost instantly shut down showrooms and consumer demand across the U.S.

GM said first-quarter sales rose on strong retail and light-truck volume. Deliveries increased 11 percent at GMC, 35 percent at Buick and 23 percent at Cadillac. They slipped 1.9 percent at Chevrolet on weaker sales of cars and Silverado pickups. Retail sales jumped 19 percent and fleet shipments fell 35 percent during the quarter, GM said.

At Ford, volume rose 0.7 percent at the Ford division, with sharply weaker car sales offset by stronger light trucks. Lincoln slipped 0.6 percent.

FCA's two biggest brands — Jeep and Ram — posted gains of 8 percent and 16 percent during the first quarter, while volume rose 32 percent at Chrysler and 25 percent at Alfa Romeo. Sales slumped 28 percent at Dodge and Fiat. Overall, retail deliveries jumped 25 percent during the last quarter, FCA said Thursday.

Toyota’s monthly surge was fueled by an 84 percent jump at the Toyota division and a 113 percent gain at Lexus. With car deliveries rising 6.4 percent and light-truck demand up 30 percent, Toyota Motors' first-quarter sales jumped 22 percent. The automaker easily outsold Ford in March and the first quarter and inched closer to the longtime market leader, GM — 603,066 v. 639,406 — during the first three months.

At Honda, March volume rebounded 86 percent at the Honda division and 153 percent at Acura, with first-quarter deliveries up 16 percent. "One year after the global pandemic began to take its toll on the auto industry, it’s great to return to form ...,” said Dave Gardner, executive vice president of national operations at American Honda.

Nissan said first-quarter sales rose 11 percent, with the Nissan brand up 15 percent and Infiniti off 25 percent. The automaker's car volume rose 6 percent and light trucks advanced 14 percent.

Subaru set a March sales record — 65,726 units, up 102 percent — as well as a first-quarter high of 160,426 units, a gain of 23 percent.

March volume rose 47 percent to 66,523 at Kia and 16 percent for the quarter. Hyundai, meanwhile, soared 115 percent to 75,403, including a monthly record for retail deliveries. Fleet volume was off 58 percent. Hyundai sales rose 28 percent for the quarter.

At Hyundai’s Genesis, the new GV80 crossover continued to outpace the combined sales of the luxury brand's three sedans. The result: a 108 percent increase in first-quarter volume, to 8,222. March sales more than tripled.

The VW brand reported first-quarter sales of 90,853, up 21 percent, on robust crossover deliveries.

Volume increased 104 percent at Mazda last month, helping the automaker to a 23 percent gain for the latest quarter.

Sources: Automotive News, manufacturers