Japanese, South Korean automakers show robust April sales

(May 4, 2021) Despite depleted inventories from chip shortages and other pandemic-related issues, Toyota, Honda, Subaru, Hyundai, Kia and Mazda, posted sharply U.S. light-vehicle sales in April compared with April 2020, when the market bottomed out early in the pandemic, with showrooms and factory floors mostly shuttered. The sales rose on demand for light trucks and sport utility vehicles.

April volume jumped 183 percent to 239,311 at Toyota, with the Toyota brand up 183 percent to 212,283 and Lexus advancing 177 percent to 27,028 — April records. The Toyota division said car, crossover and SUV deliveries more than tripled last month, with sales of the Highlander more than quadrupling to 27,679.

But Toyota said U.S. car and light-truck inventories dropped to 205,285 at the end of last month, down 21 percent from March and 46 percent from April 2020, with the Toyota division beginning May with just a 19-day supply of light trucks.

April deliveries rebounded 171 percent at Honda, the company, with volume jumping 165 percent at Honda and 226 percent at Acura. Honda said record monthly light-truck demand at the Honda and Acura brands — 98,828 units — and a 125 percent increase in car deliveries helped it set an April sales record of 156,482.

The Honda brand also posted its best April ever on volume of 140,023.  Among the Honda brand's light trucks, the HR-V and Passport set monthly records, and CR-V and Pilot hit April highs.

Subaru also set an April record with 61,389 deliveries, a gain of 101 percent. But Jeff Walters, senior vice president of sales for Subaru of America, warned the company's future results "will be influenced by vehicle availability due to the well-documented chip shortages impacting production throughout the auto industry.”

Hyundai Motor Group, the parent of Hyundai, Kia and Genesis, has been largely untouched by a chronic shortage of chips that has curtailed light-vehicle production worldwide, allowing the company to rebound strongly more than a year into the coronavirus outbreak.

A 146 percent rise in retail volume drove an overall gain of 128 percent at Hyundai, with total April deliveries of 77,523, the second straight monthly record for the company. Fleet shipments dropped 27 percent and represented just 3 percent of April sales, the company said.

A Hyundai spokesman said U.S. dealers had 123,046 cars and light trucks in stock at the end of April, off 13 percent from 141,425 when March closed and down 27 percent from 169,058 at the end of April 2020.

Volume in April jumped 121 percent to 70,177 at Kia, the company's second consecutive monthly record, and 309 percent at Genesis, with the GV80 SUV continuing to outsell combined volume of the luxury brand's three sedans.

Kia said two cars — the new K5, a replacement for the Optima, and the Forte — set monthly sales records, and three crossovers — Telluride, Sportage and Seltos — set highs for April volume.

"Given the showroom traffic our dealers are reporting ahead of the summer opening of the country we are confident our strong performance will continue through the year,” Sean Yoon, CEO of Kia Motors America, said in a statement.

April volume rallied 184 percent at Mazda and 186 percent at Volvo. Ford Motor Co. will release April results on today. The rest of the industry reports U.S. sales on a quarterly basis.

Sources: Automotive News, manufacturers