Although April is traditionally a slow month for automakers, the U.S. international nameplate auto industry experienced a successful month. International brands were up 14.7 percent from April 2010 and 18.3 percent year to date. Skyrocketing gas prices spurred sales of small vehicles. The average price of a gallon of gas is $3.96 this week, up $1.06 from a year ago. In many parts of the country that number has surpassed $4, the so-called 'magic' number that shifts consumer behavior. Some of the biggest gains in April were seen by Hyundai (up 40.3 percent from a year ago), Kia (up 56.7 percent), and Volkswagen (up 23.4 percent).
"As gas prices continue to climb, international nameplate dealers are seeing increased interest in their most fuel efficient vehicles," said AIADA President Cody Lusk. "We expect to see a gradual but steady recovery throughout 2011."
International Brands Sustain Market Share
International brands finished April with 53.5 percent of the market, a dip from 56.6 percent in March. Asian automakers held a 44.9 percent of the market, down from 48.5 percent in March and 46.1 percent in February. European brands occupied 8.6 percent of the market, up from 8.1 percent in March and 7.7 percent in February. International brands sold 619,629 vehicles overall during April, down from 706,477 last month, but up from 535,025 in February. Asian nameplates were up 13.9 percent over April 2010, selling 520,306 vehicles, while European nameplates sold 99,323 units and were up 19.5 percent. Domestic brands sold 538,165 vehicles and were up 21.7 percent over last April. Six of the top ten cars experienced year-over-year sales improvements by an average of 37.1 percent.
International brands occupied six of the top ten selling spots in April, just as they did in the previous two months. The Ford F-Series remained the top selling vehicle in the U.S. However, the Toyota Camry displaced the Chevrolet Silverado Pickup in the second position, selling 30,443 units and finishing the month up 9.1 percent over April 2010. April's top ten list reflected a trend toward smaller, fuel-efficient cars. The Honda Civic moved up one spot to number five as the automaker unveiled its latest generation of the compact at the New York Auto Show. Also newly redesigned, the 40 mpg Hyundai Elantra broke into the top ten list to finish the month at number nine with sales of 22,100 vehicles, up 128.8 percent from last April. Other international brand vehicles on the top ten list include the Honda Accord at number four, the Toyota Corolla/Matrix at number eight, and the Hyundai Sonata at number ten. Six of the top ten cars experienced year-over-year sales improvements by an average of 37.1 percent.
The SUV/crossover segment continued its reign as the most preferred segment among American buyers - selling 341,566 units and up 19.2 percent over last April. It was followed by the midsize segment, which sold 298,300 vehicles and was up 19.6 percent. However, thanks in part to rising gas prices, the small car segment experienced the most growth as Americans purchased 222,075 small cars, giving the segment a 32.9 percent boost over April 2010. Asian nameplates sold 319,505 cars and 200,801 trucks, while European brands sold 73,054 cars and 26,269 trucks. Domestic nameplates sold 216,749 cars and 321,416 trucks.
Overall sales, including domestic brands and unadjusted for business days, were up 17.9 percent from April 2010 and up 19.6 percent year to date. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for light vehicle sales in April was estimated by AutoData Corp. at 13.7 million units, up from 11.26 million units in April 2010.
See below for a complete breakdown of April 2011 monthly and year-to-date sales by international nameplate.