Rising gas prices, hitting $4 a gallon in some areas, led buyers to purchase small, fuel efficient vehicles in March. Sales in the small car segment, which includes vehicles like Toyota’s Yaris and Audi’s A3, were up nearly 20 percent compared to 2011. Overall sales, including domestic brands and unadjusted for business days, rose 12.7 percent over March 2011 and 22 percent over last month.
For international brands, Volkswagen led the pack with a sales increase of 35 percent, resulting in its best March since 1973. Nissan’s sales were up 14.8 percent from March 2011, Subaru’s were up 20.3 percent, and Toyota saw sales rise 17.7 percent. Overall, international brand sales were up 12 percent from February 2011. Domestic automakers were up 13.6 percent.
“Consumer confidence is at its highest measured point since February 2011,” said AIADA President Cody Lusk. “Americans are ready to buy, and international nameplate dealers are well-stocked with fuel-efficient, stylish, and safe vehicles to meet every demand.
International Market Share Climbs
The market share of international brands climbed during March, with Asian and European brands together occupying 56.3 percent of the U.S. auto market. The share was the largest for international brands since last March and was up from the 54.9 percent share they experienced in February. Together, they accounted for 791,169 units sold, up from 631,152 in February.
Asian brands sold 668,385 vehicles, earning them a 47.6 percent share of the U.S. auto market. They were up 10.5 percent over last March and 12.8 percent for the year-to-date. European nameplates held steady with 8.7 percent of the market. They sold 122,784 units and were up an impressive 20.9 percent over last March. For the year-to-date, they are up 25.1 percent. Domestic brands finished the month with sales of 613,605 units and 43.7 percent of the market.
Camry, Altima Lead Top Ten List
Six of the top ten vehicles were international nameplates. At number six, the Toyota Prius made its strongest showing ever with sales of 28,711 units – a 54.3 percent increase over March 2011. As the top selling car in America, the Toyota Camry continued to sit in second place; sales for the sedan were up 35.3 percent over March 2011. The Nissan Altima also continued to be near the top of consumer shopping lists; at number three, sales were up 27.1 percent. The Honda CR-V held the fifth position – with sales up 54.3 percent – while the Toyota Corolla/Matrix and Honda Civic took the ninth and tenth spots, respectively.
Despite rising gas prices, Americans continued their preference for the SUV/crossover segment, which sold 385,088 vehicles and was up 5.9 percent during March. It was followed by the mid-size car segment, which sold 389,566 vehicles and was up 21.6 percent – more than all other segments. Sales of small cars rose 14.3 percent over last march and 19.9 percent of the year-to-date. Reflecting March’s positive economic outlook, the luxury car segment was up 10.2 percent and sold 96,027 vehicles. In contrast, the large car segment continued to decline dramatically, selling just 705 units and down 91.7 percent over last March.
The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for light vehicles was estimated by AutoData Corp. at 14.4 million units, versus 13.1 million units a year ago.