Orange County Business Journal

Automakers Continue Sales Momentum in February

Kari Hamanaka Thursday, March 1, 2012

Orange County automakers continued to post strong sales in February as the national pace among automakers hit a high not seen since 2008.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales—a key industry metric projecting sales for the year—rose to 15.1 million vehicles last month, according to Woodcliff Lake, N.J.-based Autodata Corp.’s automotive researcher Motor Intelligence.

That’s the first time in four years the industry measure passed the 15 million mark.

Most local manufacturers contributed to the sales momentum.

Brea-based American Suzuki Motor Corp. saw the largest February gain compared with the year-ago period.

The automaker sold 2,425 vehicles last month, up 48% from a year earlier.

The strong month for Suzuki was led by the SX4 compact with 1,214 of the cars sold, up 54% from a year earlier.

Sales of Suzuki’s Kizashi sedan, which the automaker has called its halo vehicle, totaled 620, up 77% from a year ago.

Irvine-based Kia Motors America Inc. saw the next largest gain after Suzuki for the month.

The automaker, part of South Korea-based Hyundai Kia Automotive Group, sold 45,038 vehicles, up 37.3% from a year earlier.

Sales of the Optima sedan, which the automaker plugged in its Super Bowl advertising, jumped nearly 140% to 11,558 last month.

Irvine-based Mazda North American Operations followed up its strong start to the year last month with a 32.3% gain in sales to 25,651 vehicles. Mazda’s sales in January increased 68.2% to 23,996 vehicles.

The biggest gainer for Mazda in February was its Mazda2 sedan with sales up more than 200% from a year earlier to 2,701.

Fountain Valley-based Hyundai Motor America Inc., with temporary headquarters in Costa Mesa, also reported a sales increase with 51,151 vehicles, up 18% from a year earlier.

The gains made by local automakers mirrored the national sales trend last month.

Passenger vehicle sales nationally hit 612,147 vehicles, up 23.9% from a year earlier, according to Motor Intelligence.

Cypress-based Mitsubishi Motors North America was the only automaker here to report a decline in sales of 31.3% to 4,736 vehicles.

Mitsubishi stopped production in August of the Eclipse coupe, Eclipse Spyder convertible and Endeavor crossover, all of which attributed to last month’s decline.

Anaheim-based luxury hybrid automaker Fisker Automotive Inc. didn’t report February sales. The company said it had about 1,500 of its Karma sedans produced or on the production line at the end of last year.