Orange County Business Journal

Smaller Gains on Auto Sales in April

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The pace of sales growth among automakers here and nationally slowed last month on fewer selling days and cooler temperatures.

Auto sales were up 2.3% to 1.18 million nationwide, according to Woodcliff Lake, NJ-based Autodata Corp.’s Motor Intelligence website. That’s slowed from the double-digit increases seen during the first three months of the year.

Automakers are still on track to beat last year’s sales total.

The seasonally adjusted annualized rate—an industry measure of the annualized selling rate—reached 14.42 million last month, up slightly from March’s 14.37 million.

Hyundai Motor America Inc. sold 62,264 vehicles, up 1% from a year earlier.

The relatively flat sales for Hyundai was still a record-breaking month for the automaker, which is temporarily headquartered in Costa Mesa while its new Fountain Valley campus is under construction.

“We definitely felt some pullback from an overheated March sales pace but really picked up some momentum at the tail end of the month and finished with a flurry to set another all-time volume record,” said Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai executive vice president of national sales in a statement.

Irvine-based Kia Motors America Inc., which shares a parent with Hyundai in Hyundai Kia Automotive Group in South Korea, also saw sales for the month up about 1% from a year earlier, to 47,500 vehicles.

Irvine-based Mazda North American Operations sold 21,506 vehicles, up 4.2% from a year earlier.

Other automakers here didn’t fare as well during the month.

Brea-based American Suzuki Motor Corp. sold 1,774 vehicles in April, down 17% from a year earlier on declining sales across all of its vehicle models.

Cypress-based Mitsubishi Motors North America Inc.’s sales continued to feel the effects of a recent halt on production of three vehicle models.

Mitsubishi reported April sales down 34.7% to 5,280 vehicles.

Mitsubishi Chief Executive Yoichi Yokozawa said he expects sales to continue to be affected for several more months.

Sales are expected to turn positive once production of the Outlander sport crossover utility vehicle moves from Japan to Mitsubishi’s Normal, Ill. plant this summer along with continued sales growth of the all-electric i as it becomes available at more dealerships, Yokozawa added.