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Sunday, Dec 3, 2023

Top Automakers Report Sales Comeback

Orange County’s largest automakers have reported increases in vehicle sales, marking a comeback from last year’s countywide declines.

Six of the region’s largest automakers, ranked by local headcount, grew vehicle sales year-over-year with Rivian Automotive Inc. (Nasdaq: RIVN) leading gains with more than 35,000 units sold for the 12 months ended June—five times more than the period before.

However, for each vehicle sold, the company loses $33,000, the Wall Street Journal reported last week. The firm, which last week announced it is looking to raise $1.5 billion via a convertible note offering, reported a slight decline in local year-over-year headcount from 2,400 to 2,200.

The EV manufacturer’s current production goal for 2023 is 52,000, up from a previous forecast of 50,000. It is Orange County’s third most valuable public company with a market cap of around $17 billion.

Rivian remains in the No. 1 spot despite the drop in headcount.

Both No. 2—Fountain Valley-based Hyundai Motor America—and No. 3—Irvine-based Kia America Inc.—reported 15% sales increases to 775,011 and 754,452, respectively.

Irvine-based Mazda North American Operations retained its No. 4 spot with sales climbing 5% to 335,889.


Upstart EV firm Mullen Automotive, which has yet to begin automobile sales, delivered 10 of its Class 3 EV trucks in September, marking the very first group of vehicles Mullen has produced, assembled and now delivered.

The company expects production to ramp up through December, with capacity at its facility in Tunica, Miss. planned for 3,000 vehicles per year.

New Heads 

Karma Automotive LLC, No. 5, hired Marques McCammon as its new president in April. The company is debuting an all-new model this November.

Based in Irvine, Karma has 225 local employees.

Mazda also went through a leadership transition in spring with former CEO Jeff Guyton moving up to join its parent organization in Japan and Tom Donnelly stepping in. Donnelly was previously the senior vice president of retail operations. The automaker counted over 300 employees as of September.

Fountain Valley-based Genesis Motor America added the most to its headcount by percentage with 71 employees in OC, a 22% boost over last year.

Overall headcount for the region fell 5% to 4,397 for the year as automakers adjust their cost structures.


Orange County’s top auto dealers, meanwhile, reported $5.2 billion in sales volume in June, up 2.5% over the year prior.

The list includes 30 businesses with sales volume of $50 million or more.

Less than half of the dealers reported positive changes in volume since last year.

Notable gains include AutoNation Toyota Buena Park’s 21% increase in volume to $130 million. Its fellow automotive retailer, Santa Margarita Toyota, jumped 16% for the 12-month period to $119.6 million in sales.

Toyota is the second top-selling brand in the county, behind Tesla Inc. (Nasdaq: TSLA), with almost 14% total growth compared to last year, according to data sourced from Experian Automotive.

The Orange County Automobile Dealers Association (OCADA) reported 85,568 new registrations year-to-date in June in the region, rising 10% from the year before. The organization believes there is still much room for growth.

“The pace of improvement should pick up steam in the second half of the year,” the association’s second-quarter report said.

Current registration levels are still trailing pre-pandemic figures as a result of new vehicle purchases being postponed in the last few years, according to OCADA.

Electric vehicles continue to lead the market—Tesla’s Model Y and Model 3 are the two top-selling models in the county (see story, page 9)—with EVs accounting for 28% of registrations in the first half of this year, according to OCADA data.

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