Honda's Canadian sales hurt by Japanese quake

Honda Canada's sales fell by 15 per cent in May compared with the same period a year earlier, the automaker reported Wednesday.
The ninth generation of the Honda Civic Si concept coupe, unveiled at this year's Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto in February. Honda Canada's sales fell 15 per cent in May. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Honda Canada's sales fell by 15 per cent in May compared with the same period a year earlier, the automaker reported Wednesday.

Sales by both its Honda and Acura divisions totaled 9,831 cars and light trucks with Honda sales down by 13 per cent and Acuras off by 27 per cent.

"It was not surprising that our May sales were down because of a product shortage resulting from a parts supply disruption that was caused by the natural disaster in Japan," said Jerry Chenkin, executive vice president of Honda Canada Inc.

"Especially hard hit was our all-new 2012 Honda Civic that went on sale late April. We are pleased that the new Civic is generating a very positive reaction by Canadians. We hope customers will come in to place their orders, and we apologize for any inconvenience to our customers and we appreciate their patience during this difficult time."

Ford Motor Company of Canada led Canadian automakers in sales, despite a three per cent drop from a year earlier to 25,448. Car sales rose 21 per cent to 7,534, but truck sales fell by 10 per cent to 17,914.

Chrysler Canada took second place, selling 24,406 cars and light trucks, a 16.8 per cent gain from a year earlier.

Canadian sales fall 3.8%

GM Canada sat at third, with sales down 4.7 per cent to 22,997 compared with 24,139 last May. Car sales grew by five per cent during the month, with sales of its fuel-efficient Cruze driving the increase. Car sales were up 22 per cent year-to-date. Truck sales were down 2.2 per cent to 63,296 from 64,735 a year ago.

Overall light vehicle sales in Canada totaled 149,034 for May, down about 3.8 per cent from 154,927 a year ago, according to data compiled by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.

Car sales were down 6.5 per cent at 69,402 compared with 74,196 in May 2010, while light truck sales fell 1.4 per cent to 79,632 from 80,731 a year ago.

Hyundai Auto Canada Corp. set a new record for the month of May after selling 13,967 units, a gain of 10.7 per cent. Subaru Canada also had record sales, with a gain of 5.7 per cent to 2,576.

Volvo Canada also had a good month, selling 770 vehicles, a 20 per cent increase over last May.

Japanese automakers' U.S. sales hit

Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., all of which ran short of models due to parts shortages caused by the March 11 earthquake in Japan, had the biggest U.S. sales declines among automakers, with Toyota down 33 per cent, Honda off 23 per cent and Nissan off nine per cent.

General Motors Corp. sales dropped 1.2 per cent, as falling pickup truck sales offset strong sales of more fuel-efficient cars and crossovers. It was the same story at Ford Motor Co., which saw sales fall 2.4 per cent for the month. Pickup sales dropped more than 10 percent at both companies.

At Ford, where the F-Series pickup is traditionally the top-selling vehicle in the U.S., fuel economy clearly was driving sales. For the first time in decades, the company sold more F-150s with V6 engines (55 per cent) than it did with larger V8s.

Prices on Japanese cars have risen an average of $610 US per vehicle since the quake, said.

Shortages are the biggest reason. IHS Automotive estimates that the U.S. has around 400,000 fewer cars in inventory than it should have at the current sales pace. Toyota began May with only enough Prius hybrids for 10 days of sales. A 60-day supply is considered healthy.

As a result, the Prius, which is made in Japan, is now selling for two per cent above the manufacturer's suggested retail price of $23,250, a $5,000 premium, according to Kelley Blue Book. Prior to the quake, it was selling for one to two per cent below that price.

Even sales of some fuel-efficient small cars not affected by the earthquake are in tight supply. GM said it only has a 37-day supply of the Chevrolet Cruze small car in the U.S.

Volkswagen of America said its sales were up nearly 28 per cent for the month, mainly due to a 59 percent increase in sales of its redesigned Jetta sedan and wagon. It was VW's best sales month in more than seven years. And Hyundai Motor Co. said its sales rose 21 per cent in May to more than 59,000 vehicles, led by the redesigned Elantra compact car. Sales of the Elantra more than doubled to 20,000.

Kia Motors America had its best-ever monthly sales of 48,212, an increase of 53.4 per cent increase from May 2010.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press