March U.S. auto sales: Toyota, GM, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia slip

U.S. sales fell again at Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., Hyundai, Kia and Subaru last month as tight inventories caused by supply-chain bottlenecks continue to undermine the auto industry’s recovery from the pandemic.

Lean new-vehicle inventories, along with rising inflation and gasoline prices that have clouded the economic outlook, resulted in sharply lower March and first-quarter U.S. car and light-truck sales across the industry.

LMC Automotive said the market dropped 22 percent to 1.25 million cars and light trucks in March, with retail sales at just under 1.1 million.

The seasonally adjusted, annualized rate of sales came in at 13.4 million for March, Motor Intelligence and LMC said, the slowest pace of the quarter, and down from 17.8 million in March 2021, which kicked off the industry’s hottest three-month stretch on record.

March is typically one of the strongest months of the year, a bellwether of the spring selling season and fueled by heavy promotions. But last month was the fifth-weakest March for volume since 2000, LMC said.

LMC noted one positive development with March: the daily selling rate increased to 46,400 units a day, the highest average in the last seven months, on slightly improved inventories.

First-quarter U.S. sales fell 16 percent to 3.29 million, LMC Automotive said. It was the second-worst quarter for volume in a decade, behind only 2020’s second quarter, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cox Automotive said.

Only four brands — Tesla, BMW, Mini and Genesis — posted higher first-quarter volume.

Toyota Motor, with one of the industry’s leanest new-vehicle stockpiles, said first-quarter sales skidded 15 percent to 514,592. It was still enough to edge past General Motors by 5,484 deliveries, which reported first-quarter volume slid 20 percent to 509,108.

GM’s four brands all posted declines in the latest quarter: 20 percent at Chevrolet, 7.5 percent at GMC, 58 percent at Buick and 24 percent at Cadillac.

Toyota overtook GM as the bestselling U.S. automaker in 2021. GM sales have now dropped three straight quarters.

Toyota said March deliveries slid 24 percent behind declines of 23 percent at the Toyota division and 29 percent at Lexus. It was the eighth consecutive monthly decline at the Toyota brand and second straight dip at Lexus.

Ford Motor deliveries slid 26 percent, with the Ford division down 26 percent and Lincoln off 25 percent. The automaker’s pickup sales skidded 34 percent behind a 47 percent drop in F series volume. The new Maverick compact pickup, one of the company’s fastest-churning models, helped buoy Ford’s truck sales with 8,695 deliveries in March.

Ford said it ended March with 268,00 light vehicles in inventory, up from 199,000 at the end of February but down from 370,000 at the close of March 2021.

Stellantis sold 405,221 vehicles in the first quarter. Overall, total U.S. and retail sales during the period declined 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively, the company said. Volume dropped 2 percent at Jeep and 15 percent at Ram.

Honda Motor Co. sales skidded for the eighth consecutive month, with March deliveries down 27 percent at the Honda brand and 26 percent at Acura. Company officials cited unprecedented low levels of new-vehicle inventory for the latest results.

“We’re riding a bit of a roller coaster due to fluctuating parts supply issues,” said Dave Gardner, executive vice president at American Honda. “We aren’t out of the woods yet, but we will continue to manage the supply issues to maximize production and help our dealers meet the needs of our customers.”

First-quarter volume at Nissan plunged 30 percent compared to last year, with the Nissan division falling 29 percent and Infiniti down 41 percent.

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