August Auto Sales Show Shifting Supremacy

Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Remember when Toyota and Honda were the darlings of the auto industry? When their reputations were flawless, their vehicles were rock-solid and their sales numbers consistently ranked at the top of monthly lists?

I remember those days, too. They were, like, six months ago.

Today the automotive landscape looks much different. The once laughable American Big 3 have seen huge gains. Toyota and Honda have fallen off their thrones, and Hyundai Group just might be poised to take the top spot.

Is this a brief interruption in the regularly scheduled domination of the Japanese, or have the tables shifted to allow the U.S. and Korean automakers some time at the top?

Time will tell. For now Chrysler (aka the FIAT Group), General Motors and Ford reported increased sales of 23 percent, 16 percent and 9 percent, respectively. Honda sales are down 6 percent, and Toyota’s fell by 8 percent. While Chrysler/FIAT may appear to be a big winner, Hyundai became the king of the first 8 months of 2011 by racking up an additional 29 percent in sales compared to the same time period last year.

Keep reading for a comparison of other automakers and to see which are thriving and which are hurting.

car sales chart

While these sales numbers certainly reflect the factory shutdowns in Japan caused by the March earthquake, I have to wonder if we’re seeing the beginning of a new trend here.

Will Hyundai become the next Honda? Will Toyota become like the old GM?


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  1. During the ’70’s, ’80’s and ’90’s the big three worked very hard to alienate consumers, so in a way they’ve had to get past two generations of consumers who wouldn’t touch their product (usually after getting burned multiple times.) Now they’re starting to get a fresh start with new consumers, and I think most Americans want to buy an American-built car as long as they get comparable quality. As to Hyundai and Kia, they’ve made some extremely bad products in the past and I remember when Hyundai was so bad they couldn’t sell a car without an outrageous warranty. They’ve improved a lot, and some of their products are even built here, but I think their main appeal is being cheap.

  2. As the biggest Hundai/Kia advocate during the past two years on this blog, I think that their run as an “underdog” is over and that times going forward will be difficult for them. They have forced everyone to rethink their marketing and design arms and all the others are providing better warranties and amenities to buyers. And in case you haven’t noticed their prices are steadily rising. Their swooshy, swoopy redesigns have stimulated American buyers into buying and automakers to start thinking about redesigning the “box”. The Ford redesigns slated for the future are evidence of this awakening.

    Meanwhile the true “giants” have been kicked in the privates and have lost their collective breath and their egos have been bruised and battered by tsunamis, earthquakes, supply disruptions and a massive loss of sales worldwide. The other automakers have taken advantage of this temporary disruption and have eaten Honda and Toyota lunches. It is my opinion that this won’t last long as “value” will again regain its former prominence among families. The eoonomic malaise we are suffering currently will worsen and I fear a double dip recession. If this happens the value proposition will come front and center and that can only be perceived as good news for the former value titans. Sales of the newly redesigned Camry should serve as a bellwether for my assumption.

    The competition from domestic, Asian and European carmakers can only get stiffer for Hyundai/Kia. Cars such as the Cruze, Jetta and Passat twins, the new Ford redesigns, the resurgence of the Grand Cherokee all mean less sales for the up and comer. And don’t look now, but trucks and SUVs are making a comeback. If anyone is well positioned to thrive in this increased competition, it is the “value standard” and that means Toyota and Honda. Don’t even sell these little guys short.

  3. Honestly, I think this tough economy and the bankruptcy (or near bankruptcy in Ford’s case) is the best thing that’s ever happened to the Big 3. That Ford concept you mentioned earlier and the Italian ownership of Chrysler and GM’s step-up in quality wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Yes, I think the Big 3 are primed to take down Toyota and Honda.

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