Toyota, Nissan keep U.S. fleet sales high
In a shift from historical trends, fleet sales accounted for 22 percent of the top seven carmakers' April volume, the same as in the first four months.
Typically, deliveries to daily rental, commercial and government bulk buyers decline in the last nine months of the year, reflecting automakers' preference to use fleet units to keep factory production high during the slow winter months.
But April fleet sales jumped 81 percent at Toyota Motor Sales and 32 percent at Nissan North America.
Toyota says it is making up to rental-car and other corporate buyers after it diverted vehicles to dealers last year during the post-quake production shortfall.
Toyota will maintain strong fleet sales through May, then throttle back to about 6 percent fleet in the final seven months of the year, Toyota Division boss Bob Carter said.
But fleet sales provided a big chunk of Toyota Motor Sales' 12 percent sales surge for April and the first four months. The group's retail volume rose only 4 percent last month and 8 percent so far in 2012.
Carter called the high industry fleet rate "not abnormal," but acknowledged some shifting of fleet sales among brands.
Toyota Motor Sales' fleet volume was 15 percent of the company's total sales, the same as in the first four months.
Nissan North America's April mix was 17 percent fleet, up from 13 percent a year ago. So far this year, it is selling 23 percent of its vehicles to fleets, up from 18 percent a year ago.
Other big players continued reducing their dependence on fleet volume in April, led by a 25 percent decline at General Motors. Hyundai-Kia followed GM, down 11 percent.
For more than a year, Hyundai-Kia has slashed its fleet mix as it tries to satisfy U.S. dealer demand for more vehicles. So far this year, the Korean automakers have sold only 9 percent of total volume to fleets, down from 12 percent a year earlier.
Ford Motor Co. fleet sales were off 2 percent in April and Chrysler Group boosted fleet volume 6 percent, but its larger retail sector jumped 28 percent so retail sales rose to 70 percent of the sales mix. American Honda lets its dealers handle all U.S. sales and most competitors figure its fleet volume at a flat 2 percent.
|Retail vs. fleet sales|
|Estimated retail and fleet volume for April 2012 vs. April 2011|
|Retail:||April 2012 retail sales||April 2012 % retail share||April 2011 retail sales||April 2011 % retail share||April % change|
|Fleet:||April 2012 fleet sales||April 2012 % fleet share||April 2011 fleet sales||April 2011 % fleet share||April % change|
|*Automotive News estimate|
|Sources: Manufacturers, industry sources|
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