Hybrid slump hits Toyota’s U.S. sales

JIJI, Kyodo

Toyota Motor Corp.’s new automobile sales in the United States fell for the first time in 18 months in April on weaker sales of hybrid vehicles, an industry report said Wednesday.

Sales at the leading Japanese automaker came to 176,160 units, down 1.1 percent from a year before, dragged down by a decline of some 20 percent in sales of the Prius hybrid, according to the report from U.S. research firm Autodata Corp.

Meanwhile, overall new vehicle sales in the United States jumped 8.5 percent to 1,285,338 units, up for the 23rd consecutive month, reflecting strong sales of pickup trucks and other large vehicles thanks to gasoline price falls.

General Motors Co. increased sales by 11.4 percent to 237,646, followed by Ford Motor Co. with 211,984 units, up 18 percent. The two automakers also saw brisk sales of pickup trucks and other large vehicles. Chrysler LLC expanded sales 11.3 percent to 152,799 vehicles.

Among Japanese automakers other than Toyota, Honda Motor Co. sold 130,999 units, up 7.4 percent and Nissan Motor Co. sold 87,847 vehicles, up 23.2 percent.

Nissan said Wednesday that it will cut the prices of seven of its 18 U.S. models. The price cuts have nothing to do with the yen’s recent rapid weakening, a Nissan official said.

But the move could further anger U.S. automakers, who have complained that Japan’s monetary easing policy is aimed at bringing down the yen.