NEW YORK – Japanese automakers marked steady increases in sales of new vehicles in the United States this year as the overall market exceeded 15 million units for the first time in six years, data by a U.S. research company shows.
Toyota Motor Corp. posted a 7.4 percent gain to 2.236 million units for the second consecutive annual increase, Autodata Corp. said Friday.
Toyota’s sales were at their highest since 2007, when it sold 2.62 million units, thanks to strong demand for its mainline SUVs and fuel-efficient small models. Toyota ranked third in sales among all automakers in the U.S. market.
The overall market grew 7.6 percent to 15.602 million cars and light trucks for the fourth year of growth in a row, underscoring a recovery helped by a gradual pickup of the U.S. economy and drops in gas prices, which pushed up sales of large vehicles. The market last breached the 15 million mark in 2007, when sales came to around 16.15 million units.
Honda Motor Co. recorded a 7.2 percent rise to 1.526 million units on the back of solid sales of the Accord and other models. It ranked fifth among all automakers. Nissan Motor Co. placed sixth with 1.248 million units sold, up 9.4 percent.
Among smaller carmakers, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the maker of Subaru brand cars, posted a sharp 26.2 percent climb to 424,683 units on the back of solid sales of the Forester SUV.
All three major U.S. automakers registered gains.
General Motors Corp. saw sales expand 7.3 percent to 2.786 million units, making it the largest automaker in the market. Ford Motor Co. came second with 2.485 million units, up 10.8 percent. Chrysler LLC, which ranked fourth, increased sales 9.3 percent to 1.757 million units.
Globally, China is expected to be the largest market in 2013, as around 19.86 million vehicles were sold in the first 11 months of the year alone.
In December, new car sales in the U.S. expanded 0.3 percent to 1.360 million units for the third consecutive monthly increase. The rise was marginal in the reporting month, which had one fewer business days compared with last year.