NEW YORK – An energetic market for sports utility vehicles and pickups drove record sales in the U.S. for Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. in February, while Honda Motor Co. notched up double-digit percentage growth in passenger car sales, data showed Tuesday.
Drawn by low gas prices and interest rates, U.S. consumers flocked to showrooms to buy light trucks at rates that outpaced the total industry. U.S. research company Autodata Corp. said the segment was up nearly 13 percent in February, while the passenger car market contracted by 0.2 percent.
Automakers sold 1,344,225 units in the U.S. in February, 6.9 percent more than the year before. The total translates to 17.54 million units in seasonally adjusted annualized sales, according to Autodata.
Among Japanese automakers, Toyota posted a 4.1 percent increase in the month, selling 187,954 vehicles, in third place overall. Toyota said its SUVs and trucks hit an all-time record for the second month in a row driven by double-digit increases in sales of its RAV4, Highlander and 4Runner SUVs.
“Light trucks continue to drive strong demand in 2016,” Toyota Group Vice President Bill Fay said in a statement.
Nissan took fifth place on sales of 130,911 vehicles in the month, up 10.5 percent from a year ago, surpassing Honda for the second month in a row. Nissan said light truck sales in its namesake division hit a record for the month, boosted by strong sales of its Rogue, Pathfinder and Murano SUVs.
Honda Motor sold 118,985 vehicles in the month, up 12.8 percent from a year ago, making it the sixth largest automaker in the country. Honda said sales of its core Civic and Accord sedan models were up 31.7 percent and 19.3 percent, leading its passenger cars to grow 16.3 percent in the month.
“Led by the all-new Civic, Honda cars are defying industry trends, even as our light truck models are red-hot this winter,” American Honda Senior Vice President Jeff Conrad said in a press release.
Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the maker of Subaru cars, sold 42,011 units in the month, up 1.6 percent, and continued its 51-month-long streak of annual sales gains.
Among the big-three U.S. automakers, the second-largest, Ford Motors Co., posted a strong 20.2 percent increase. Sales at the fourth-largest automaker, FCA US LLC, were up 12.2 percent, while sales at No. 1 carmaker General Motors Co. dipped 1.5 percent.