• Bloomberg

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Nissan Motor Co. led February U.S. sales gains for Asia-based carmakers, with its Altima passing Toyota Motor Corp.’s Camry so far this year amid severe winter weather that again was blamed for chilling demand.

Monthly sales at Nissan rose 16 percent from a year earlier, topping the 12 percent average of six analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Subaru had a 24 percent increase, sustaining its 2013 lead as the fastest-growing Asian brand. Sales slid 4.3 percent for Toyota and 7 percent for Honda Motor Co., as both missed estimates.

Snow and ice storms in parts of the U.S. “certainly had an impact on auto sales in February,” Bill Fay, a Toyota U.S. group vice president, said on a conference call Monday. “It’s not only affecting consumers. We’ve had some disruptions in production and rail service.”

Nissan’s U.S. growth of 14 percent this year through February contrasts with declines of 5.7 percent for Toyota and 4.8 percent for Honda. Should Altima stay ahead of Camry for all of 2014, it would be a blow to the Toyota model that’s been the top-selling U.S. car for 12 years in a row.

“Nissan sales have risen a lot this year, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing an exceptionally good job,” said Koji Endo, senior analyst at Advanced Research Japan. “Their last year sales were extremely depressed.”

Total U.S. new car and truck sales last month reached 1.2 million, little changed from a year earlier. The annualized pace, adjusted for seasonal trends, was 15.3 million, matching February 2013, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

Combined sales for Japanese and South Korean brands gained 0.4 percent to 530,587, as Nissan and Subaru overcame declines for the region’s other automakers.

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