February Japanese Brand Sales: The Weak Get Thrown to the Lions Edition

By Jacob Brown | March 01, 2012
If a Japanese automaker had a weak product in its lineup, it was bound to show up in February. Right at the cusp of spring and between a host of new car introductions, February marks the tail end of winter and the beginning of buying season. And buy customers did. The market responded positively to new, updated, and practical-minded vehicles. But fads became passing, as was the case with the Nissan Cube, the Lexus HS, Honda Insight and CR-Z, and other vehicles. But mainstream, bread-and-butter cars soared in the month that gave us a weather-predicting groundhog and a flying baby that violently shoots projectiles into people at random. Here's the breakdown of last month's winners and losers. Honda's Winners
  • Honda Civic: The Civic is a decently practical, reliable, economical, and sedate vehicle that lacks the personality or materials quality embodied in its┬ápredecessor. But despite quite a bit of negative publicity, sales are up 36 percent from last February. Honda's obviously having the last laugh.
  • Acura TL: Despite the fact it's getting up there in years, the Acura TL is still the best vehicle Honda's luxury division makes. Sales picked up 26 percent last month.
  • Honda CR-V: It's all new and getting a heaping of sales love for its "More of the good stuff" take on Honda's small crossover, up 24.5 percent. We just wish it still had the built-in picnic table the older models had.
Honda's Losers
  • Honda hybrids: The 2012 Civic Hybrid sold decently well despite the negative press garnered by the Heather Peters court case, but the Insight and CR-Z tanked 56.9 percent and 59 percent, respectively, despite higher gas prices. Ouch.
  • Honda hunchbacks: As Honda's figuring out the hard way, just because BMW can do something doesn't mean other automakers can. The Honda Crosstour and Acura ZDX crossover coupes are taking a beating. In fact Acura sold just 56 ZDX models last month.
  • Acura RL: Not to be outdone by the ZDX, the outdated Acura RL took one for the team, halving the ZDX's number. Yup, just 28 were sold, making it officially more scarce than a sunny day in Pittsburgh...but not by much.
Mitsubishi's Winners
  • Mitsubishi crossovers: The Outlander and Outlander Sport showed year-over-year gains of 17.8 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively. There's still some life left in this horse.
  • Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution: Lancer Evo sales grew 53.3 percent from this month last year. After driving one, we completely understand why. The standard Lancer also showed a 16.5 percent increase.
Mitsubishi's Losers
  • Everything else: The Eclipse is dead, the Galant is well past its expiration date, and the i-MiEV isn't on sale in too many places yet. Is any of this really surprising?
Nissan's Winners
  • Nissan Altima: It's on its last leg before its replacement comes at next month's New York Auto Show, but somehow the Nissan Altima keeps breaking its own bests. This month, the midsize sedan found 32,953 buyers, a 58.4 percent uptick.
  • Nissan Frontier: Nissan has been advertising this seven-year-old truck more heavily than it had when it was new. Know why? Because the Ford Ranger's production ended with no replacement in sight. The result: 20.1 percent greater sales.
  • Infiniti QX56: Does the world need another $70,000 SUV? No, but the world certainly wants one, posting 1,162 sales in February, up 28.8 percent.
Nissan's Losers:
  • Nissan Cube: When the cute wore off, Nissan saw Cube sales slide almost 70 percent to just 687 sold.
  • Infiniti EX: It's not really a crossover so much as it's a more expensive Infiniti G station wagon. Its sales slid 38.1 percent.
  • Nissan Versa and Nissan Sentra: In two fiercely competitive segments, Nissan lost ground. In a world of $4 gasoline (again), Nissan wasn't able to capitalize on what should have been two lucrative segments.
Toyota's Winners
  • Toyota Yaris: It's a car! But it's also a better-selling car than its predecessor, posting a February number of 3,611 sold. It's lagging well behind the leaders, but that's not bad for what the Yaris has traditionally done.
  • Toyota Avalon: Because Buick's sales were down this month, we imagine we can figure out where the customers all went. The Avalon posted a 65.7 percent gain.
  • Hybrids: Between its Toyota and Lexus, the company pushed 27,458 hybrids through its doors, an increase of 60.1 percent. The Toyota Prius made up 20,589 of those sales in its various iterations.
Toyota's Losers
  • SUVs and Crossovers: We can't explain it, but with the exception of a few models like the RAV4, Venza, and Sequoia, most models were down by double digits.
  • Lexus LFA: Last month, six of the $400,000 supercars were sold. In 2011, Lexus sold five LFAs in February. That's a 20 percent increase. That's progress.
  • Lexus HS: It wasn't a big seller when it was new, and it's only gotten worse now. The oddly proportioned sedan found 150 owners last month, down 21.3 percent.
Subaru's Winners
  • Subaru Impreza: The automaker's redesigned compact sedan likely found plenty of takers on account of its 36 mpg highway, standard all-wheel drive, and value. It was up 125 percent on the month, trailing only the Outback for sales leadership.
  • Subaru Legacy and Outback: They posted 10 and 11 percent gains last month, combining for almost half of Subaru's 25,374 sales last month.
Subaru's Loser
  • Subaru Tribeca: One hundred seventy-seven. That's it. Subaru's not-so-large large crossover hasn't seen a whole lotta love from the all-wheel-drive automaker. It also hasn't seen a whole lotta love from the buying public.