Japan Sales: Toyota and Honda Roar Back

By Blake Z. Rong | August 02, 2012
It's been a strong month for Japanese carmakers, with new product trickling in through the pipelines. To wit, Toyota and Honda were the obvious winners this month. No surprise there. It's like saying that the Abrams M1A2's 120 mm smoothbore gun with armor-piercing discarding sabot rounds will probably do some damage to a Grumman Kabmaster ice cream truck, or the New York Yankees will buy their way to another championship ring. Both automakers saw increases of 36.6 and 46.4 percent in sales, respectively. But Infiniti and Acura, on the luxo-front, proved to be strong contenders of their own, with sales of the G sedan and Acura RDX carrying the brands. In fact, perhaps the only major brand that didn't do so well was Mazda, and it still managed to stay on par with last year's and last month's sales. No small feat in this economy. But it's hedging its benefits on a new Mazda6 sedan, and the ongoing rollout of SKYACTIV technology across its lineup. Honda is banking on a new Accord, Subaru has a tougher Impreza in the form of the XV Crosstrek, and Toyota is hoping more than geriatric shuffleboard champions check out the new Avalon. For them, the rest of the year will be one to watch—especially with the oncoming storm of midsize sedan contenders. But for now, there's something worth cheering about. Who wants a snow cone? Toyota Winners:
  • No surprise here. Toyota sold 29,913 Camrys here. Here's how popular the Camry is: 1 out of every 2 people in America drives one. (That statistic is made up.) Look at your best friend. Does he or she drive a Camry? If they don't, then you're a Camry driver.
  • Lest you think hybrids are still a fad—who still does? Show of hands, please—the Prius blew the holy smokes off everybody's doors with a sales increase of 128 percent from last year. At 16,643, there's a reason why California took the Prius off the carpool access list—there'd be a traffic jam in the HOV lane.
  • Toyota sold 23,640 examples of its since-2006 Corolla, which must make Honda executives—who revamped the Civic just last year—cringe. Oh wait, maybe not. (Read on.)
Toyota Losers:
  • There'll be a new Avalon soon, and it promises to be good—real good. Sadly, 1,690 people didn't get the memo.
  • Retro is as retro does, and not everybody digs the FJ Cruiser's Tonka-like styling.
  • Slightly fewer people bought a Yaris this year than last. The new one was just introduced last year as a 2012 model, which may explain why the momentum is over.
Lexus Winners:
  • The ES is doing steadily at 3,759 cars this month as Lexus's volume model (and least expensive in the lineup). And this is still Lexus's frumpy older model, too—expect the new ES, which we drove, to be even better than that.
  • The GS is officially carrying Lexus to new heights: 1,662 sold this year from a fluke of 326 last year, for an absurd but necessary mention of 452.3 percent. Probably because its combination of sybaritic comfort, dramatic exhaust note, and driving dynamics proves that a Lexus can actually hustle, and not just off a parking garage.
  • Lexus sold 2,296 IS models this month—just a handful, less than last year, but it's Lexus's second-highest selling model, despite the oldest car in the company's lineup.
Lexus Losers:
  • There is a new Lexus  LS coming at the end of this year, which is just in time to rescue the nameplate from lagging interest. Just 536 sold this July. We hope the next LS will come with a glass panoramic floating roof and Landaulet badging, but sadly you'll have to supply your own crown princess.
  • Death to the HS! Lexus sold 4 in July, its final year. Its candle burned bright but short—oh wait, it wasn't very bright at all. Short, however, certainly (just two model years).
  • Lexus sold 3 examples of the LFA supercar, down from seven last year, which from a rational standpoint counts as a loss. We doubt those three people view themselves as losers, though. We wouldn't if we could afford an LFA.
Scion Winners:
  • What a difference a badge (and competitive pricing) makes. 1,649 FR-Ss flew sideways, in a cloud of smoke, out the door—which is more than three times what Subaru sold in the BRZ. Want to know a dark and terrible secret? Here goes: they're both the same car.
  • Hey, some people don't want so much extremeness in their life. Scion's tC, the brand's former excuse for a sports car, eked out 2,013 examples, a minor decrease of about 100 from last month but 500 more than the year before. Who knows where it'll go now that Scion has a proper sports car for all those ADD-addled kids these days.
Scion Losers:
  • Scion sold 600 more of the xB this time than it did last year, but 100 less than it did in June. The pendulum blade looms ominously.
  • The happy-faced xD (turn your head sideways; it's a car named after an emoticon) isn't that happy: Scion sold less than a thousand.
  • With none being sold last year, the 557 iQ gumdrops that rolled (literally, we assume) out of a Scion dealerships could count as a sales success, or a loss, depending on how many potential parking spaces the iQ has thwarted. Heck, we don't know if Scion expects the iQ to actually sell, and not just as a wacky science experiment to see how many iQs can fit in a parking garage, or how many Shriners can fit in an iQ. Like the iQ's piñata-stuffing size, it's all up for grabs at this point.
Honda Winners:
  • The CR-V set its seventh-monthly consecutive sales record for Honda, selling 20,554 examples—down merely 3,000 units from June. Still, people crave a CR-V way more than last year.
  • On the eve of a new Accord, the current model still sells strongly: 28,639 of you wanted one this July, or 84.3 percent more than last year. About as old as Betty White, and still just as popular. Wait till you get a load of the new one, Honda promises.
  • Honda sold 25,004 Civics—almost 11,000 more this July than last year's, but 2,000 less than in June. What does this mean? Business as usual at Honda—because the Civic is still the company's strongest seller, even despite Honda's own mea culpa. Hey, don't be so down on yourselves. We're sorry for making fun of you. Here, have this cookie.
Honda Losers:
  • Another month of battered sales for battery packs, as the Insight and CR-Z all sold in the triple figures this year, as well as last year. Both suffered 54- and 59-percent decreases, respectively.
  • They still build this Ridgeline? Well, yes, but as one of Honda's slowest-selling vehicles, only 981 people bought one. Anything for Honda that's less than a thousand is a proverbial hand-built unicorn, so we'll just assume that these people were all enticed by the 2012 Ridgeline's new Sport package. And not much else.
Acura Winners:
  • Bam! A 162.4 percent increase from July of 2011 for the new RDX, which is way less weird and bonkers than the outgoing one—and that means cha-chinging cash registers in Acura's books. (Figuratively, of course; have you ever bought a car with cold, hard cash? Really?)
  • For a relatively unchanged platform, the MDX sold 800 more than it did the year before? Why? Here's why: you can get caramel-colored leather seats in all three rows. That alone is worth the price of admission in a color guaranteed to cover up your child's various emissions.
  • Sales of the TL remained relatively steady from last year, but dropped by about a thousand from last month. Which is a shame—this is the year the TL loses its narwhal beak, which has to count for something, right?
Acura Losers:
  • Amidst rumors of its impending demise, the TSX—which has never been a strong seller in Acura's lineup, a small product in a small company—sold less than 2,000 in July, down from last month and last year. Trust us—like Twinkies and Cuba Gooding Jr's career, you'll miss it when it's gone.
  • 40 people—forty!—bought an RL this month, which for a mainstream Japanese company makes it as rare as the number of people Stateside that own an mid-engined, gull-winged Autozam AZ-1. A sight less collectible, however.
  • Acura sold 1,410 ILX models this month, with 110 of those being hybrids. Acura didn't disclose what the model spread was, but we'd bet the figurative farm on most of those being the 2.0-liter base engine. Either way, this figure is far below what it'll need to sell, per month, to reach its 40,000 car sales target. There's still time.
Nissan Winners:
  • No surprise that a brand-new Altima sold well, though not at the rate Nissan might expect: since it went on sale this month, it sold 26,602 examples—up by about 5,000 from June with the outgoing 2012s. Good sales, and in the hunt with the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Nissan is still selling the 2012 Altima, so a majority of these may be the last model.
  • The Versa, Nissan's multi-pack ramen on wheels marks a 39 percent sales increase.
  • And on the other end of the spectrum, the GT-R, the Versa of supercars—in the sense that it's an epic performance bargain, not that its trunk is commodious and its Alacantara low-grade. Nissan sold twice as many $96,820 GT-Rs as last year, which coupled with the Versa is leaving many economists baffled and reaching for their Pimm's.
Nissan Losers:
  • From a high of 1,479 models last year, the huge, hulking Armada sunk like its namesake at Gravelines.
  • Only 578 people were wacky and trendy enough to buy a Cube this year, about half of whom did in 2011, and just three of them were Zooey Deschanel. Hipsters across the world are swearing off their four-wheeled transports in favor of recumbent bicycles and 1960s Schwinn cruisers.
  • Only 395 people bought a Leaf this month, which in electric-car parlance counts as a resounding, unparalleled, record-smashing sales victory.
Infiniti Winners:
  • Sales doubled for the G Sedan from 3,220 to 6,078. Its success carried most of Infiniti's 56.8 percent growth in July from last year.
  • The JX sold 1,999 examples today, to the chagrin of OCD-addled Infiniti executives who really wanted that one more sale to bring it up to an even 2,000.
Infiniti Losers:
  • What would you call the EX and FX: crossovers, tall wagons, "bionic cheetahs?" Whatever you want to classify them, you can't call them "hot sellers."
  • Proof that people are boring and don't buy coupes anymore, Infiniti sold exactly 17 more G Coupes than it did the same time last year. Want to know when the automotive industry became boring? It's when the personal luxury coupe died—again, and again, and again.
Subaru Winners:
  • Impreza: Subaru's brightest success here, the Impreza sold twice as much as it did last year. Subaru expects this momentum to last with the new XV Crosstrek that it'll release in just a few months. Now that the Impreza's more mainstream, think of the XV Crosstrek as a muddy Impreza with a Dave Matthews tape in the glovebox and lots of camping gear and illegal fireworks in the hatch.
  • A modest 10 percent increase for the Outback means that happy campers still love their illegal fireworks. Or legal ones—they're perfectly fine in Maine, unofficial home of the Subaru and lots of tall trees that burn easily.
  • No surprise here, right? Subaru sold 498 BRZs this month, which is a good, modest start for a company who's earmarked just 5,000 examples for us this year. There will be a lot of disappointed fanboys come Christmas.
Subaru Losers:
  • A slight decline from last July's sales, and a slightly bigger one from June's, Subaru sold 3,321 Legacys this month; it sold 300 more last July, and 500 more last month.
  • It'd be fun to imagine that the 213 people who didn't buy an Impreza WRX, as compared to June, went and propped up Mitsubishi's flagging remains and bought a Lancer Evolution. Of course, statistics don't work like that. Just ask the 925 new Impreza WRX owners. They'll know.
  • Here's a fun fact: 151 people bought a Subaru Tribeca, which is one of those unseeming blips of knowledge that will somehow become relevant later.
Mazda Winners:
  • Skyactiv is certainly helping Mazda push 4,208 CX-5 mini-utes out the door—but the real success story for the CX-5 lies globally, where Japanese and European sales have more than exceeded expectations. Mazda has upped its worldwide sales target from 160,000 to 190,000 CX-5s, one of the few bright glimmers in a company whose money losses are more than concerning.
  • Sales of the Mazda3 remain steady at around 9,000 units, and more than in June. Here's why: it's a good car.
  • Exactly 21 more people this July bought the MX-5 Miata, the world's quintessential roadster than last year. Hopefully a new, more serious-y face will stem the humble Miata against the onslaught of new sports cars that have been overly hyped this entire year.
Mazda Losers:
  • The company only sold 1,289 Mazda6 sedans last month. But wait, salvation is just around the corner.
  • Mazda's two forgettable SUVs were understandably forgotten, with the CX-9 dipping under 2 thousand sales, and the CX-7 selling a paltry, sad-trombone-worthy 324 units. Oh well, it'll be killed anyway. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum, and all that.
  • Mazda: this was the only Japanese company that lost sales this month, with a 7 percent decrease from last July. It sold a total of 19,318 vehicles, or less than how many CR-Vs Honda sold (see above). Mazda's reversal of fortune can be compared to June when its sales increased 3 percent—and better times in May, when it saw a 13-percent sales increase. Yet its monthly total sales have always hovered around the 20,000 mark.
Mitsubishi and Suzuki:
  • Both are still making cars that you can purchase with American money. Too few did last month, however.