Japan Sales: We Love Our Subarus, And Our Aging Sedans

By Blake Z. Rong | May 02, 2012
It was a great month for Honda, Subaru, Toyota and Mazda, which all posted either double-digit growth or the best month ever in the company’s history. Which is kind of like the difference between finding a quarter in your pants pocket on laundry day and winning the Stanley Cup. The four companies shouted their high sales figures, while everybody else meekly slid on by. Winners include the Subaru Impreza, the entire Toyota Prius family, and some venerable goodies: the Honda Accord and Toyota Corolla are the sales equivalents of the Terminator, unable to be killed or dethroned by any human means. Read on to see the true winners and losers in exhausting detail. Honda Winners:
  • Even though the current Accord is old enough to shuffle on tennis ball walkers, watch Matlock and drive a Buick (now there's an image), like Schwarzenegger there's still no stopping the aging juggernaut. (Now there's another image.) Sales of the Accord rose by 41.3 percent since last year, showing that 35,385 Americans still love an oldie but a goodie. Wait till next year, the roads will be littered with the new Accord up to our metaphorical—and hopefully not literal—necks.
  • It's wonderful what an all-new vehicle will do for sales of a brand. It's also amazing that the sky is a luminous shade of blue and that the sun rises in the east. CR-V sales increased by about 2,000 vehicles, to 23,627 sold.
  • Last April, 121 people bought a Civic Hybrid. Heather Peters notwithstanding, this year, 766 people snapped 'em up, which might not sound impressive until you realize that the percentage calculates out to 533.1 percent. Math is neat, isn’t it? Kids, stay in school.
Honda Losers:
  • The Fit Is Not Go!, because sales dropped 60 percent since last April, presumably off a rock somewhere. Just 3,202 were sold, from a high last year of 8,116 vehicles. Ouch.
  • The Civic did well, but the Insight and the CR-Z were moribund, with steep losses of 72.1 and 81.6 percents, respectively. This is the sort of insight the Insight didn't need. And the CR-Z? Talk about crazy! (I'll show myself out.)
  • The Element is finally dead. Go home.
Toyota Winners:
  • The venerable Prius recorded its best-ever April this month—with 25,168 vehicles sold, though Toyota didn't specify whether this was the Prius or the entire C, V, and plug-in family. Does it matter? It's clear that either way, we love our hybrids—now in too small, too big, or just right sizes.
  • It's a car! And lots of Americans love the Yaris, which is a car: to the tune of 4,274 folks, almost doubling the number of Yarises sold last April. It must be the cupholders, which we hear are like cups, for your cups.
  • Still standing strong against any reasonable force of nature, the Corolla sold 23,614 examples against the face of newer and frankly better compacts.
Toyota Losers:
  • Sales of the Sienna swagger wagon dipped 17.5 percent, proving once again that your parents just aren’t cool.
  • The retro FJ Cruiser truckster just wasn’t cool enough, dipping below four-figure sales numbers: from 1,246 to 994 sold, the FJ just didn’t do as hot as it looked—or at least its bright yellow paint scheme reflects.
  • It hasn’t been a good year for Toyota trucks overall, it seems. (Sienna notwithstanding.) The Tundra plummeted 13.1 percent from its high of 8,312 vehicles sold. Maybe they need more Toby Keith anthems in their ads.
Nissan Winners:
  • It’s perhaps, and still, a reflection of the state of our economy when the cheapest new car on sale shoots up 30 percent. But the tinny, tiny Versa is Nissan’s best-selling car in April, pushing 8,335 examples out the door, presumably straight to a Dollar Tree where its owners will load up on Kraft EZ-Mac and sugar cookies of dubious origin. Not that there’s any shame in that.
  • It’s been a surprisingly good month for Nissan’s vans. Both the Quest and NV increased 96 and 97 percent, respectively, with the Quest finally breaking four figures in sales: 1,958 vs a nice even 999 from 2011. The NV sold 514 examples to nostalgic vannin’ enthusiasts and your plumber, but that’s still double what it was last year.
  • Even though there’s a new one coming right around the corner, the old Pathfinder seemed to do just fine; 2,057 sold in April meant a jump by 26.5 percent, and a corresponding increase in trips to Grandma’s house.
Nissan Losers:
  • What with Titanic in theaters again, Americans just aren’t ready to get their minds blown in 3D. The Cube, looking a lot like an iron cube, plummeted 66.9 percent, still just as weird and unsolvable as one that belongs to Rubix.
  • We reported on how electric cars are booming, right? So why did the Leaf fall 35.4 percent? Is it Bill O’Reilly’s fault? Can we blame Bill O’Reilly? Or does that only apply to its crosstown rival, the Chevy Volt?
  • When you’re dealing with superlative-hoovering supercars, low sales figures are merely a form of “exclusivity.” To the 118 people who bought a GT-R this month—enjoy it, and don’t let anyone tell you you’re driving a Playstation on wheels.
Acura Winners:
  • It’s no secret that the fearless prediction for the RDX is that Acura will sell every one it builds. And so far, the company is off to a great start with the more mainstream compact luxo-ute: a sales jump of 47.7 percent means that 1,984 examples were rushed off the assembly line, with only upward and higher goals in sight.
  • Acura sold 3.8 percent more TLs this year, with the bulk of production presumably going to S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • We can only hope that the bulk of the 3,138 TSX sedans sold were the six-speed, four-cylinder racy Special Edition models that Acura introduced this year, a car that your humble author fell madly, deeply in love with. Though if that was true, they wouldn’t be so Special now, would they?
Acura Losers:
  • News of the new Acura flagship must have hit dealers hard, because they only managed to sell 33 RL models this month, or as many as the kids in an average high school homeroom these days.
  • At the ILX presentation, Jeff Conrad said something along the lines of, “Acura won’t pursue niche vehicles.” So how does anybody explain the bizarro-world ZDX? Easy—they don’t, and not with their wallets.
  • The TSX Wagon fell by 9.3 percent. If automotive enthusiasts controlled the world, every man, woman, and child would own a TSX wagon—presumably one with a diesel, six-speed manual, and wood paneling on the sides. Alas, reality is a far crueler mistress than that.
Lexus Winners:
  • The all-new GS is doing the rounds, and selling at a pretty good clip—2,006 examples moved out the door this month.
  • Who says small luxury hybrids like the CT won't do well? A lot of people, actually. But with a sales increase of 85.1 percent, Acura will be paying attention with its ILX.
  • Lexus unleashed exactly five examples of its supersledge upon an unsuspecting world, just like last year. Though Lexus is not interested in holding a fire sale on the LFA, and sure doesn't need to—its exclusivity demands from prospective owners are draconian, and five oil sheiks, baronesses, and Internet "entrepreneurs" will sleep just a bit tighter this month.
Lexus Losers:
  • On the contrary, maybe that small luxury hybrid thing isn't panning out so well. The all-but-forgotten HS, the luxo-Prius shaped like an Apple II computer mouse, dropped 90 percent from last April in a fit of being nothing more than, well, a luxo-Prius. But, you know, with more wood.
  • They still build the GX? You bet your eyes, bucko, just not as much as they used to: only 751 GX SUVs found their way into the hearts of suburbanites, because we know Camel Trophy guys aren't looking at anything with three-zone climate control, Mocha semi-aniline leather and that steep a base price.
Scion Winners:
  • There’s nothing to compare the iQ to, seeing as this is the first year of its existence on this hemisphere. But Scion eked out 962 of them in notoriously large-car America, which means that 962 people are either driving around with half their cars missing, or Park Slope has more drivers than we ever suspected.
  • Sales of the xB plummeted, but not as badly as you think—figures dipped by 11.7 percent, and Scion still sold a healthy 1,617 units in April.
  • And by the way, is it too early to call the FRS as a winner? Scion unsurprisingly claimed all 86 first-run FRS models to rabid enthusiasts, and plans to build 20,000 annually—far more than Subaru plans to. There shouldn’t be any problems selling every one Scion builds.
Scion Losers:
  • We’ve reported on the Scion brand’s troubles before, as killing off half your division doesn’t usually go unheeded. The mousey xD is one of the cars on the chopping block, and it’s not hard to see why: sales dropped 24 percent to 916 models, a poor showing for one of Scion’s core products. All the indie hip-hop in the world couldn’t save it now.
  • Sales of the sporty tC coupe dropped even more than the xD, at 24.9 percent. And with a far sportier coupe coming just around the corner, who can be surprised? The tC is starting to feel like the matriarch at the ball who’s being upstaged by the young debutante. Or for a more relevant analogy, the tC is, at this rate, a little like fat Elvis.
Infiniti Winners:
  • Infiniti took a beating this month, so in morbid fashion, the winners were the cars that didn’t lose that much. The G sedan fell by just 19.2 percent, which is a victory, right?
  • And the QX56 fell by just 6.3 percent, to 915 sold, to who knows who’s buying them. Country club shuttles? Frugal rappers?
Infiniti Losers:
  • Traditionally the vehicle of bond traders, fraternity presidents, and people who blow way too much of their budget at Emporio Armani, the G Coupe fell by about 31.2 percent. That’s a lot of Acqua Di Gio going unsprayed.
  • Not a good month for Infiniti’s backpack-wearing SUVs. The FX fell 48.5 percent, from 648 to 486, which are two figures that have a curious way of working themselves out. And with sales of just 226 vehicles, the EX is an ex and will be dropped just as fast.
Mazda Winners:
  • Mazda2: So far this year, Mazda's sold 8,312 of the little eggs, which is about 3,000 more than in 2011.
  • Mazda sold 3,521 of the SKYACTIV-equipped CX-5 this year, which is up 100-percent since the year before, seeing as it didn't exist then.
  • Up 38 percent since last year, Mazda pushed 3,780 Mazda6s onto an unsuspecting and fearful public. A new one should come in the next year or two, which will feature more indecipherable Japanese descriptions of its styling that everybody will accuse of being ripped from BMW, Audi, Jensen and Goggomobil.
Mazda Losers:
  • We already miss the RX-8. But alas, the rotary is no more. For now, Mazda reassures us. Still, 17 people this April scored themselves a slick deal. We'll pour one out for the rest of you that didn't.
  • Remember the Tribute, the rebadged Ford Escape Mazda wants you to forget? Well, 87 people remembered, to the company's chagrin, which means that more people paid actual American Monopoly money for a dated SUV with the reflexes of a giraffe on rollerblades than a sharp-witted, four-door sports car (see above). See, this is why we can't have nice things.
Subaru Winners:
  • The entire division: Subaru's April sales were the best in the company's history, with a six-percent gain over last April, and 16 percentage points over 2011's year-to-date sales. To celebrate, we hear Ken Block just did a gymkhana around an elementary school.
  • The Impreza did fairly well for itself, with a piddling 124.20-percent increase over last year. That means 6,791 more cocker spaniels riding in the back of their Impreza wagons, compared to 3,029 Great Danes last year.
Subaru Losers:
  • Subaru is trying to foist this Tribeca thing onto a barge bound for the Arctic Circle, or possibly China, where they might take to the SUV boom but not an oddly-shaped 7-passenger lump named after a section of Manhattan that's precariously close to Canal Street.
  • Subaru sold about 1,000 less Foresters than last year, which makes for dramatic figures but is merely a drop in the bucket.
  • This month, the Outback was taken, well, out back, and...ok, we're not going to finish that statement, but that's what happens when sales drop by 1,000 units like the Forester, as the Outback did.
Suzuki Winners:
  • As the only car in Suzuki's lineup worth mentioning (next to the incomprehensible Kizashi), the SX4's sales dipped slightly less than those of its stablemates compared to last year. That's got to count as a minor victory.
  • Suzuki sold 491,389 Altos, A-Stars, and WagonRs in 2011, in such regional hotspots as Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Delhi, where competition from Tata, Ashok Leyland and Mahindra is fierce.
Suzuki Losers:
Everything else: Kizashi sales dropped 26 percent, Equator sales dropped 11 percent, and Grand Vitara sales dropped by just 5 percent, which sounds better than the SX4, but Suzuki only managed to eke out 1,669 cars from January—or about how many used Toyotas are snapped up by apple-cheeked high school students on a daily basis, it seems. At least Suzuki sold over 4,000 SX4s since January. Say, how about bringing us some Altos? Mitsubishi Winners: Sales of the Outlander rose 3.2 percent, for people who presumably needed to buy a forklift and were conned into visiting the consumer products division of the Three Diamond zaibatsu. Mitsubishi Losers: Sales of Mitsubishi's four-wheeled products (that aren't treaded, or powered by propane) dropped 34.7 percent compared to April 2011. This should not come as a surprise to anybody. The company failed to release specific numbers, presumably because they would be ranked up there with Sophie's Choice in terms of existential sadness.