2011 was a year Japanese automakers Honda and Toyota were likely glad to see end and would love to forget. Both companies saw their fortunes decline throughout 2011, thanks in part to supply problems and production constraints resulting from the tsunami that rocked Japan earlier in the year.
The two Japanese stalwarts sold fewer cars in 2011 than they did in 2010. And while some analysts predicted there would be no way for the two automakers to gain back the loss in market share in 2012, both Honda and Toyota had a much different result in January 2012 than they experienced a year earlier.
New car sales were up in January for almost every automaker, although GM did see a significant decline. Overall, sales were up 11 percent from a year ago, which is the fastest pace manufacturers have seen in four years. If the momentum of January lasts throughout the year, consumers will purchase more than 14 million new cars and trucks during 2012.
Toyota went from being the top automaker to fourth place in 2011, suffering huge sales declines throughout the span of the year. Toyota’s January sales numbers were up 7.5 percent over a year ago. Much of Toyota’s gains came from demand for their Camry, which has been the top selling car in the United States for 14 of the last 15 years. Toyota also saw its hybrid models moving in larger quantities, with a 9 percent gain for the Prius alone.
Honda posted an even larger 9 percent gain, mostly on increases in the Civic. Honda sold 83,009 vehicles, up from 76,269 in January 2011. Honda was perhaps the hardest hit by the natural disasters in Asia over the last 12 months.
With added pressure coming from a reinvigorated big three, global power Volkswagen and its goal of surpassing GM as the world’s top automaker, and even threats from up and coming Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia, it’ll be interesting to see if Toyota and Honda can make the upswing in January a trend that lasts throughout the year.