Toyota, Fiat report fall in US auto sales in January

The Toyota logo is pictured during the media day of the Salao do Automovel International Auto Show in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Nov 6, 2018. (Reuters pic)

DETROIT: Toyota Motor Corp on Friday reported a 6.6% fall in US vehicle sales for January, hurt by lower demand for its Camry and Prius cars.

The No.3 automaker in the United States by sales said it sold 156,021 vehicles in January, down from 167,056 vehicles a year earlier. Camry sales fell 3.4%, while Prius sales slumped 57%, the company said.

Auto industry consultants J.D. Power and LMC Automotive forecast January auto sales to decline about 1% from the same month in 2018, partly due to uncertainty over the recent government shutdown.

The auto consultants also forecast total light vehicle sales this year to fall 1.9% to about 17 million units, compared with 2018.

However, major automakers are bullish about 2019 sales even as economists warned that rising interest rates may discourage consumers from buying cars this year.

General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co, the two big automakers that together commanded a 32% market share in 2018, have stopped reporting monthly sales numbers, opting to report on a quarterly basis.

Bloomberg, however, reported late on Friday that Ford’s sales rose 7%, while GM’s fell 7% in January, citing people familiar with the matter. GM declined to comment, while Ford was unavailable for comment.

Smaller rival Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV reported a 2% rise in US auto sales for January, helped by higher demand for its Ram pickup trucks and said it expects strong sales in 2019.

“In spite of some frigid January weather, we remain bullish on 2019 given the continued underlying strength of the US economy,” Reid Bigland, Fiat’s US head of sales, said.

Fiat said it sold 136,082 vehicles last month, compared with 132,803 units for the same period a year earlier.

Sales of Ram pickup trucks surged 24% to 39,649 vehicles in January, compared with the same period a year earlier.