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February sales surge for local car brands

All but one of O.C.’s automakers report gains in sales

by Caitlin AdamsPublished: March 02, 2012 09:45 AM

Late last month, Kelley Blue Book predicted a 6.4 percent annual increase in auto sales across the country for the month of February. That prediction appears to have been borne out, at least on a local scale, by a very successful month of sales among Orange County-based auto brands. Four out of O.C.'s five automaker's reported sales increases in February.

Kia Motors America (KMA), based in Irvine, continues as the top dog in O.C.’s auto segment, reporting yet another monthly sales record to tack onto its growing string of consecutive monthly sales records. February’s gain of 37 percent over the same time last year adds an 18th record-breaking month to the brand’s winning streak.

"Our marketing investments in the Super Bowl and Academy Awards have once again delivered strong consumer demand across our lineup," said John Krafcik, Hyundai Motor America's president and CEO. "Even in the face of strong new competitors, Sonata and Elantra led the mid-size and compact segments in shopping interest at mid-month, according to data from Compete."

Kia has been experiencing a renaissance of growth and increased market share over the past few years. The automaker’s affordable and high-mpg models have supported sales through tough economic times, and in 2011, the brand reported its 17th consecutive year of increased market share.

Byung Mo Ahn, KMA’s group president and CEO, attributes part of the brand’s recent monthly increases to its newest manufacturing plant, Kia’s first in the U.S., Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia. The plant produced its 500,000th vehicle last month, a little more than two years after it opened.

"A new top-of-the-line Optima will begin production at KMMG in just a few weeks, and the Optima Limited will once again showcase Kia's unique ability to redefine value with its world-class design, turbocharged performance and a number of premium features and amenities while remaining true to our core philosophy of offering consumers quality, outstanding fuel efficiency, advanced safety features and new technologies," Ahn said.

Hyundai Motor America, normally headquartered in Fountain Valley but currently in offices in Costa Mesa, had a month of growth as well, marking the company’s all-time sales record for the month of February. The brand sold 51,151 units across the country during the month, an 18 percent gain over 2011’s numbers. The increase was driven by gains for the brand’s “core vehicles”, the Accent, Elantra, and Sonata, and the release of its newest model, the 2012 Veloster.

Irvine-based Mazda North American Operations continued the trend of growth over the month, showing a solid 32 percent increase in February over the same period last year. The 2013 Mazda CX-5 made its debut at dealers in the last week of the month, but still racked up 357 sales in that short time. Other popular models with strong sales continue to be the Mazda2, Mazda3, and Mazda 6.

Brea-based Suzuki saw a resurgence of sales last month, following a long period of declining sales. The brand’s February sales increased by 48 percent compared to the same time in 2011. Sales were primarily driven by strong performances by the Mitsubishi SX4 and Kizashi, which increased sales by 54 percent and 77 percent, respectively.

Sales for Cypress-based Mitsubishi Motors North America fell by 31 percent in February, but the automaker is buoyed by increased sales for its core models, the Outlander, Outlander Sport and the Lancer. The Mitsubishi i, the brand’s first all-electric vehicle, is now available at dealers on the West coast, and eastern dealers received the first shipment of the all-new 2012 auto this week.

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