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January car sales offer mixed results

O.C. automakers see increases, declines in the first month of 2012

by Caitlin AdamsPublished: February 02, 2012 09:25 AM

After a record year of sales in 2011 for most of Orange County’s five automakers, 2012 started off with a bang for some and less successfully for others.

Mazda came out on top last month, recording its best January sales since 1994. U.S. sales came in at 23,996 vehicles, which amounts to a 68.2 percent increase over 2011’s January numbers. Other highlights include a 532.6 percent leap in Mazda2 sales in January, a 118.3 percent increase in Mazda6 sales and an 83.4 increase in Mazda3 sales.

Kia was another big winner for the opening month of 2012. On top of its record-breaking sales and increasing market share in 2011, the Irvine-based automaker reported January sales of 35,517 units in the U.S. during the month, an increase of 27.8 percent over 2011’s numbers. The brand also continues to build on its upward trajectory, marking its 17th straight month of sales records.

Byung Mo Ahn, Kia Motors America group president and CEO, attributed some of the brand’s success to an aggressive new product launch cycle, including nine new vehicles in less than three years, and a $100 million expansion of a Georgia manufacturing plant, which he also heads.

"Kia is well positioned for future growth as we further our efforts to increase brand visibility and awareness," Ahn said. "With several high-profile marketing initiatives on the horizon and the arrival of fuel efficient products such as the Rio 5-door and sedan … Kia will continue to attract new customers to our showrooms by offering high-quality cars and CUVs with world-class design, cutting-edge technologies and fun-to-drive performance."

Fountain Valley-based Hyundai (currently in offices in Costa Mesa) also saw increased sales over 2011. Total U.S. January sales of 42, 694 units marked a 19 percent increase over the same time in 2011, with sales for the Elantra up 13 percent and the Genesis/Equus showing a 27 percent increase.

"January was a good month for us as Januarys go. We set an all-time sales record for the month, saw continued stabilization in the general economy, and witnessed the Hyundai Elantra crowned as North American Car of the Year," said Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai Motor America's executive vice president of national sales. "All in all, a very solid base to build off in 2012."

For Cypress-based Mitsubishi, U.S. sales came in at 4,711 for the month, down 17.6 percent compared to the same time in 2011. Sales for some individual models increased, however, including the Outlander (up 2.2 percent), the Outlander Sport (up 5 percent) and the Lancer Evolution (a 10.7 percent increase).

"January was an encouraging month in several respects," said Mitsubishi Motors North America president and CEO, Yoichi Yokozawa. "Many Mitsubishi dealerships showed healthy increases for the month, and we are gaining great momentum from the roll-out of our exciting new all-electric Mitsubishi i."

The automaker is also looking ahead to the summer of 2012, when the Mitsubishi i becomes available for purchase across the U.S. The brand’s first all-electric vehicle is already available for preorder at i-certified Mitsubishi dealerships and online at the automaker’s website.

Suzuki saw sales decline in January, as well. Total units sold last month came to 1,505, compared to 2011’s 2,562, a decline of 41 percent. The Brea-based automaker, also known for its ATVs, motorcycles and outboard motors, has discontinued some of its car models in recent years.

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