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Local automakers report October sales

Hurricane Sandy and presidential campaign leave impact on month’s numbers

by Caitlin AdamsPublished: November 02, 2012 02:45 PM

October was a busy month in many instances. The presidential campaigns crisscrossed the country, with the political debates adding to discussions of the country’s economic future, and Hurricane Sandy brought an estimate $50 billion in damage to several east coast states.

Costa Mesa-based Hyundai Motor America, Orange County’s largest auto brand by sales volume, reported total October national sales of 50,271 vehicles. The figure is a 4.0 percent dip from the same month last year, while year-to-date sales are up 8.2 percent compared to 2011.

Dave Zuchowski, executive vice president of sales for Hyundai Motor America, accounted for the slow month by saying that a number of factors weighed in to make it a hard one. "It appears industry volume may have temporarily stalled due to a blend of an extremely tight and undecided presidential race, lingering economic uncertainty tied to 'fiscal cliff' anxiety, and the devastating impact Hurricane Sandy had on our dealers and millions of residents along the Eastern seaboard."

Kia Motors America, headquartered in Irvine, continued its month-over-month increasing sales trend in October, reporting national sales figures at 42,452 units sold, a 12.6 percent increase over the same time last year. October saw the debut of a new ad campaign for the Kia Optima, featuring NBA star Blake Griffin, and also saw the launch of the brand’s new superhero-inspired Justice League custom cars in partnership with “We Can Be Heroes,” a nonprofit organization aimed at fighting hunger in the Horn of Africa.

Kia and Hyundai are both in hot water following news from the EPA that both automakers overstated the gas mileage on several models. The news comes following an annual fuel economy audit by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The two brands, which share a testing center in Korea, said in a joint statement that procedural errors at the plant led to incorrect fuel economy ratings on a number of vehicles. The affected models comprise some 900,000 vehicles sold over the past three years and represent the largest case of erroneous test results across a single manufacturer. Because the report of the erroneous tests did not come out until after Nov. 1, the news did not affect October sales for either manufacturer.

The affected Kia and Hyundai models’ MPG ratings will be downgraded an average of three percent across the board, with most models losing 1-2 miles per gallon off the previously advertised sticker MPG. The Kia Soul will be downrated six miles per gallon.

Both companies are putting into place a comprehensive and voluntary customer compensation program for current and former owners of the affected vehicle models. Customers will receive annual payments through personalized debit cards for the difference in gas mileage for as long as they own their cars. The program is estimated to cost the companies hundreds of millions of dollars. The scope of the errors and misreporting could also lead to sanctions from the U.S. government.

Mazda North American Operations, with offices in Irvine, reported its October sales at 18,622 vehicles, a 1.6 increase over the same period in 2011, and a year-to-date increase of 8.8 percent over last year. The brand’s new SkyActiv technology continues to be its strongest selling point, with SkyActiv-equipped models accounting for 61.9 percent of the total vehicle sales for the month.

Cypress-based Mitsubishi Motors North America reported total October sales of 9.1 percent, a 9.1 decline from the same month in 2011. Mitsubishi’s sales reports continue to be impacted due to models that ended production in 2011 and have since rolled off the sales lots. Increasing sales of the Outlander Sport, its latest SUV model, have increased17.9 percent over October 2011, buoying the automaker’s sales.

American Suzuki Motor Corporation, headquartered in Brea, reported total October sales of 2,023 vehicles, a 5 percent gain over the same period last year.

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