In among the September car and light truck sales successes of Chrysler, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (NYSE: HMC) and Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM), and the disappointing results of General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) and Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), are three forgotten auto manufacturers that sell few vehicles in the United States. It is a wonder that they continue to attack the market, considering how much they flounder to do so. Their deep troubles make it likely they will soon exit the United States entirely.
To put the plights of these manufacturers into some perspective, all three have an American market share of less than 1%. By contrast, the smallest of the U.S. Big Three, Chrysler, has a market share of 11.5%, even after its Chapter 11 filing in April 2009 and the long road back from that extremely disruptive event. And, to make matters worse for the smallest auto companies in the market, two of the biggest car companies in the world — Volkswagen and Hyundai — have put their muscle behind gains in American market share. This only adds to the fierce competition, which includes manufacturers that have established their positions over the past several decades.
24/7 Wall St. looked at the market share of these three car companies compared to all other car manufacturers, their total unit sales in September 2012 and the change from the same period last year. We also considered sales and changes for the first nine months. In addition, we looked at the models that the three troubled companies sell to consider pricing, miles per gallon and product mix to see what products they face as they compete with larger car companies.
These are three car companies likely to leave America.
1. Mitsubishi Motors
> September sales: 4,806
> Change from 2011: down 17.2%
> U.S. market share: 0.4%
Mitsubishi Motors says its does business in 160 countries around the world. This includes most of Europe and much of Asia. After a 31 year stretch in the market, its efforts in America have been a disaster. Mitsubishi sold 46,122 vehicles in the U.S. during the first nine month of the year, down 30% from the same period in 2011. Among the manufacturer’s problems is that it has positioned itself at the low-price, high miles-per-gallon end of the market. Its Lancer coupe gets up to 34 mpg in highway driving and has a base price of $15,995. Unfortunately, most large car companies have pressed hard into this end of the market. Extremely successful manufacturers like Hyundai have done particularly well in this segment.
2. American Suzuki
> September sales: 1,921
> Change from 2011: down 5.2%
> U.S. market share: 0.2%
American Suzuki sold 19,149 cars and light trucks in the U.S. in the first nine months of 2012, down 5.6% from the same period of last year. Much of the company’s focus is on motorcycles, ATVs and marine motors. Like most other car firms located in Japan, Suzuki’s production was dented by the huge earthquake. Its stronghold is its home market. The company reported in its last financial statement that, “Japan marked the highest operating income ever for the first quarter mainly due to the increase of income in the Japanese domestic automobile business.” America is an entirely different matter. The company’s market share in the U.S. for the first three quarters was only 0.2%. Suzuki calls its base Kizashi model “The Auto Industry’s Best Kept Secret” — a bit of irony. The model starts at $19,999. It gets 29 mpg in highway driving. Suzuki also markets the SX4 car and mini-wagon, the Grand Vitara SUV and Equator pickup.
> September sales: 4,977
> Change from 2011: down 1.3%.
> U.S. market share: 0.4%.
In 2010, Volvo was acquired by the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group of China. The company has taken a different approach in the U.S. compared to the two Japanese companies on this list, but the results have not been any more successful. Volvo sold 51,634 cars in the U.S. during the first nine months of the year, off 1% from the first nine months of 2011. Volvo’s market share for the 2012 period was 0.5%. The manufacturer has targeted the lower end of the Lexus, BMW, Audi and Mercedes lines. These four companies have models that outsell even high-end U.S. brands Lincoln and Cadillac. Most experts consider the cars made by these German and Japanese companies engineering marvels. Volvo does not have the model line, marketing budget or dealer network to even hope to compete. Volvo’s base U.S. model is the C30 Coupe, which has a base price of $25,500. That is relatively close to the $31,200 BMW base model — the 128i coupe. Volvo also has a line of sedans and crossovers.
Douglas A. McIntyre