Toyota, other U.S. automakers see sales fall in February, but San Antonio-built Tundra a bright spot

Toyota, other U.S. automakers see sales fall in February, but San Antonio-built Tundra a bright spot

Toyota and other U.S. automakers saw a downturn in sales in February amid persistent hiccups in production — including a cyberattack that forced Toyota to shut down all of its Japanese factories earlier this week.

Toyota’s San Antonio-built Tundra pickup was a bright spot for the Japanese automaker, with sales of the full-size truck 15 percent higher than a year ago. Toyota has accelerated production of the new 2022 model after winding down production of its old version last fall.

Toyota dealers sold 6,731 Tundras in February, the best sales month for the truck since October. Toyota plans to start building the Sequoia full-size SUV in San Antonio this summer, but hasn’t start yet. The company sold just more than 100 Sequoia models last month.

Overall, Toyota’s North American sales fell 11 percent in February compared with the same month a year ago, in line with the sales downturn felt throughout the industry, according to data from Cox Automotive.

“The omicron wave of COVID has receded and economic activity is picking up as a result. But retail vehicle sales have been disappointing in February,” said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist with Cox.

Problems such as coronavirus outbreaks and shortages of semiconductors have translated to lower output at Toyota’s factories so far this year.

In Japan, Toyota’s factories saw a 32 percent decline in output in January. Earlier this week, a cyberattack on one of Toyota’s parts suppliers affected production at all of Toyota’s 14 Japanese factories before it said operations would resume Wednesday. Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, said the country was investigating whether Russia was involved in the attack.

In the U.S., Toyota’s production in January fell 18 percent from the same month last year.

The production cuts hit the company’s plant on the South Side, where Toyota slashed production in half in late January because of COVID-19 cases and parts shortages.

Similar issues have plagued other automakers and a trucker-led blockade of a key trade passage on the U.S.-Canada border hit domestic car producers last month.

Overall, the inventory of new cars for sales in the U.S. was 1.08 million as of Jan. 31 — a 60 percent decline from a year earlier, when there were nearly 2.7 million new vehicles on dealers’ lots, according to Cox.

But car shoppers got some relief last month, when the price paid for a new vehicle fell to $46,400. The average price was slightly lower than December, when the average price paid for a new vehicle in the U.S. surged past $47,000 for the first time.

Before January, the price for a new car had increased for nine consecutive months.

Smoke also attributed part of the sales decline last month to this year’s abnormal tax return season. Just 17 percent of projected tax refunds had been issued as of Feb. 18, when closer to 40 percent of refunds have usually been distributed by that date, Cox reported.

On the flip side, the average refund issued has been higher so far this year, suggesting auto sales may pick up in March when consumers are more flush with cash, Smoke said.

“Tax refunds will come,” he said. “So we’re expecting a very strong tax refund season, it’s just going to start in March this year rather than February.”

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