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July 2 (Bloomberg) -- Nissan Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. led U.S. sales and market-share gains by Asian automakers in June as they drew buyers with new models rather than competing with financing incentives offered by local rivals.

Nissan, which ranks sixth in the U.S., led all automakers with a 22 percent sales surge, while No. 4 Toyota had an 11 percent increase and fifth-ranked Honda had an 8.7 percent gain, Autodata Corp. said. Asian automakers' market share rose 1.3 percentage points to 31.3 percent last month, as overall auto sales in the U.S. grew 4.1 percent to 1.48 million.

New or redesigned models such as Nissan's Maxima sedan and Infiniti FX sport-utility, Toyota's Sienna minivan and Honda's Element light truck helped Asian carmakers boost sales. Japanese automakers beat U.S.-based rivals in a May quality survey and are set to release more new models in the world's largest auto market.

``GM is practically giving its cars away and people still want to buy Hondas and Nissans,'' said Alexander Muromcew, who helps manage a $53 billion global portfolio for Loomis Sayles & Co., including Nissan and Honda shares. ``I don't see anything on the horizon that's going to change what we're seeing.''

Nissan shares rose as much as 1.6 percent to 1,158 yen, trading at 1,149 yen as of the 11 a.m. close of morning trading in Tokyo. Toyota rose as much as 0.6 percent to 3,140 yen, while Honda rose as much as 0.4 percent to 4,520 yen.

Overall U.S. sales of Asian brands outpaced the market, growing 8.6 percent to 462,591, Autodata Corp. said. The total U.S. auto market has risen for two straight months.

Stronger Market

Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn last week said the U.S. market has been ``stronger'' than the automaker's 2003 estimate of 15.5 million units, down from 16.8 million last year.

``We hope our estimate is wrong, but so far we won't change our forecast,'' Ghosn said. ``We are entering new segments of the market with brand new models -- I think it's going to be good for Nissan.''

General Motors Corp., the world's biggest automaker, said its sales rose 1.5 percent last month, Ford Motor Co.'s sales were unchanged from a year ago and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler posted a 6.3 percent increase. Combined market share for the three companies fell 1.6 percentage points in June to 61.6 percent.

The slump in market share came even as industrywide incentive spending in June rose $191, or 5.8 percent from May, to $3,499 per vehicle, according to CNW Marketing Research.

Incentive Spending

Detroit-based General Motors' incentive spending rose 1.4 percent to $3,969 per vehicle last month, Ford offered an average of $3,711 and Chrysler spent $3,496, according to CNW. By comparison, Toyota spent $2,238, Nissan had incentives of about $1,531 per vehicle and Honda was at $1,016, CNW said.

Toyota, Asia's biggest automaker, sold 155,501 Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles, up 11 percent from the year-ago month after adjusting for two additional sales days this June.

Toyota-brand sales improved 11 percent to 134,550, including the youth-oriented Scion cars. The automaker's newest car line, which began operations in California last month, sold 1,351 vehicles. Gains also included 47 percent for the Sienna minivan and 37 percent for Corolla small cars, including Matrix hatchbacks.

The company's Lexus luxury division reported a 12 percent improvement to 20,951 cars and trucks. Toyota's U.S. market share rose 0.6 point to 10.5 percent in June and was 11 percent for this year's first half, according to Autodata.

Honda, Nissan

Honda, No. 5 in the U.S., sold 110,290 vehicles. Honda-brand sales rose 9.5 percent to 95,932 on improved demand for light trucks including Odyssey minivans and CR-V, Element and Pilot sport-utilities. Acura division sales rose 3.4 percent to 14,358, helped by the TSX sport sedan and demand for MDX sport-utilities.

Tokyo-based Honda's U.S. share improved 0.3 point to 7.5 percent in June and was 8.1 percent for the first half.

Nissan sold 68,799 vehicles, helped by demand for Maximas, Murano sport-utilities and 350Z and Infiniti G35 sports cars, said John Spoon, Nissan's U.S. director of sales operations. Nissan- brand sales rose 19 percent to 59,595 cars and trucks, while Infiniti had a 43 percent gain to 9,204.

The company's U.S. share was 4.7 percent last month, up 0.7 point, and 4.6 percent in the first half.

More to Come

``Nissan's sales were good because of new models like Maxima and Murano, but they're adding the Quest (minivan) and Titan (pickup) in the next few months so there's more good news to come,'' said Jim Hossack, an industry analyst for Tustin, California-based AutoPacific Inc. ``I suspect we won't see a lot of new product from the U.S. domestics for a few months yet.''

Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea's largest automaker, sold 34,807 vehicles, a 1.9 percent increase from a year earlier on stronger demand for Santa Fe sport-utilities and Sonata sedans. The Seoul-based company's market share was 2.4 percent in June, unchanged from a year ago.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. sold 22,641 cars and trucks, a 9.6 percent gain, helped by new models such as the Outlander and Endeavor sport-utilities. The Tokyo-based company's market share was flat for the month at 1.5 percent.

Hyundai Motor shares rose as much as 3.4 percent to 33,700 won, trading at 33,500 won as of 11:20 a.m. in Seoul. Mitsubishi Motors gained as much as 4.3 percent to 291 yen in Tokyo.

Mazda, Other Automakers

Mazda Motor Corp., a third owned by Ford, said sales fell 3 percent to 25,392 units, as demand for the company's new Mazda6 sedan didn't offset falling sales of Protege small cars and MPV minivans. Hiroshima, Japan-based Mazda's market share fell 0.1 point to 1.7 percent.

Kia Motor Corp., a Hyundai subsidiary, said sales of its cars and trucks totaled 20,311, down 2.2 percent from a year ago. Kia's share slipped 0.1 point to 1.4 percent.

Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.'s Subaru sold 16,151 all-wheel drive sedans, wagons and sport trucks, a 12 percent increase. Market share for the brand improved 0.1 point to 1.1 percent.

Suzuki Motor Corp.'s sales grew 9.3 percent to 6,260, leaving the Japanese company's market share unchanged at 0.4 percent.

Isuzu Motors Ltd.'s sport-utility sales plunged 56 percent to 2,439 last month, cutting its share 0.2 point to 0.2 percent.

Last Updated: July 1, 2003 22:35 EDT
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