A new year is always a nice opportunity to reflect on the past year and in our case, that means looking at which cars have sold surprisingly well in 2015 and which do we expect to surprise in 2016. We’ll also look at which cars or brands have disappointed from a sales volume point of view in a separate article. We’ve already covered the surprises and disappointments in Europe and in China, now let’s take a look at the US car market
Which cars sold surprisingly well in 2015:
For decades, the US commercial van market has been dominated by three old-fashioned and inefficient models: the Ford E-Series, the Chevrolet Express (and its clone GMC Savana) and Dodge Ram Van. In 2001 the Sprinter was added as a kind-of replacement to the Ram Van, which stood out because of its unibody layout. Although the Sprinter, first as Freightliner, later also as Dodge, then RAM and now as Mercedes-Benz, has enjoyed continued growth, it took Ford until the second half of 2014 to see the benefits and replace its ageing E-Series with the Transit, also based on a European design. And with the Sprinter now under the Mercedes-Benz brand since the demerger of DaimlerChrysler, FCA launched the RAM ProMaster in 2014 as well, which is a rebadged Fiat Ducato.
And the result has been a sales success for the “Euro-vans”, helped undoubtedly by a recovering economy, as businesses are starting to replace their aging vans after postponing that investment during the crisis years. But also because of their better fuel economy, more cabin space, better ride and greater choice of size configurations.
In the first 11 months of 2015, these three models accounted for 53% of total large commercial van sales in the US, up from 18,5% in the same period of 2014. To put it in numbers: the Ford Transit, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and RAM ProMaster sold a combined 155.000 units, a tripling of their volume of 47.878 units a year earlier and they helped boost the segment as a whole increase 13,3% to 292.271 sales. That means the “traditional” body-on-frame vans lost 34,6% of their volume, or if we don’t include the Ford E-Series which is being replaced by the Transit, the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana were down 23,7% and the Nissan NV was up 12,7% but with the smallest volume of all competitors.