If you hadn’t already shorted your VW stocks after the diesel scandal last year, now would be the best time to do so: VW just lost the only person who was doing everything right in the aftermath of the scandal. In his position as VW of America president, Michael Horn was popular among the plagued dealers for his straight talk, apologetic to the public and influential enough at the German headquarters to push for the right products. But last week VW issued a statement that Horn, is departing “by mutual agreement” to pursue other interests, effective immediately. Such a sudden departure by someone who has worked for the company for more than 25 years, this statements sounds like a euphemism for “he didn’t do what the company wanted him to do, so we fired him”. Update: according to Reuters, VW offered Horn “other positions within the company”, which he declined. In other words, VW of Siberia is still looking for a new Product Manager Eos and Golf cabriolet. Horn’s departure is very bad news for a company that desperately needs a person who was doing exactly those the things he was known for during the current slowdown in US sales at the Volkswagen brand and inability to reach a deal with US regulators or a technical solution to fix the illegal emissions software in about 600.000 VW Group cars.
After discussing the US auto brand sales ranking for February, let’s zoom in on the models. In the top-3 we immediately see that the RAM Pickup has closed in on the Chevrolet Silverado‘s #2 spot with a 23.2% increase, compared to a loss of 5% for the Chevy. A little further down, the Toyota Corolla has reclaimed the #2 passenger car spot from the Honda Civic, despite the new generation Civic’s impressive 31.7% improvement on last year. Nissan Altima sales are flat, but it stays ahead of its rival Honda Accord, while the Nissan Sentra shoots past the Ford Focus to take third place for compact cars as both improve more than 30%. The Sentra was helped by its recent facelift, but also thanks to fleet sales according to Nissan. The Honda CR-V hits a February record, but that couldn’t save it from being outsold by the Toyota RAV4. The RAV4 is still about 7,000 units behind the Camry, but the company expects the crossover to become the brand’s best selling model within five years.
After rising quickly in the past 2.5 years, the Nissan Rogue takes a breath. According to Nissan, this is a result of the phase-out of the previous generation Rogue, which until now was still sold as a cheaper alternative under the name Rogue Select. Similarly, Infiniti suffered a loss as the Q40 is phased out, the previous generation G37 sedan. The Chevrolet Malibu is the biggest winner in the top-25 with more than 50% increase, while its smaller sibling Chevrolet Cruze is the biggest loser at -29%. A similar phenomenon happened at Hyundai, where the Sonata midsized sedan improved 25% in 19th place, while the compact Elantra lost 23.8% in 31st place. Contrastingly, at Kia the Optima (#40) lost 16.9% while the Forte (#50) improved 47.5%. [Read more…]
Toyota has decided to kill off the US-only “youth-brand” Scion and rebadge its current vehicles as Toyotas by August 2016, which means the experiment to lure younger buyers by desperately trying to be hip has failed. Of course, that was something everybody could’ve seen coming from a mile away when the boxy first generation xB was replaced by something that might as well have been the replacement to the Toyota Matrix.
The Scion line-up currently consists of no cars which couldn’t just have been badged as a Toyota and sold in the regular Toyota showrooms in the first place. Except for the FR-S, which is known as the Toyota GT86 in the rest of the world, current Scions are totally forgettable: the IQ has flopped in the US, the tC isn’t halfway as sexy as a coupe should be, the iA is a rebadged Mazda2 sedan with an uglier nose and the iM is a Corolla hatchback in a market that craves crossovers. [Read more…]
Earlier this week we looked at how the US car market has evolved in the past 30 years, and noticed that the local Detroit 3 brands have lost a significant chunk of their impressive market share. The Japanese, European and South-Korean brands have picked up that lost volume and some more as the American manufacturers killed off brands that had almost 3 million sales in 1985. Other brands that are no longer around in the US were much smaller, as only Isuzu (barely) sold more than 100.000 units that year. Suzuki was just launched in 1985 and of the Europeans that have been pulled out Saab was the biggest, with Renault, Peugeot and especially Yugo as niche players, although technically the AMC Alliance and Encore should be considered Renault models as well.
The top 2 best selling vehicles in the United States haven’t changed since 30 years ago, as the Ford F-Series has held the title since 1982, and never gave it up. The Chevrolet Silverado was still called the C/K back then, but already was in second place as it still is today. The RAM pick-up is #3 nowadays, but was far behind in 25th place three decades ago when it was still called the Dodge Ram. [Read more…]
In our series “what has changed in 30 years?”, we continue our comparison of historical car sales vs. present times. We’ve explored France and Germany before, and now we’ll move across the Atlantic to the US. The overall US car market has gained 13,4% of volume, from 15,4 million sales in 1985 to 17,5 million in 2015, but of course that doesn’t tell the whole story, as there have been big shifts of volume and market share for individual brands. Also, 11 brands have been killed or removed from the US market and 16 have arrived. That doesn’t even account for the brands that have come and gone in the meantime, like Saturn, Hummer, Geo and Daewoo.
Looking at the shares by country of origin, we notice that the local Detroit 3 manufacturers held more than 3/4 of their home market, with another fifth for the Japanese brands and a meager 4,4% for the Europeans, led by Volkswagen. The South-Koreans wouldn’t arrive on the shores of North America until the next year, as Hyundai started US exports of the Excel in February 1986 and Kia would take another 8 years to cross the Pacific. [Read more…]
After discussing he 2015 US car brand ranking, we’ll now explore the model ranking a bit further. To refresh your memory: 2015 was a record year for the US auto dealers, with no less than 17,5 million cars sold, which was an increase of 5,7% compared to 2014. Cheap fuel has helped trucks and crossovers grow faster than the overall market at +7,7% and +11% respectively, while demand for cars has shrunk by 2,3%. The combined crossover segments surpassed 5 million units for the first time ever, and Jeep has had a nice hand in that increase, but also the Nissan Rogue.
The Ford F-series is still King of the Ranking in the US, although General Motors sells more full-sized pick-up trucks than Ford if you combine sales of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. The F-series is up just 3,5% as it suffered from weak sales during the summer months when factories were retooled for the new, aluminium-bodied generation. The Silverado gained 13,4% to top 600.000 sales for the first time since 2007. The RAM pick-up remains third to keep the top-3 all full-sized pick-up trucks, while the best selling car is still the Toyota Camry as it has been every year since 2002. The Toyota Corolla passes the Honda Accord to make it two Toyota sedans above all other cars. [Read more…]
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 disappointingly in 2015 and which do we expect to disappoint in 2016. We’ll also look at which cars or brands have surprised from a sales volume point of view in a separate article. We’ve already covered the surprises and disappointments in Europe and China, now let’s take a look at the US car market.
Which cars had disappointing sales in 2015:
The launch of the Italian brand in the US has been a relative success. For the past four years, Fiat has sold between 42.000 and 47.000 cars in the US, while its initial goal was 50.000 sales. However, the expansion of the line-up has not led to an increase of volume for the brand. First was the launch of the Fiat 500L as a five-door, five seater supplement to the regular Fiat 500 minicar in 2013, but instead of creating additional volume, the 500L ended up cannibalizing 500 sales as total brand sales have remained stable.
Then Fiat promised that the all-new 500X would be the breakthrough vehicle for the brand, as small crossovers are gaining popularity in the US as well and the success of the Jeep Renegade sister vehicle might reflect positively on the Fiat 500X. But the same thing happened again: Despite the addition of the 500X, total brand sales have remained stable or even lower. Fiat 500L sales have shrunk to less than 400 units a month, with a low of just 228 sales in November and sales of the 500 minicar dipped below 1.000 units for the first time since its launch. And that’s despite record incentives of as much as $ 3,500 per vehicle.
Of course, low fuel prices have not helped sales of small and fuel efficient vehicles, but while the 500 impresses in Europe with surprisingly stable sales during its life cycle, its image in the US isn’t strong enough to weather the storm. The addition of the Mazda Miata based Fiat 124 Spider this year won’t add much volume either, but an all-wheel-drive option for the 500X might help in the cold-weather states, but in 2015 Fiat’s performance has been an absolute disappointment. [Read more…]
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.
As we’re approaching the final few weeks of 2015, it’s becoming clear that this has been another great year for the automotive industry, most notably in the two largest markets in the world: China and the US. Both markets are on track to set new volume records in 2015, but have taken different paths towards those records. The previous US sales record was set in 2000, when automakers sold 17,4 million cars but never reached that figure ever since. At that time, the US market was more than 30 times bigger than the Chinese car market, but the latter hasn’t stopped growing ever since. And at an amazing pace: 27,5% per year on average. As a result, the Chinese passenger car market caught up with that of the US in 2013, and is set to break through the 20 million units barrier for the first time this year.
To kick-start our coverage of the US car market we figured it would be good to give our European readers a bit of background on what the car market is like across the Atlantic. Here are 6 trends that differentiate the two markets:
1. The stereotypes are true: SUVs and pickup trucks are much more important in the US
While mainstream cars make up 60% of car sales in Europe, they only make up less than 40% of the US market. This becomes even more stark once you add the premium derivatives – the proportions become 75% vs 45%. Instead, the SUVs chunk of the market is almost twice as large in the US (30%) as it is in Europe (17%). Add to that another 14% of the US market that’s captured by pickups, and the high-level difference between the two markets becomes clear.
Data reflects sales in the first half of 2015