US sales: March 2017, brands

With a third straight month of sales decline in 2017, with sales dropping by 1.7% to 1,450,443 units, I think it’s fair to say that the car market is going to have a hard time surpassing the sales record set in 2016. In fact, it is looking increasingly likely that this year will mark the end of a remarkable run of seven years of sales growth. What’s more, the split between SUVs/crossovers and mainstream models is widening ever faster – in March sales of SUVs/crossovers grew by 5.4%, while sales of mainstream models fell by 11.0%. 

Highlights:

  • March was a bad month for the top three brands, with all three losing sales, pushing even the relatively-well-performing Chevrolet into the red for the year.
  • However, it is Ford that should be especially worried – its sales fell by 7.4%, the largest decline this year, and the fifth time in the last year that the brand lost sales.

  • Nissan and Honda, in fourth and fifth spots, both gain sales as they have done so far every month in 2017, though their rates of growth were the lowest they’ve been so far this year.
  • Bucking the trend for crossover popularity sales at sixth-placed Jeep fell by 11.1% – the seventh decline in a row, and the steepest rate since March 2013; this is in contrast to the other 4wd specialist, GMC (11th spot), whose sales rose by 12.0% in March, making it one of the only two brands in the top-20 to see their sales rise by double digits in 2017 so far (the other being the recovering VW, in 16th spot).
  • Similarly hurting are Hyundai (7th spot) and Kia (12th spot, 4 lower than last year), whose rates of sales decline, at 10.4% and 15.2%, were were the brands’ worst performances in over five and three years, respectively.
  • By comparison, Subaru enjoyed yet another great month, with sales up 11.3%, making it 13 months since the brand ranked outside of the top-10.
  • Some good news finally came to FCA, with Ram bouncing back after an unusual sales dip in February, Dodge posting strong growth for the first time this year, continuing strong growth at Maserati, and even Fiat losing less than 10% of sales. Still, these good trends were not enough to outweigh the loss of sales at Jeep and Chrysler.
  • Other mainstream brands that experienced good growth in March include Mazda (17th spot, sales up 4.9%), Buick (impressive 15.1% growth going some way to make up for the brand’s awful start to 2017), and Mini (first positive growth in over a year).
  • Among the high-volume premium brands, BMW once again recorded growth in 2017, making up for a full year of decline in 2016, alongside the equally-well performing Mercedes-Benz; still, neither can come close to matching Audi‘s impressive 75-month-long streak of positive growth, or Infiniti‘s impressive growth rate of over 30% so far in 2017.
  • Things looked less rosy for the other premium brands, with Lexus once again losing sales (it has now lost sales for six months straight, and 11 out of the past 12 months), as did Cadillac (down 1.5%), Acura (down 21.2%), Lincoln (down 1.4%), Land Rover (down 8.8%) and Volvo (down 21.9).
  • In fact, Volvo came very close to being outsold by the star performer of 2017 so far, Jaguar, whose triple-digit sales growth placed it in the top-30 for the fifth month in a row (it had not placed in the top-30 once in the 10 years prior to that).

  • Two other brands experienced triple-digit growth so far in 2017: Alfa Romeo (sales up almost 12-fold now that the Giulia has properly gone on sale), and Bentley (sales up 109.2%).
  • With only 31 cars sold in March, it is fair to say this is the last we’ve seen of Scion.

Brand ranking

Monthly YTD
# Model Mar’17 Mar’16 Δ # 2017 2016 Δ
a1 Ford 225,341 243,375 -7.4% a1 586,462 616,682 -4.9%
a2 Toyota 187,258 187,975 -0.4% a3 (1) 470,624 489,982 -4.0%
a3 Chevrolet 172,458 176,283 -2.2% a2 (1) 471,723 472,730 -0.2%
a4 Nissan 150,566 149,784 0.5% a4 373,330 367,544 1.6%
a5 Honda 125,531 123,369 1.8% a5 333,531 319,828 4.3%
a6 Jeep 67,983 76,540 -11.2% a6 188,743 212,370 -11.1%
a7 Hyundai 67,510 75,310 -10.4% a7 163,637 173,330 -5.6%
a8 (1) Subaru 54,871 49,285 11.3% a8 (2) 144,250 132,397 9.0%
a9 (1) Ram 51,749 48,797 6.0% b11 132,579 126,154 5.1%
b10 (1) Dodge 50,076 45,629 9.7% a9 134,063 140,916 -4.9%
b11 (1) GMC 49,948 44,585 12.0% b10 (2) 133,611 121,048 10.4%
b12 (4) Kia 49,429 58,279 -15.2% b12 (4) 127,728 146,321 -12.7%
b13 Mercedes-Benz 31,963 31,236 2.3% b13 86,574 83,009 4.3%
b14 (1) BMW 31,015 30,033 3.3% b15 71,682 70,613 1.5%
b15 (1) Lexus 27,935 30,198 -7.5% b17 (3) 61,845 74,221 -16.7%
b16 VW 27,635 26,914 2.7% b14 (3) 76,290 69,314 10.1%
b17 (1) Mazda 24,549 23,396 4.9% b16 (2) 69,071 64,644 6.8%
b18 (2) Buick 20,957 18,207 15.1% b18 (1) 50,205 54,287 -7.5%
b19 Audi 18,705 18,392 1.7% b20 45,647 41,960 8.8%
b20 (2) Infiniti 18,266 13,775 32.6% b21 (2) 43,561 32,660 33.4%
b21 (4) Chrysler 16,969 25,373 -33.1% b19 (3) 47,076 70,424 -33.2%
b22 (1) Cadillac 12,861 13,053 -1.5% b22 33,982 35,633 -4.6%
b23 (1) Mitsubishi 11,766 11,078 6.2% b24 29,147 25,212 15.6%
b24 (3) Acura 11,696 14,852 -21.2% b23 (2) 31,762 37,875 -16.1%
b25 Lincoln 9,554 9,689 -1.4% b25 27,083 24,905 8.7%
b26 Land Rover 7,965 8,733 -8.8% b26 19,875 20,805 -4.5%
b27 Volvo 5,357 6,857 -21.9% b27 13,479 16,361 -17.6%
b28 Mini 4,987 4,762 4.7% b30 (1) 10,251 10,839 -5.4%
b29 (3) Jaguar 4,953 2,133 132.2% b29 (3) 11,376 4,997 127.7%
b30 (1) Porsche 4,479 4,323 3.6% b28 12,718 12,238 3.9%
b31 Tesla* 3,000 2,250 33.3% b31 8,800 6,475 35.9%
b32 (2) Fiat 2,922 3,085 -5.3% b32 (2) 7,231 8,115 -10.9%
b33 (new) Genesis 1,755 0 new b33 (new) 5,155 0 new
b34 Maserati 1,312 997 31.6% b34 3,288 2,250 46.1%
b35 (4) Alfa Romeo 555 43 1190.7% b35 (4) 1,106 158 600.0%
b36 (1) Smart 389 479 -18.8% b36 (1) 1,061 1,300 -18.4%
b37 (1) Bentley 249 119 109.2% b37 552 262 110.7%
b38 (1) Rolls-Royce 110 107 2.8% b38 (2) 330 321 2.8%
b39 (1) Lamborghini 88 86 2.3% b39 (1) 264 258 2.3%
b40 (7) Scion 31 1,669 -98.1% b40 (7) 142 4,877 -97.1%

* estimates for Tesla

About Krzysztof Wozniak

Kriss grew up in Poland reading German car magazines, before moving to England and graduating to the British magazines, which he still considers the best in the world and continues reading them after he'd moved to the US. In college he promised himself he's buy himself a used Porsche before he turned 30 (not to be accused of having a mid-life crisis), but instead family needs dictated a Subaru Outback. Still waiting for that perfect moment to buy a used 2008-ish Cayman...
You can find all his articles Here.

Comments

  1. Rick M says:

    The month after Carlos Ghosn handed over his CEO role at Nissan, the brand easily exceeds his longtime goal “8%” market share. Nissan reached almost 10% in March. Whether or not that other goal, “8%” margin has been accomplished nobody knows: It a discount / rebate war our there.

    • Krzysztof Wozniak says:

      @Rick M – once again you’re spot on – Nissan’s discount’s, at $4k, are higher than the Korean brands’ ($3k) or Toyota’s (a bit over $2k), so it’s clear they’re paying dearly for that market share!

      • Rick M says:

        Hi Krzysztof – yes, 4k is a lot of money. Many are pushing metal no matter what in order to get rid of >70 days inventory. Discounts (“yeah folks, we’ll offer you 3k cash on da hood!” 😉 are an intriguing part of the US car-sales culture, in particular b/c dealers often are obliged to stuff dozens of new models on their lots. Guess Nissan’s 4k per vehicle will be mainly caused by their sedan (cars) offerings. Versa, Sentra, Altima and Maxima are doing 10% to 20% less than 2016. Across the board, almost all sedan’s are facing tough times, SUV’s are just too tempting. On a positive note: the Rogue is a genuine blockbuster. If one exclude the usual suspects comprising the Top 3 (all Pick-Ups), the Rogue was the March #1 in both US and Canada. Demand is huge. Since 4 factories (US, Mex, Japan, S-Korea) are aligned to produce this model, supply finally is able to meet demand. Effective marketing is a factor too: since the Rogue starred in the latest Star War release (Rogue Nation), sales go through the roof. Rogue + XTrail (same model) sales combined catapult it to the #4 spot in the Global Top 1000 in Q1 2017. Add the Qashqai, and it would even challenge the leader of the pack, Toyota Corrola. Chrz, RM

        PS: Great data source, CSB.com!

      • Bart Demandt says:

        And Nissan will bring the Qashqai to the US too as the Rogue Sport this year, which should bring even more volume!
        Not sure what to think of bringing the Kicks to the US, though. I’m worried it may not be refined enough for the US, similar to the Ford EcoSport.

  2. Panie Krzysztofie kiedy European car sales data for march?

    • Krzysztof Wozniak says:

      @Radek – Dzięki za pytanie! European data are much harder to get by, so usually there is a month delay – you should expect them late April / early May

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