A lot of analysts had predicted US car sales to dip below 17 million in 2019, but the market proved stronger than expected and has scored a fifth consecutive year above that symbolic 17 million mark, despite a 1.2% drop in sales. As has been the trend in recent years, sales of car models (sedans, hatchbacks, wagons, coupes and convertibles) declined, as they showed an 11.7% drop to a record low share of 27.8% of the total market, while truck sales (crossovers, SUVs, pickups, minivans and vans) were up 2.7% to a record 72.2% of the market. Japanese brands were the biggest losers at -2.9% but still hold 37.2% combined market share, the lowest it has been since 2015. American brands also struggled (-2.1%) to a share of 44.9% the third-ever lowest share after 2012 and 2017. European brands were up 1.2% to a share of 9.6%, the highest since 2013. Korean brands were the big winners in 2019, gaining 4.6% to a market share of 7.8%, the highest since 2016 but still a full percentage point below its peak in 2011.
Among manufacturers, General Motors loses 0.1 percentage point of market share to 16.9%, while Toyota Motor N.A. closes the gap to Ford Motor Company to less than 25,000 sales as the latter loses 0.2 percentage points of share, as both now have about 14% share of the US market. FCA US holds a stable 12.9% share, while American Honda surpasses Nissan-Mitsubishi as the latter loses 0.7 percentage points of share and is the biggest loser among manufacturers with a 9% decline in sales. Hyundai-Kia (including Genesis) gains half a percentage point. BMW of North America (including Mini and Rolls Royce) distances Mercedes-Benz USA (including Smart and M-B Vans) as the gap of just 573 sales of last year is now almost 4,000 sales. Biggest winner among manufacturers is Volvo Cars USA with a gain of over 10%.
2019 manufacturers ranking
Ford Motor Co.
Toyota Motor N.A.
Subaru of America
VW Group of America
BMW of N.A.
Jaguar Land Rover N.A.
Volvo Cars USA
Honda is the only brand in the top-6 to improve thanks to a 0.3% gain, with Nissan as the biggest loser and Toyota as the least unfortunate of the losers. As a result, Toyota consolidates its #2 spot by expanding the gap to Chevrolet to more than 125,000 sales, while decreasing the gap to leader Ford to just over 200,000 sales. This is the 10th consecutive year Ford is on top of the brands ranking.
Jeep is down 5.1% on its record year of 2018 and even dips just over 6,000 sales below 2017, its second-best year ever.
RAM jumps 2 places past Subaru and Hyundai as it is the biggest winner in the brands top-30. Both RAM and Subaru score record sales, both crossing the 700,000 sales mark for the first time. Hyundai is below that mark for the third consecutive year after spending 2012-2016 above it. Back to Subaru and RAM for a moment: the Japanese brand has now smashed its annual US sales record for 11 consecutive year, while the American truck brand had also never crossed the 600,000 sales mark before.
GMC enjoys its second-best ever sales volume, after teh 581,000 it sold in 2004.
Volkswagen reclaims its position as the most popular German brand by leapfrogging Mercedes-Benz. VW also held this position from 2009 to 2014 and until 2004.
When looking at luxury brands, BMW takes the crown back from Mercedes-Benz (excl. vans, which are not luxury vehicles), for the first time since 2015. Luxury brand #3 Lexus last held the first place in 2010. Audi has been one of the fastest growing luxury brand in the US in recent years, but its growth has stalled in 2019, keeping a gap of 100,000 sales to its German rivals. Cacillac closes the gap to Acura to just over 1,000 sales, while Infiniti is the biggest loser among luxury brands with a 21.1% drop in sales. It now has advantage of just 5,500 sales to Lincoln and 9,500 to Volvo.
Among the smaller luxury brands, Genesis is finally gaining some traction, although I can’t believe they could be satisfied with the sales volume of its best seller G70 sports sedan. At least the brand now moves ahead of Alfa Romeo which is already in decline in its second full year on the market. Genesis still has to show a 50% growth rate before it can overtake Jaguar, and it will need some crossovers to achieve that. Jaguar’s dependence on crossovers peaked at over 85% in December 2019 as its sedans are struggling to sell in relevant numbers, especially the XF which was even outsold by the aging XJ sedan in all quarters except for the Q1.
Mazda struggles with a 7.2% decline and drops one spot below Lexus, while Chrysler, now down to 2 nameplates, is the biggest loser in the top-30 and drops 2 places behind Acura and Cadillac.
Small cars fall out of favor with Americans, which means brands like Mini and Fiat continue to struggle, with the former dropping another 17.4% to the same level as 2003 and 2004, its first two full years of sales in the US, when it was still just a one-model brand. The Italian brand drops by an even more worrying 40.7% to its lowest annual sales volume in the US since its relaunch in 2011. None of its four nameplates sells more than an average of 300 cars per month, and the brand has become so irrelevant in the US market that a potential withdrawal cannot be ignored. Smart has already withdrawn from the US market this year, as its strategy of becoming an EV-only brand has failed.
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