So far in 2018, the US car market has fluctuated between growth in February and March and declines in January and April. Sales plunged 4.8% in April, to 1.36 million units, as the month had two fewer business days than a year earlier. As a result, the Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate (SAAR) is up 1.1% to 17.1 million. These fluctuations make it ever more difficult to predict the direction in which the market will move in 2018, but rising gas prices always spell bad news for automaker, especially those that depend on gas guzzling trucks and SUVs for their volume and profits.The year-to-date figure for the first four months of the year is now stable, wiping out the 2% growth of the first quarter. The share of trucks in the sales mix at 68.5% is up to the highest it’s been so far this year and the second-highest ever after last December. The share of North American automakers (Detroit-3 and Tesla) is up to 46.3%, the highest it’s been since February 2016, and their growth mostly comes from the Japanese brands which are down to 36.1% share, the lowest since that same month, just over 2 years ago. European brands stay stable at just under 10% share while the Koreans are up their highest share in the last 12 months, at 7.9%.
April marks the first month that General Motors does not report its monthly sales figures so we rely on estimates from our colleagues at Automotive News.
Jeep is the big winner in the top-20 with a gain of 20, helped by the new Compass and redesigned Wrangler.
Nissan is the big loser, being hit by a triple whammy of reduced incentives, reduced fleet deliveries and a slowdown of the overall car market. Only one of its nameplates (the new generation Leaf EV) improved its volume last month.
The two ranking leaders Ford and Toyota both suffered losses while Chevrolet in third place remained stable. Honda takes a big hit of 8.4% due to the slow performance of its best sellers Accord, Civic and CR-V.
Hyundai outsold Subaru again despite an 8.6% loss for the former, but the Japanese brand extends its winning streak to 77 months of year-over-year gains and remains ahead of its Korean rival year-to-date.
RAM outsold GMC for the first time in the last six months and enters the top-10 brands ranking. Sales of both brands decline by about 9%.
In the luxury segment, Mercedes-Benz continues to lead with a 1% gain to 27,207 sales (excluding vans), but BMW is closing in with a gain of 3.8% to 23,482 sales while Lexus volume dropped 2.1% to 21,642.
Buick and Chrysler as well as a number of second-tier luxury brands like Acura, Infiniti and Lincoln suffer losses between 10% and 20%, but Jaguar is hit the hardest with a decline of 37.5% followed by Genesis with a 26.5% loss. Both brands will add important new models to their line-up this year with the E-Pace compact crossover and the I-Pace electric crossover for Jaguar and the G70 midsized sedan for Genesis.
On the other hand, Volvo and Land Rover show double digit gains as they have been in the positive every month so far this year while Cadillac improves for a third consecutive month.
April marks the first month in history that Smart sales are 100% EV. Ironically, this is also the brand’s lowest volume month ever as it tips below 100 monthly sales.
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