US car sales analysis – 2018 winners and losers, brands

 

After a topsy-turvy 2018 the US market managed a strong finish, with a 2.2% sales increase in November allowing it to increase its overall year-on-year sales gain to 0.6%, for a total of over 17.3 million vehicles. Moreover, the rate of increase was the highest since the early summer’18, giving the market optimism going into 2019, despite headwinds from higher interest rates, a falling stock market and the waining effect of the 2018 tax cut.

2018 Winners:

  • FCA: between Jeep‘s 17.5% sales rise and Ram‘s 40% sales growth in Q4’18, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is clearly on the right path as it enters 2019; only poor performances at Chrysler and Fiat detract from the rosy overall picture
Ram Pickup
  • Tesla – the huge success of the new Model 3, combined with ever-growing demand for the Model X and only small sales declines for the aging Model S, allowed the Californian upstart to almost quadruple (!) its sales between 2017 and 2018
  • Subaru – its cars may not set pulses racing like they used to in the 1990s, but Subaru’s reinvention as a go-to brand for dependable, safe, and family-friendly runabouts has been very impressive; the latest Ascent adds yet another model that’s right-on-message
Subaru_Ascent-US-car-sales-statistics
Subaru Ascent
  • Mitsubishi – in a market where establishes mainstream brands are struggling to get ahead of their competitors, Mitsubishi’s “value first” approach has allowed it to get back on its feat after its sales collapse in the 2000s and early 2010s
  • Land Rover and Volvo – new, attractive crossovers have allowed both brands with ever-more-premium aspirations to grow their sales by over 20% compared to 2017, making them the largest two brands to do so, other than the Tesla outlier
  • McLaren – it may have seemed crazy just five years ago, but the British road car upstart is now outselling the much-more established Lamborghini by a factor of 3-to-2

2018 Losers:

  • Ford – a 3.3% sales decline may not seem like much, but when you’re the leading brand in the market, this translates to almost 100,000 fewer cars being sold in 2018, and an ever narrowing gap to Toyota
  • Nissan – no matter if it’s driven by a desire to cut discounts and sales to fleets, a 6.6% decline in sales is the steepest decline in the Top 10, double that recorded by Ford
Nissan Altima
  • Mercedes-Benz – after the relentless growth in market share that the brand has been enjoying since 1991 plateaued over the past few years, the hope was that it was just a matter of time before the good times returned; the sharp downturn in fortunes in 2018 suggests the downward trend may in fact get worse before it gets better
  • Jaguar – with popularity of the still-new F-Pace waining, the new E-Pace failing to connect with buyers, and little new metal on the horizon, the company will struggle to improve its fortunes anytime soon
Jaguar E-Pace
  • Mini – 7.3% is not a big sales decline per se, but for a hip-until-recently brand with a very fresh line-up it is a very disappointing one
  • Genesis – something is clearly not right with the way that Hyundai has introduced its new luxury brand to the market, with the name change managing to cripple the sales of the once super-popular G80 (nee Hyundai Genesis) and the G90 (nee Hyundai Equus), while the company’s 3-series fighter, the G70, is only managing a few hundred sales each month
  • Brand ranking

    Monthly YTD
    # Model Dec’18 Dec’17 Δ # 2018 2017 Δ
    a1 Ford 208,106 230,291 -9.6% a1 2,381,635 2,464,041 -3.3%
    a2 Chevrolet* 207,306 206,804 0.2% a3 2,048,792 2,065,879 -0.8%
    a3 Toyota 185,384 187,518 -1.1% a2 2,128,357 2,129,180 0.0%
    a4 Honda 138,341 134,255 3.0% a4 1,445,894 1,486,827 -2.8%
    a5 Nissan 130,655 121,847 7.2% a5 1,344,597 1,440,049 -6.6%
    a6 Jeep 80,449 73,205 9.9% a6 973,227 828,522 17.5%
    a7 (3) Ram 68,195 49,876 36.7% a9 (2) 597,368 556,790 7.3%
    a8 (1) Hyundai 65,107 61,646 5.6% a8 (1) 667,633 664,961 0.4%
    a9 (1) Subaru 64,541 63,342 1.9% a7 (1) 680,135 647,956 5.0%
    b10 (3) GMC* 54,096 64,146 -15.7% b11 (1) 538,936 560,687 -3.9%
    b11 Kia 47,428 43,039 10.2% b10 (1) 589,673 589,668 0.0%
    b12 Mercedes-Benz 36,132 39,250 -7.9% b13 354,137 372,240 -4.9%
    b13 Lexus 35,524 35,461 0.2% b17 (1) 298,310 305,132 -2.2%
    b14 BMW 34,357 34,253 0.3% b15 311,014 305,685 1.7%
    b15 (1) Dodge 32,528 27,885 16.7% b12 459,324 446,996 2.8%
    b16 (1) VW 32,047 30,281 5.8% b14 354,064 339,676 4.2%
    b17 (12) Tesla* 31,700 4,200 654.8% b20 (9) 182,400 48,000 280.0%
    b18 Mazda 25,870 26,893 -3.8% b16 (1) 300,325 289,470 3.7%
    b19 (2) Audi 22,765 26,977 -15.6% b18 223,323 226,511 -1.4%
    b20 (1) Buick* 19,642 22,285 -11.9% b19 207,327 219,231 -5.4%
    b21 Infiniti 18,065 16,379 10.3% b24 (1) 149,280 153,415 -2.7%
    b22 (1) Acura 16,774 15,062 11.4% b22 158,934 154,602 2.8%
    b23 (1) Cadillac* 15,954 15,304 4.2% b23 (2) 155,410 156,440 -0.7%
    b24 (4) Chrysler 12,425 17,208 -27.8% b21 (1) 165,964 188,545 -12.0%
    b25 (1) Lincoln 11,526 10,619 8.5% b26 (2) 103,587 111,159 -6.8%
    b26 (1) Land Rover 10,617 7,980 33.0% b28 (1) 92,143 74,739 23.3%
    b27 (1) Mitsubishi 8,986 8,501 5.7% b25 118,074 103,686 13.9%
    b28 (3) Volvo 8,826 9,679 -8.8% b27 (1) 98,263 81,504 20.6%
    b29 (1) Porsche 4,086 3,913 4.4% b29 (1) 57,202 55,420 3.2%
    b30 (1) Jaguar 3,462 3,414 1.4% b31 30,483 39,594 -23.0%
    b31 (3) Mini 2,797 4,611 -39.3% b30 43,684 47,105 -7.3%
    b32 Alfa Romeo 1,946 2,034 -4.3% b32 (3) 23,800 12,031 97.8%
    b33 (1) Fiat 977 1,738 -43.8% b33 (1) 15,521 26,492 -41.4%
    b34 (1) Maserati* 950 1,427 -33.4% b34 11,263 13,699 -17.8%
    b35 (2) Genesis 614 1,948 -68.5% b35 (2) 10,312 20,594 -49.9%
    b36 (1) McLaren* 232 233 -0.4% b37 (1) 1,569 1,112 41.1%
    b37 (1) Bentley* 165 298 -44.6% b36 (1) 1,972 2,405 -18.0%
    b38 Smart 122 166 -26.5% b38 (2) 1,276 3,071 -58.5%
    b39 Lamborghini* 94 92 2.2% b39 1,128 1,095 3.0%
    b40 Rolls-Royce* 90 86 4.7% b40 1,080 1,029 5.0%

    Note: * Estimate

  1. Hi Kriss, that’s a little harsh on Jaguar – from the breakdown I’ve seen, in December had their best month of sales of the E-Pace and they do have new metal – the I-Pace – which has only just gone on sale.

    1. @Hugh – you’re right that the comment may come off as a bit harsh, but for a company that has two crossovers, one new and one still very fresh, to see its sales fall by 23% is not good… I do wish them all the best, as I personally really like the brand, but right now the numbers suggest they are losing out to the competition. That said, with the I-Pace being the highest selling car in The Netherlands in December, it’s quite possible the brand is on the cusp of a major upswing, courtesy of the in-demand new EV.

      1. @kriss – you’re clearly right about their saloons – it looks like all saloons are being hammered, but the XE and XF were starting from a low base to begin with.

        I wonder if launching the Velar has been responsible for the fall in F-Pace sales? Same platform, but Velar has better interior and Land Rover cachet.

      2. @Hugh – I agree that the F-Pace’s sales probably weren’t helped by the Velar, but if you look at their sales side-by-side you’ll see that the F-Pace continued to sell strongly even after the Velar went on sale in August’17 (and it hit the ground running, too). Rather, it seems that the E-Pace going on sale in January’18 is what caused the dip in F-Pace’s sales – immediately they fall by some 30% compared to 2017, a fall of some 300-600 cars per month which, incidentally, is roughly how many E-Paces Jaguar has sold each month in 2018

  2. Considering last year’s overall weak performance of luxury brands in the States, Jaguar’s struggle isn’t that surprising, but -23% is bad indeed as Kriss explained. I think the XE, their entry-level model, is not on many people’s shortlist when buying a midsized car. Besides, Americans are willing to pay good money for a luxury American/Asian/European car so the level of competition is quite high.

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