After beginning 2018 on an optimistic note, with sales rising by 1.2% in January, the market took a downward swing in February, shrinking by 2.2% and pushing the industry into the red for 2018 YTD (sales down 0.6%). It is worth noting too that this performance is not driven by Feb’18 being greatly different than last year in terms of selling days, or because Feb’17 was a particularly good month (sales fell by 0.8% back then, in line with the 0.6% fall in Jan’17) – rather, it seems that after months of throwing ever-higher incentives at buyers, automakers are now starting to scale back. The coming months will show whether this downturn marks a return to the trend observed in 2017, when the market decline was punctuated by the occasional month with a sales increase, or whether the industry will rally thanks to the ongoing economy growth and the incoming tax cuts.
Only three out of the Top 10 brands recorded positive growth in February, a fall from six in January
Luxury brands once again outpaced mainstream brands, growing their sales by 5.3%, relative to a 3.2% decline amongst mainstream brands
By far the biggest winner was Jeep in sixth, which followed up its first monthly gain in over a year in January with a growth rate of 12.3% in February
The other two brands that experienced positive growth were Toyota, whose sales were up a healthy 4.5%, and Subaru, whose sales were up 3.8%
The Top 3 was much as it was in January, with Toyota once again outselling Chevrolet, although this time it did so by a considerably larger margin due to the American brand’s 8.8% drop in sales, while Ford stayed comfortably ahead of the rest despite a 6.1% sales decline
Nissan in fourth stayed ahead of Honda, as it has recently early in the year, helped by Honda’s larger sales decline
Hyundai‘s misery continued as its sales once again declined by double-digits, keeping it behind Subaru in the monthly stats
GMC continued to underperform in 2018 after a good 2017, with sales dropping by 8.0%, while Kia once again made it into the Top 10 as its sales decline was less severe then over at Dodge, whose sales fell by 8.4%, just enough to drop it out of the Top 10
February was an unusually good month for mainstream brands outside the Top 10: sales at Volkswagen grew by 6.0%, those at Mazda once again were in the double-digits (up 12.7%), Buick managed a slow-but-steady 1.2% growth, Chrysler managed a relatively-small 3.5% sales decline, Mitsubishi‘s sales grew by 18.8%, while Mini‘s sales took off with a huge 42.3% month-on-month growth
Nonetheless, a few mainstream brands lost out: while Ram‘s 14.1% sales decline is understandable given the imminent arrival of the new Pickup, the sales collapse continued at Fiat (down 42.1%) and Smart, whose sales were down 69.5% to barely over 100 units
Among luxury brands, the higher-volume brands pretty much all enjoyed positive growth, with the standouts being once again Audi (sales up 12.4%), Cadillac (sales up 14.0%), Land Rover (sales up 18.8%) and Volvo (sales up 35.7%), riding high on the back of rising sales of the new XC60; only Infiniti (sales down 6.7%) and Lincoln (sales down 23.4%) lost out
Lower down the sales chart, the fates of the luxury brands were more mixed: sales at Alfa Romeo were up over 250% times and at Tesla by 75.9% as the brands had an expanded portfolio relative to Feb’17, while those at Porsche rose by over 20%; on the other side, sales at Jaguar collapsed by almost 40%, with Genesis and Maserati too seeing their sales fall by low teens
It was a similar story among exclusive brands, a bit of a fall after a great January, with Bentley finally back in the black and McLaren almost doulbling its sales, and Ferrari sales falling by 23.0% and at Rolls-Royce by 20.6% on the other
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