The end of 2017 in the US market was much the same as the second half of the year had been – yet another swing compared to the previous month meant that sales in December were down the year before. Despite the 5.2% decline being the second-highest of the year (after July), sales in December were still the highest in 2017, with
carmakers traditionally throwing incentives at customers to get rid of previous year’s models. Nonetheless, the decline only underscored the market’s decline in 2017, the first in seven years, with the market shrinking by 2.2% compared to 2016.
Four brands in the Top 10 managed to eek out growth in December: Ford was top with sales growth of 2.4%, followed by Hyundai (sales 1.8%) and GMC (sales up 1.2%), with Subaru closing out the group (sales up 0.3%)
Of the remaining six brands only Chevrolet saw its sales fall by less than 5%: Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Ram all saw their sales fall by high single-digits, while the worst performer of the bunch, Jeep, saw its sales fall by 12.0%
Over the course of the whole year Subaru was the biggest winner in the Top 10, seeing its sales rise by 5.3% in 2017, almost double the growth rate of Toyota, which nonetheless should be very happy to have pipped Chevrolet to second in the rankings by the narrowest of margins
Other good performers include GMC and Ram (sales up 2.6%), with Honda and Nissan too finishing the year in the black, setting new records for the brands, despite a poor December
By contrast, Ford and Chevrolet will be disappointed with their sales declines in 2017, though the fact their rates of decline were in the low single-digits still should give them comfort when they look at the likes of Jeep (sales down 10.9%) and Hyundai (sales down 13.4%), not to mention Kia, whose sales fell by 8.9% in 2017, resulting in the brand being overtaken by Ram and dropping out of the Top 10
Outside the Top 10 only a few mainstream brands managed to record growth in December: Mitsubishi was once again top with sales up 15.1%, closing off a good year for the brand (sales up 7.7%), while the other two brands to gain, Buick and Chrysler, will hope that their gains in December can translate into sustained growth in 2018, to make up for sales declines in 2017 (Chrysler, especially, saw its sales fall by 21.3% on the back of the brand pulling the 200 model from market)
Just like in the Top 10, December marked a rough finish to an otherwise successful year for Volkswagen, whose sales were down a whopping 22.5% in December, but up 6.4% in 2017 overall; the worry is that buyers are abandoning the brand’s mainstream cars for its spiffy new crossovers
For the remaining mainstream brands the end of 2017 pretty accurately summed up the year, from the single-digit declines at Mazda and Mini, through more drastic declines over at Kia, Dodge and Fiat, all the way to the collapse over at Smart, which ended 2017 with less than half the volume it had sold in 2016
In among the luxury brands, Audi was the best performer in December (its sales growth of 16.3% was in fact highest among the non-exclusive brands), marking the end of a very successful 2017 for the brand, which advanced two spots in the standings
There were only two other brands that recorded growth both in December and in 2017 overall, and they are both special cases: the new brand Genesis and the expanding Alfa Romeo, with the Italian brand having a particularly good December, selling 2,000 units in a month for the first time
Other luxury brands that had a good 2017 include Jaguar, which at 26.7%, the fastest-growing non-exclusive brand that’s not a special case, Infiniti, Maserati, Tesla, Porsche and Land Rover; however, all these brands ended the year on a bad note, with Jaguar in particular seeing its December sales fall by over a fifth
The places were reversed for Mercedes-Benz and BMW, which had a good December but a less stellar 2017, while 2017 was universally a bad year for Lexus, which was overtaken by BMW in the standings, Acura, Lincoln and, perhaps most surprisingly, the seemingly-hot Volvo
December was almost universally a bad month for exclusive brands, with only Rolls-Royce seeing its sales rise, underscoring its performance as the fastest-growing brand in 2017 (outside of Alfa Romeo and Genesis), and allowing it to close in significantly on Bentley, whose sales fell in 2017 as customers wait for the new Continental GT to hit the market
2017 ended up being a really good year for supercar makers Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren (note: with December sales still not in we’re basing this off the brands November figures)
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