2018 began on an optimistic note, with overall sales rising by 1.2% compared to January 2017. Analysts attribute the gentle upswing to factors such as higher demand for higher incentives and optimism for the impact of the revised tax code on household incomes, though it is worth noting that January 2018 featured 25 selling days, one more than in 2017. In addition, while the US economy is still chugging along nicely, the continued interest rate rises are bound to dampen demand for new cars, as might the ever-looming prospect of a slowdown in the global economy.
Six out of the Top 10 brands recorded positive growth in January, a step up from the four which did so in December
Toyota and Nissan were the big winners, experiencing double-digit sales growth, with Toyota coming close out outselling the leader Ford (sales down 5.2%), something it has only done once in the past four years (July 2017)
Despite seeing its sales grow by a nice 5.0% Chevrolet was relegated to third place behind Toyota, reflecting the fact that for 2017 it fell behind its Japanese competitors in the annual rankings
Just as it had in 2017, Honda began the year slowly, lagging Nissan in overall sales – it will be interesting whether the pattern from 2016 and 2017 repeats itself, where Nissan begins the year strongly only for Honda to overtake it in the second half of the year
Jeep posted its first monthly sales increase in over a year, though it will take more than one small monthly increase to declare the brand as out of the woods
Subaru began the year strongly, posting yet another monthly sales increase to outsell the ailing Hyundai once again (sales down 10.9%), though it’s worth noting that its rate of sales increase at 1.1% was the lowest it had been been in a long time
Unlike its sister brand, Kia‘s sales were stable, which marks an improvement on 2017 (when total sales fell by almost 9%), and might be a sign that the worst is over
By comparison, GMC started off 2018 poorly, losing 11.4% (the biggest drop in the Top 10), though less badly than its immediate neighbors, which lifted the brand in the standings (it was 11th this time last year)
January was a pretty good month for mainstream brands outside the Top 10 as well, with Mitsubishi, often the only mainstream brand outside of the Top 10 to post monthly growth, joined by Mazda (posting an unexpected 15.0% sales increase), Volkswagen (sales up 5.2%) and Buick (sales up 1.8%)
Still, there were plenty of mainstream losers too, and none were worse than FCA brands, with Ram down 15.8%, Chrysler down 20.9%, Dodge down 31.2% and Fiat sliding into irrelevance with sales down 43.2%
Of the remaining mainstream brands Mini‘s sales decline was modest at 5.6%, especially when compared to Smart‘s sales dropping by over two-thirds
Luxury brands had an even better January than mainstream brands, growing by an average of 4.3% (mainstream: 0.7%)
At the front of the luxury brand race Mercedes-Benz saw its sales decline slightly, while its closest competitors BMW, Lexus and Audi all seeing their sales rise, with Audi extending its record to 99 consecutive month-on-month sales increases
Following this pack were a few brands who did not start 2018 so well, with Infiniti losing 8.0% of sales, Cadillac and Acura both seeing their sales fall by about 3%, and Lincoln seeing it sales fall by over a quarter
The best performing luxury brands were Tesla (sales more than doubled as the company ramped up Model 3 sales) and Volvo (sales up 61.2%), with Land Rover and Porsche also seeing small sales rises of around 5%, and Maserati seeing its sales rise by 0.9%
Finally, Jaguar and Genesis both began 2018 poorly, losing around 11% of sales
Alfa Romeo was not able to sell over 2,000 units as it had in December, but seeing as January sales are about a third lower than those in December due to seasonality, the 1,648 cars it did manage to sell were actually on course with the brand’s upward trajectory
After a poor December exclusive brands did very well in January, with only Rolls-Royce seeing its sales decline (ironically, it was the only brand to see its sales rise in December)
McLaren performed best, seeing its sales rise by almost 60% and handily outselling Lamborghini (itself no laggard with sales up 15%), while Bentley‘s sales rose by over 40%
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