Car sales in the US advanced another 3.1% to 1,595,065 units in March, but signs that the market is nearing its peak are becoming stronger. For starters, retail growth slowed down while incentives rose. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate actually dropped to 16.56 million units, the first time since May last year that the figure was below 17 million. The market continued its shift from cars to SUVs, especially in the luxury segment. Still, both Nissan and Hyundai managed to rack up sales records this month. Nissan North America sold 163,559 cars and SUVs last month, as Nissan sales were up 13% to 149,784 and Infiniti sales rose 10% to 13,775. Although Hyundai sales were up just 0.4% on last March to 75,310, the South-Korean brand sold more cars than any month since its arrival in the US in 1986.
Meanwhile, Toyota suffered a sales slowdown, as it was the biggest loser in the top-10, with Kia the only other top-10 brand to lose volume in March. Jeep surpassed Hyundai, while Dodge and RAM pushed Subaru out of the top-10. Volkswagen lost 10.4% in its fifth consecutive month of falling sales, in a sharp contrast with Audi, which enjoyed its 63rd straight month of sales increases. Chrysler dropped harshly as the 200 midsized sedan lost a huge chunk of volume after the brand announced it would not develop a successor to the model in-house. Mazda was the biggest loser of the volume brands, with sales down more than a quarter as sales of all of its models fell, except for the all-new CX-3 small crossover and the new generation MX-5 Miata. Fiat and Mini continued to be hurt by cheap gasoline and a shift towards large trucks and crossovers.
In the luxury race, Mercedes-Benz narrowly beat Lexus and BMW, although their sales include the Metris and Sprinter commercial vans, which aren’t actual luxury vehicles. All three lost volume on last year, indicating their hot streak may end this year. Infiniti outsells Cadillac for the first time since May 2012 and closes in on Acura, and Audi outsells Buick. The biggest gains come from Jaguar and Land Rover at +28.5% and +28.8% respectively. And this is before Jaguar has launched its XE midsized sedan and F-Pace crossover in the US. Volvo reported its 9th straight month of double digit growth.
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