US sales: September 2015, Brands

Sales of cars in September 2015 were up by a whopping 16% compared to September 2014, an incredible rise given that they only grew by 4% between the first half of 2014 and 2015. Since sales in the US are cyclical by calendar year it’s hard to imagine this growth is driven by any particular effort on behalf of the manufacturers to move more metal off the forecourts. Rather, it’s probably a result of continually improving economic conditions, low gas price and, possibly more than most, people wanting to take advantage of low lease rates before the Federal Reserve Board raises interest rates later this year.

VW Passat Clean Diesel
VW Passat “Clean” Diesel

The question on everyone’s mind must be “how much was VW hurt by Dieselgate”? The answer is that it does not seem to have been hurt badly at all, with sales actually growing by 1%. Sure, that’s much worse than the market on average, but it’s not like VW was gaining sales before the scandal hit anyway. The fact is it may take time for the sales figures to fully reflect the extent of the damage – October will give us a better look.

Ford F-series
Ford F-series

Ford enjoyed a particularly good September as it retained it’s #1 spot, its 23% growth rate helped greatly by the new F-series large pickup still ramping up sales. The other big brands in the “Big 5”, Chevrolet, Toyota, Honda and Nissan, did well for themselves but not nearly as well as Ford. Right behind them Jeep made a big move, vaulting over Hyundai thanks to its 40% growth to claim the “best of the rest” crown, and the largest SUV-only brand selling almost 50% more cars than GMC.

Other notable high-volume brands who gained include Subaru (28%), whose going from strength to strength in the US continues to baffle me as a I don’t value their current crop of vehicles particularly highly, Kia (23%) and GMC (24%). But the real gains were made by the smaller-volume brands such as Land Rover (89%), proving that SUVs are having a great time in the cheap gas environment, Scion (57%) with its two new models, the iA and iM, and Mitsubishi (36%), though I’m not sure why this dying brand did as well as it did.

Brands that did not do so well include Chrysler (-5%), the only high-volume brand to see a fall in sales, Jaguar (-13%), as well as Maserati (-34%) and Bentley (-53%). The latter two showed that despite the economic upturn this is not the time for exotic cars, as emphasized by Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce and Ferrari all barely registering positive growth.



  1. Scion did well because they have brand new product, the iA ( a Mazda2 sedan rebadge ) and the iM ( a Toyota Auris ). They’re nothing special, but they’re cheap and i guess they’re better than what they had on sale up to now.

    Mitsubishi… i dunno. I don’t get it either.

    And Subaru, i think as Europeans we’re not supposed to understand them anymore. They’ve clearly focused completely on the US market. They’re just not for us ( sadly ).

    1. @Tuga – I agree about Scion, I missed those two models because, well, they’re not really new, are they? But I took the liberty to update the article accordingly 🙂

      Re: Subaru, I really am puzzled by their success, though it really is driven by the Outback and Forrester – the Legacy is a bit player in the Mid-sized market, and even the once-popular Impreza barely sells a third of the Hyundai Elantra

  2. Hello !

    Just to be sure, we are talking here about cars registrations right ? This means that these cars registered in september were in fact ordered many months before no ?
    If this is correct, we should wait a few months before we may be able to notice any effects of the VW Crisis.

    Thank you for your clarifications!

    P.S : I knew VW was not doing well in the US but I was not expecting them so low !
    For a brand that started with the Beetle in the 60s, that’s a serious blow compared to “newcomers” such as Kia.

  3. @d3ns: These are actual sales as reported by the dealers. US customers like to buy a stock car off the lot and drive it away the same, unlike in Europe, where customers often order a car and then wait a few months for it to be produced. For example, the Labor Day promotions have boosted the September scores because those vehicles were sold and probably also delivered that same weekend.

  4. Thank you for your answer Krzysztof. So therefore most of the US customers don’t customize their car online and try to find their dream car on parking lots. Interesting.

    Thus, you confirm me that in your Europe sales pages, figures are about registrations right ?
    We might see the VW scandal effect not before December so.

    1. @d3ns: In Bart’s own words: “Our European data is based on the actual registrations of the vehicles, so for those figures you indeed need to hold some delay into account [when thinking of e.g. the impact of Dieselgate on VW’s sales figures]”

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