2012 Auto Sales

For the auto industry, 2012 was significantly better than 2011, which itself was a bounce back from 2010, which in turn saw carmakers pick themselves up off the floor, after having been KO’d in 2009. See a pattern here? The recovery continues, and in fact, is gaining steam.

When 2011 ended on a strong note (sales running at a 13.5-million-unit annual pace that December), the hope for 2012 was that the full-year total might reach the upper 13-million-unit range. Instead, carmakers kicked out 14.4 million new cars and trucks in the year just ended, versus 12.7 million the year before (SOURCE: Ward’s). That’s a 13% increase. Once again, we finished the year on a strong note. The sales rate in both November and December topped 15 million units. With all the factors driving the increased sales looking likely to continue -- an aged national fleet, relatively available credit, and a slowly improving economy it seems that we shouldn’t have too much trouble hitting the 15-million mark in 2013. We shall see.

PERCENTAGES ARE FULL-YEAR SALES RESULTS vs. LAST YEAR (unless otherwise indicated), with Winners and Losers for 2012.


After gaining market share in 2011, GM gave some back in 2012 in the face of a resurgent Toyota and Honda. Still, three of four GM divisions finished 2012 with higher sales than 2011, although Cadillac lost some ground with the departure of the DTS and the late arrival of the XTS and the ATS. GM is optimistic about 2013, when it will launch several important, high-volume models, most notably new full-size pickup trucks and the new Chevy Impala.

Chevrolet +4%
Volt +206% (it also outsold the Nissan Leaf by better than 2 to 1)
Sonic +184% (vs. the previous Aveo)
Cruze +3% (now far and away Chevrolet’s most popular car)
Colorado +19% (hat tip to the departed Ford Ranger)
Traverse -20%
Tahoe -14%
Camaro -4% (but it edged out the Ford Mustang)

Cadillac -2%
SRX +1% (not much of a win, but it was the only Caddy to sell more than last year)
Escalade -16%
CTS -15%

Buick +2%
Verano? (too soon to tell, really, but its 4820 units pushed Buick into the black)
Regal -39%

GMC +4%
Terrain +18%
Sierra +5% (end-of-the year blowout sales helped)
Yukon -19%
Canyon -9% (it failed where the Colorado succeeded)


Like General Motors, Ford’s sales increase was not able to keep pace with the overall market. You certainly can’t fault the F-Series. The franchise player topped 600,000 sales for the year. The Fusion, though, lost some ground in a model changeover year. And Lincoln didn’t help, but it is counting on the new MKZ to staunch the bleeding in 2013.

Ford +5%
F-Series! +10% (easily the #1 bestselling nameplate, it beat the #2 Silverado by more than 225,000 units)
Focus +40% (passed the Fusion to become Ford’s bestselling passenger car)
Explorer +21%
Taurus +17%
Fiesta -17%
Expedition -6%

Lincoln -4%
MKT +41% (the hoped-for successor to the Town Car isn’t there yet, but did make some progress)
MKZ +2% (next year should be better)


After 2011’s Japanese earthquake and tsunami drastically reduced Toyota’s output, 2012 was the company’s comeback year. And come back it did. The Camry shrugged off a challenge from the new Honda Accord to stay atop the passenger-car heap. The ancient Corolla/Matrix somehow managed to remain in the top 10 bestsellers. Lexus and Scion also came back strong.

Toyota +26%
Camry +31% (once again, America’s bestselling car)
Prius +73% (the expanded Prius family was the #13 nameplate overall)
Highlander +20%
Tacoma +16% (another compact pickup that happily scooped up Ford Ranger buyers)
Yaris -7%
FJ Cruiser +1% (yes, they still make it)

Lexus +23%
ES +37%
RX +16%
GS +492% (the percentage is overblown--sales had all but stopped the prior year--but the GS is doing well)
LS -13%

Scion +49%
FR-S --% (introduced in 2012, it was the bestselling Scion in December and is trouncing its Subaru twin)
iQ --% (sold 8879 in its first full year, which is fewer than the Smart ForTwo)

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Volvo is up only 1% YOY. Nobody is popping the cork at Volvo, but there is a big sigh of relief. But in context, Volvo was up 25% from 2010 to 2011. And yes, the XC60 and the S60 is "pulling the train" for Volvo. (I don't know how the XC60 made it past the Ford bean counters). I think you'll see a big jump in US sales when the new redesigned XC90 comes out in 2014.

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