The big year-over-year sales increases for the U.S. auto market appear to be over, as the industry has successfully climbed out of the hole it fell into in 2009. Volume has leveled off at around the 15-million-unit mark. But that placid surface hides plenty of turmoil, as individual automakers -- and whole market segments -- rise and fall. The biggest market segment, midsize sedans, saw volume jump last year thanks to a host of redesigned models. But that momentum has now stalled, and in the current internecine battle within the segment, the freshest entries are stealing share from those just slightly older. The seemingly unassailable Toyota Camry, for instance, was beaten in April by the Honda Accord (and in March by the Nissan Altima). Meanwhile, the Ford Fusion picked up share and the Hyundai Sonata and VW Passat lost it. One area now seeing rapid growth is the full-size pickup market, aided by a swiftly recovering housing industry. The luxury arena remains healthy, as those consumers are better insulated than the population at large from the still-shaky job market.
Overall, we saw an annualized selling rate of 14.9 million units in April, a bit below our recent spate of 15-million-unit months but still better than the 14.1-million rate at this time last year.
APRIL 2013 SALES RESULTS, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS APRIL 2012.
GENERAL MOTORS +11%
General Motors benefited from two trends in April: a robust luxury market and rebounding big pickup sales -- although all four divisions beat last year.
The addition of the Encore is what's driving Buick sales, although the Verano is growing its volume as well. The Regal, though, continues to drop (-39%), while the LaCrosse and the Enclave were down slightly.
With the ATS and the XTS filling two holes in Cadillac's lineup, it's no wonder the division saw much higher sales. Of the other models, the CTS sank (-43%) heading into its model changeover and the SRX drifted lower, but the Escalades were up.
Cars were up a bit at Chevrolet, but trucks jumped big-time. The Silverado (+28%), the Tahoe (+55%), and the Equinox (+15%) were standouts. The Cruze (+21%) was Chevrolet's bestselling car, and the Sonic (+28%) also did well, but most of the other passenger cars lost ground.
GMC's big pickup and biggest sport-ute were the brand's big winners in April. The big van was the big loser.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +18%
April's sales trends benefited Ford in two ways: booming pickups naturally lit a fire under the F-series, and buyers' obsession with the new was great for the Fusion. Additionally, Lincoln finally had a good month.
The F-series is closing in on the 60,000-unit marker, buoyed by the housing recovery (Ford announced it will be adding 2000 workers to the F-series plant in Kansas City). The new Escape (+57%) is looking good in its popular category, and the redesigned Fusion (+24%) continues to do well among mid-size sedans. Both the Focus (+16%) and the Fiesta (+18%) saw growth, and the new C-Max hybrid added 3608 units to the total.
Now that Lincoln has finally worked out its early production snafus, it has MKZs to sell and delivered just over 4000 of them. Unfortunately, the other Lincoln entries were down, except for the Navigator, which caught a bump from the big-SUV wave.
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES -1%
Toyota's multi-month winning streak ended in April.
The no-longer-new Camry (-14%) was passed by the Honda Accord. The Prius (-21%) suffered a bigger drop. The new Avalon more than doubled, however. While cars were down, trucks were up, led by the RAV4 (+22%) and the Tacoma (+19%).
The new ES continues to do well (+71%) while the new GS struggles (-38%).
The FR-S was the bestselling Scion, and its addition to the lineup masked the flagging sales for the rest of the division.