Miserable cold and snow the gripped much of the East and Midwest put the chill on new-car sales in January, which dropped 3% compared to a year ago. That started 2014 with an annualized sales rate of 15.2 million units, which is slightly below December's 15.4-million-unit pace and considerably below the 16- to 16.5-million units most industry watchers are predicting for this year. Not all automakers suffered the winter doldrums. A few proved immune to the cold; Chrysler's U.S. sales chief Reid Bigland quipped that "the bad weather only seemed to affect our competitors' stores." Nissan, Subaru, and Jaguar-Land Rover joined Chrysler in defying the downturn. Overall, fleet sales suffered more so than retail sales, possibly as a result of a change in the depreciation allowance businesses can take for trucks. We'll have to see whether the tax change puts a long-term chill on pickup truck sales. As for the rest of the market, the good news is that this winter can't last forever. --Joe Lorio
JANUARY 2014 SALES RESULTS, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS JANUARY 2013.
GENERAL MOTORS -12%
It was an unhappy start to 2014 for General Motors, although its double-digit decline is compared to a particularly robust January in 2013. The decline in pickup sales hurt, although GM notes that its trucks have been selling with a richer (more expensive models, more heavily equipped) model mix than their predecessors.
The Encore's big increase over its small initial volumes last year and another good month for the Regal (+43%) kept Buick from joining the other GM divisions with a double-digit decline.
Cadillac sales were down across the board, even the new CTS (-11%) and XTS (-13%). The lone exception was the SRX (+2%), whose small increase was enough to give the model its best ever January.
New vs. old at Chevrolet: C7 Corvette (+149%) versus C6, new Impala (-16%) versus old, and new Silverado (-18%) versus previous.
The Sierra (-14%) was caught in the pickup downdraft, and the big SUVs were down by a quarter in the changeover to the new model. Things would have been worse but the Acadia (+5%) crept up a bit and the big vans (+85%) surged.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY -8%
Ford blamed the weather for its decline, which was worse for fleet deliveries than for retail sales (-5%). A bright spot was Lincoln, which had its best January since 2010.
F-series volume was just two-thirds of its prior-month total, which was down slightly compared to last January. Other Ford trucks and SUVs were mostly flat or down. Mustang (+7%) was the lone bright spot among Ford cars—although it still got beat by the Camaro. All other Ford cars were down, led by the C-Max (-48%) and the Taurus (-39%).
The MKZ sold better than three times its year-ago total, although the previous number was hampered by a slow start of production. The MKX (+36%) was also up, while the MKS (-30%) and Navigator (-36%) declined.
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES -7%
Toyota, like Ford and GM, was significantly off its January 2013 total. The company downplayed the significance of a stop-sale order that came late in the month, as it only affected cars equipped with heated seats and is expected to be largely rectified for February.
Despite a significant decline, the Camry (-27%) remained the number one passenger car, but it slipped to number four overall, behind the big Ram pickup. The new Corolla had a smaller decline (-5%) but still was the bestselling small car. More negative numbers on the car side: Prius (-23%), Venza (-41%), Yaris (-65%). There was better news for Toyota trucks: RAV4 (+45%), the new Highlander (+21%), and the new Tundra (+13%).
Credit the redesign: the IS sees volume more than double. Credit the snow: the GX see volume nearly double.
Once again, the iQ (-44%) is the loss leader, as all Scions were down.
CHRYSLER GROUP +8%
Frigid temperatures in much of the country did nothing to cool the Chrysler juggernaut, as the company recorded its 46th straight month of year-over-year sales increases. Only the Dodge division was left out in the cold.
The 200 (+23%) bounced back up in January, with the Town & Country (+8%) following behind. The 300 (-41%) was a drag on results.
Where the Chrysler 200 surged in January, its twin, the Avenger, fell by half (-50%). Other Dodges on the decline included the Dart (-29%), the Challenger (-30%), and the Journey (-27%), while the Grand Caravan (+47%) and the Durango (+22%) were the only two models in positive territory.
The new Cherokee again added more than 10,000 units to Jeep's total, accounting for most of the brand's sales increase. The Grand Cherokee (+10%), the Compass (+31%), and the Wrangler (+8%) all pitched in as well. Evidently, rotten winter weather is actually a boon to Jeep sales.
The ProMaster van has arrived on the scene but it's still a very minor player for Ram; if you're looking for the source of the brand's sales gain, look no further than the big Ram pickup (+22%).
After some recent declines, Fiat was able to move forward again, with sales of the 500 coupe largely stable and the 500L providing the additional volume.
AMERICAN HONDA -2%
Honda just about tracked the overall industry's decline. The Accord fell to 20,604 units, in a month that was unkind to mainstream midsize cars. At least Acura was in positive territory.
The Accord's decline (-14%) put it behind not just the Camry but also the Altima and the Fusion. The best-performing Honda passenger car was the Civic, which was flat. The CR-V was up slightly (+2%) but got knocked off its bestselling SUV pedestal by the Ford Escape. The Odyssey (+17%) was the only Honda to significantly outdo its January 2013 results.
With 420 units sold, the new RLX didn't do much to push Acura ahead. Instead, look to the MDX (+65%) and the RDX (+10%).
HYUNDAI – KIA +1%
Slow growth for the Koreans is still growth nonetheless, as Hyundai claimed 2014 was its best January ever, and Kia said the same.
The Equus (+29%), Elantra (+26%), Accent (+21%), and Santa Fe (+12%) were Hyundai's biggest gainers in January, while the Genesis (-41%) dropped ahead of a new replacement and the Sonata (-26%) sang the mid-size sedan blues.
The Rio (+28%), the Soul (+10%), and the new Cadenza helped Kia overcome declines for the Sorento and the Optima (both -11%).
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA +12%
Nissan enjoyed one of the biggest increases of any major manufacturer. Infiniti's year-over-year increase actually outpaced Nissan division's, which posted a January record.
Most of Nissan's action was on the truck side. One might expect big gains for the new Rogue (+54%), but the Frontier (+88%), and the Xterra (+52%)? Meanwhile, the Murano was down (-27%), as was the new Pathfinder (-16%), while the Titan (-36%) continues to drift lower. Of the passenger cars, Leaf sales nearly doubled and the Juke jumped (+46%), while the Versa (-17%) and the Cube (-25%) dropped.
Infiniti was feeling the affect of the new Q50 in January. The other models pitched in as well, most importantly the JX/QX60 (+21%). Only the big SUV, the QX56/QX80 was down (-12%).
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP -13%
Once again, the Volkswagen brand dragged down the results for the Volkswagen Group, but this time Audi and Porsche were less able to stem the loss.
Volkswagen blames a sell-down prior to a new-model changeover for depressed sales of the Golf (-35%), but that doesn't explain the Passat (-30%), the Tiguan (-16%), or the Touareg (-44%). And last year's bright spot has gone dim, as the Beetle (-9%) is now tracking against the revised version rather than the old model.
Increases for the Q5 (+18%), the Q7 (+43%), and the A6 (+18%) overcame weakness in the A4 (-11%), the A5 (-23%), and the A8 (-33%).
The Cayenne (-23%) declined, due, Porsche says, to low availability. Trouble is, the Boxster, the 911, and the Panamera were down as well.
Model proliferation is helping to put Mercedes-Benz well out in front as this year's luxury derby gets started.
The CLA's 2433 units is down from its previous months' totals, but still was critical to the brand's year-over-year growth. The CLA, the new S-class (+37%), and the Sprinter (+20%) had to counter losses elsewhere in the lineup. The C-class (-20%) has the best excuse—a new version about to arrive and, possibly, some cross-shopping with the new CLA—but all other Mercedes models declined as well.
Smart crept up in January. And that was before its wacky Super Bowl commercial aired.
Subaru looks to make 2014 another record year, given the start it got in January. The Forester's big increase (+65%) was versus the old model last year, but there's no such caveat for the XV Crosstrek (+73%). The BRZ (+28%) is still on the upswing, and so is the WRX (+17%), with the latter soon to be replaced with a new version. So, too, will the Legacy (-14%), both of which should help keep Subaru's momentum going.
BMW GROUP +3%
Despite a strong surge by BMW, the brand remained well behind Mercedes-Benz.
The 3 Series/4 Series combo (+34%) is still benefitting from the arrival of the new coupes. This month, though, the good news extended to the 5 Series (+27%), the 6 Series (+20%), the X3 (+35%), and the X1 (+14%) as well. Only the X5 (-33%) missed the party.
A big decline for the standard Mini we can understand, what with the new one about to arrive, but what happened to the Countryman (-24%)?
The new Mazda6 was up by nearly half (+48%), but that was the extent of the brand's good news. Even the formerly hot CX-5 (-5%) appears to be taking a breather. Mazda says that availability of the new Mazda3 (-23%) should improve with a new factory coming on stream. Let's hope so.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER +15%
Jaguar's January increase was about split between the new F-Type and the XF (+29%).
Land Rover +11%
The new Range Rover Sport (+29%) has arrived on the scene, and its presence is being felt at Land Rover.
The new Outlander was up by half, and the Outlander Sport by a third, but uh-oh, what's this? Only one i-MiEV was sold.
A big drop for the XC60 (-40%) is not good news for Volvo, and a doubling of S80 sales doesn't make up for it.
TOP 10 BESTSELLING NAMEPLATES IN JANUARY
1. Ford F-series 46,536
2. Chevrolet Silverado 28,926
3. Dodge Ram 25,071
4. Toyota Camry 23,323
5. Toyota Corolla/Matrix 22,753
6. Nissan Altima 22,515
7. Honda Civic 21,824
8. Ford Fusion 20,717
9. Honda Accord 20,604
10. Ford Escape 19,459