The headline number for April new-cars sales is +20%. That figure represents the increase over last April, which you’ll remember was a disaster of historic proportions. Still, the increase is another hopeful sign that, for the auto industry, the worst is now behind us. The pace of the recovery, however, is plodding. Volumes actually slipped a bit versus March, but the 11.5-million-unit annual sales rate still looks pretty decent compared to a year ago, when we were staring at a 9.5-million-unit year. No one is expecting a sudden downturn in the months ahead, so cautious optimism rules the day. – Joe Lorio
APRIL 2010 SALES, AND PERCENTAGE INCREASE/DECREASE OVER APRIL 2009
GENERAL MOTORS +20% (that’s New GM: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC)
It doesn’t seem fair to include the results from GM’s discontinued brands, whose sell-off is nearly complete, so we won’t. Without them, GM was off slightly from March but still made a healthy gain over last year, staying ahead of Ford and Toyota to keeping number one spot.
The LaCrosse continues to power ahead, passing the Enclave (which is up as well) to become Buick’s biggest-volume seller. The Lucerne continues to sink.
Cadillac exactly matched Buick’s performance, and here too the credit goes almost entirely to the division’s newest model. For Cadillac, it’s the SRX, which is outselling its predecessor by nearly 6 to 1 and has eclipsed the CTS (which slipped at bit) to become the best-selling Caddy.
Here again, the newest entries – the Camaro and the Equinox – are enjoying banner sales. Of the other models, it was the Aveo and the Cobalt (both up 29%) that pitched in the most. The Malibu, the Traverse, and the Silverado had modest increases.
The addition of the Terrain accounted for the entirety of GMC’s increased volume over last year. Otherwise, things were fairly static, with the Yukon down but the Yukon XL up, the Sierra up but the Canyon down, and the Acadia flat.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +25% (would have been +26% with Volvo, which eked out a tiny gain)
After the media darling announced a $2 billion profit for the first quarter, Ford’s sales results were a bit of a letdown, falling slightly from last month although still posting another big increase over last year – and passing Toyota to move into second place. Like GM, though, fully 32% of Ford sales were to fleets.
The Taurus and the Expedition both about doubled last year’s figures. A better than 40% jump for the Escape, the Explorer, and the F-series (in particular) helped volumes as well. Only the Mustang (-33%) really disappointed; it got its clock cleaned by the Camaro.
Mercury looks pretty good until you notice that most of its increase comes from the aged Grand Marquis. At least the Milan and the Mariner were up, too.
Like Mercury, Lincoln’s growth came from its oldest models, the Town Car and the Navigator.
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES +24%
Toyota’s incentive spending lost some of its effectiveness in April, as sales slipped 16% from March totals, although it was still enough for a nice gain over last year.
The redesigned 4Runner tripled sales of the old version; otherwise the top increases were around 50% for the Corolla/Matrix, the Prius, and the FJ Cruiser (of all things). The new Sienna, the Tundra, the Avalon, and the RAV4 all were up by more than a third. The only real loser was the Yaris, which fell by half.
Lexus enjoyed a slightly better increase than the Toyota division, with the recall-maligned GX posting the brand’s second-best gain after the LS.
Scion continues to sink, with all three models down.
AMERICAN HONDA +13%
Honda’s sales gain over last year was less than the industry average, but unlike its three larger competitors, Honda actually sold more cars in April than in March, so it is trending positive.
The Accord was up a modest 9% versus last year, but that was enough to move up from fifth place to second among the bestselling nameplates (leapfrogging both the Camry and the Corolla/Matrix in the process). Unfortunately, the Civic was down as was the Insight, which continues to disappoint. Most of the good news was on the truck side, with the Pilot, the CR-V, and the Odyssey up significantly. Even the Element and the Ridgeline saw some growth.
Like Honda, Acura’s growth came from trucks: the RDX and the MDX both had better than 50% increases (the new ZDX is selling in tiny volume). Car sale actually went down despite a small gain for the TSX.
CHRYSLER GROUP +25%
Finally, some good news for Chrysler. Of course, April last year is when Chrysler declared bankruptcy, so that “+25%” is bouncing off some pretty grim numbers. The wild swings for many models suggest serious incentive money at play, but at least Chrysler passed Nissan to retake the number five spot.
How’d that happen? Sebring sales tripled, the Town & Country nearly doubled, and the 300 increased 40%. Only the PT Cruiser dropped. That’s how.
Like its Chrysler counterpart, Dodge’s Avenger enjoyed a massive run-up this month (+340%), which looks a lot like a fleet-sales push. Aside from the Viper (down ten units) and the Journey (essentially flat), all other Dodges increased, but by more credible levels, ranging from 14% for the Nitro to 90% for the Charger.
Despite sales of the Compass doubling and a 21% increase for the Patriot, Jeep was flat due to offsetting declines for the Wrangler, the Commander, and the Grand Cherokee.
The loss of the Sprinter wasn’t much of a factor here. Instead, look to the 24% decline in Ram pickup sales.
The Koreans’ increase is in line with the overall market, as is its slight fallback from March. With more new products, Hyundai was stronger than Kia.
A massive increase for the new Tucson (+171%) and Sonata (+57%) is to be expected, but a doubling of Elantra sales was a surprise. The aging Accent was the biggest drag.
Predictably, Kia’s newest offering, the Sorento, sold like gangbusters (+254%), while another relative newcomer, the Soul, also did well (+62%). But the new Forte isn’t selling as well as the old Spectra. A new Spectra and Optima should turbocharge Kia’s results later this year.
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA +35%
At first glance, Nissan’s sales increase looks great, but the company’s April volume is actually a pretty big comedown from a huge March. Compared with last month, Nissan slipped by a third, falling behind Chrysler and Hyundai-Kia in the process.
Nissan’s only products to sell worse than last year were its sports cars: the 370Z and the GT-R. Everything else improved, particularly the (relatively small-volume) SUVs, while the Versa fared the best on the car side.
The new M was a big winner for Infiniti ,and the franchise G increased by half. On the truck side, a couple hundred more QX56 sales (marked down ahead of the new model?) couldn’t offset declines for the EX and FX.
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP +39%
The new Golf/GTI set the pace for VW, more than doubling year-ago volumes, but every other VW also saw gains of 20% (Eos) or better. Every one, that is, except the Routan minivan, which was off by 43%
The A3, the A5, and the A6 all enjoyed better than 100% increases over last year, and the Q5 was up 60%. The A4 fell back, however, as did the Q7 and the A8 (the latter ahead of a redesigned version coming this fall).
Now here’s a success story. Subaru’s 48% increase over 2009 is a big number, but what’s truly impressive is that, unlike every other carmaker, Subaru actually had a very good 2009. That has put Subaru in the passing lane, flying by the BMW Group, Mazda, and Daimler AG in the space of one year. The new Outback has more than doubled previous volume, while the new Legacy is up by half. The Forester and the Impreza posted lesser increases, while the Tribeca threatens to slip completely under the waves.
BMW GROUP +9%
Volume-wise, good news for the 7-series (almost doubling last year’s volume), the 3-series, and the X3 overcame a big drop for the 5-series, but the overall numbers were not so great.
DAIMLER AG +19%
Mercedes-Benz outpaced the market overall by a slim margin, with an increase that was significantly better than BMW’s but not as good as Audi’s. The redesigned E-class continues to drive volume, this month with an assist from larger SUVs (yes, even the R-class!), while the GLK and the sports cars slipped.
Sales of the Smart fell by half, from already low year-ago figures.
Three (3) Maybachs were sold in April. That almost makes Rolls-Royce, with 26 cars sold, look like a mass-market brand.
Mazda just about kept pace with the market overall, thanks to a big month for its crossovers and a gain for the Mazda3. But the Mazda6 continues to languish and the Miata fell by half.
Mitsubishi couldn’t make any headway in a rising market, as the Lancer’s decline wiped out the gains for the Galant and the Outlander.
The well-reviewed new Kizashi is selling no better than the old Forenza, while the SX4 treads water. Meanwhile the aging Grand Vitara is sinking and the XL-7 is being phased out. Add it all together and you have declining sales for Suzuki.
The new Panamera was the bestselling Porsche in April, but mostly because of a big drop for the Cayenne (just ahead of a new model) and a pretty big decline for the 911 as well.
TOP 5 BESTSELLING NAMEPLATES (and rank last month)
- Ford F-series 40,946 (#1)
- Honda Accord 31,766 (#5)
- Chevrolet Silverado 29,618 (#3)
- Toyota Corolla/Matrix 27,932 (#4)
- Toyota Camry 27,914 (#2)