In December, the total U.S. auto market was up 11 percent, which also happens to be the percentage increase for the year overall. Actually, though, the final month of 2010 was even stronger than the year-over-year comparison suggests. Although the full-year result for 2010 was roughly 11.6 million vehicles, the annualized sales rate every month during the fourth quarter was better than 12 million units, so the pace definitely picked up as we came down the back stretch. The annualized selling rate for December was 12.6 million units, the fastest clip of the year.
Rather than look at this December versus last December, this time we’ll take the long view and do our analysis using full-year figures, the same as we did at this time last year. To get a handle on the difference between now and then, a year ago we were talking about which car companies did relatively OK but were declining less than the overall average of 21 percent. This time, anyone who is down for the year looks pathetic, and even those who post increases need to be up by 11 percent or better, lest they fall behind the pack.
GENERAL MOTORS +21% (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC only)
Although the new GM is undeniably smaller than the eight-brand behemoth of yore, the company’s four current brands have all enjoyed a resurgence this year–with Buick earning a special shout-out. Cars, trucks, and crossovers all contributed to GM’s sales increase, which suggests that the company is on a more solid footing than in years past.
Silverado +17%, is the #2 best-selling vehicle in America
Camaro +32%, outsold the Mustang for the first time since the mid ’80s
Cruze, was Chevrolet’s bestselling car in December
Malibu +23%, but only +13% for retail sales, and the Ford Fusion outsold it two to one
STS -26%, yes, they still sell this car
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +17% (excluding Volvo)
Ford slowed down a bit in December with a 4 percent increase that trailed the market overall. 2010 was nonetheless an impressive year for Detroit’s never-bankrupt car company, as it picked up share and regained the number two spot it lost to Toyota in 2008.
If the F-series has a good year, Ford has a good year, and in 2010 the F-series had a good year. But there were other factors, including the Fusion (which topped 200,000 units).
F-series +28%, more than half a million sold, easily retaining its #1 spot
Fusion +21%, best Ford car sales performance since the ’04 Taurus
Transit Connect +210%, but still very small volume
Flex -12%, and that’s before the in-house competition from the Explorer
Mercury’s long-anticipated death sentence was finally handed down in 2010. No winners here.
MKT +188%, although still fewer sales than the Navigator
MKX, MKZ, Navigator +2%
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES +0%
The hangover from Toyota’s recall nightmare at the beginning of the year has proven to be a long one, and it has bolstered the fortunes of Hyundai, Nissan, and possibly Ford as well. The Toyota brand fell behind Chevrolet to third place, and Toyota Motor Sales similarly lost its number 2 position to Ford Motor Company. Toyota needs to do something to break out of its funk in 2011.
4Runner +138%, thank you, redesign!
FJ Cruiser +25%, but the volume is tiny
Sienna, Tundra +18%
Land Cruiser -20%,
Sequoia -15%, big utes are back in style, but the Sequoia had a big year last year
Camry -8%, but still the bestselling car
GX +164%, redesign paying off here, as with 4Runner twin
HS +60%, full-year figures look good, but recent numbers do not: down 41% in December, for instance
tC, full-year sales are down, but the new version has enjoyed a big bounce (+58% in December)
AMERICAN HONDA +7%
Honda’s 8 percent increase for the year sounds good, but it represents a loss of share in a year when the overall market grew 11 percent. There were few bright spots in the Honda lineup. At Acura, the crossovers were strong.
Ridgeline -2%, nothing new here
ZDX, selling at a rate of fewer than 300 per month
CHRYSLER GROUP +17%
Written off for dead not so long ago, Chrysler has had a Lazarus-like 2010, even though its product renewal is just starting. Chrysler climbed back into the million-unit club, and all four brands were up for 2010. A big December increase, over an admittedly awful December ’09, was aided by the industry’s highest incentive spending, but it helped keep Chrysler ahead of two very strong competitors: Nissan and Hyundai.
Sebring/200 +41%, of all things…
Town & Country +33%, and reclaimed the minivan sales crown
300 -4%, maybe the 2011 refresh will help
Grand Cherokee +68%, new version debuted at mid-year and was a major engine of Chrysler’s growth
Wrangler +15%, not a big increase, but it’s Jeep’s most popular offering
Commander -36%, looks even sillier next to the new Grand Cherokee
Ram +13%, ended the year with a bang, nearly doubling sales in December
Dakota +22%, a rare increase among smaller-than-fullsize pickups
Sprinter, lost to Mercedes-Benz…
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA +18%
Nissan had an incentive-fueled big finish in December (up nearly 28 percent over last December), and it was enough to slip by Hyundai-Kia and retain sixth place for the year.
Frontier +42%, apparently someone can sell a compact pickup
Juke, just now hitting dealerships, has already outsold the Titan, the Xterra, and the Pathfinder in its first month
QX56 +85%, all-new, and dealers complain it’s hard to get
White-hot Hyundai-Kia is arguably the biggest success story of 2010, and with its best-ever month in December, it shows no sign of slowing down. Both Hyundai and Kia had their best year in 2010. One question: How much of the success is the result of Toyota’s stumble?
Tucson +157%, all-new and on fire
Sonata +64%, ditto
Elantra +28%, new one just introduced in December
Santa Fe -5%
Sorento +346%, the redesign ignited sales
Forte +160%, same here
Soul +112%, must be the hamsters
Optima, Sportage, don’t be fooled by full-year totals that are way down; both have taken off since their mid-year redos (December: Sportage up 127%, Optima +57%)
Borrego -7%, both Borrego and Rondo are being dropped
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP +21%
Volkswagen handily outpaced the industry in 2011, with a total just shy of 360,000 units (including a best-ever 101,000 from Audi). Still, that performance was only a down payment on the bonanza its German masters expect going forward. The company still has a long way to go to reach a million units a year.
Touareg +7%, but redesign had an effect with strong December
Q5 +71%, mid-size crossover has become Audi’s #2 volume product
A3 +69%, and just over half were TDIs
A5 +67%, with the addition of the Cabrio
A6 +28%, impressive considering a new one is imminent
A8 +4%, but sales in December doubled the prior year’s
RX-8 -49%, yes, they still sell this car
Mazda5 -15%, although a revised version was just recently unveiled
X5 +32%, engine-room upgrade paying off here
X6, sales are up by a third, but volume is still on a fraction of the X5’s; outsells Acura ZDX two to one, though, winning the Battle of the Misshapen Sport-Utes
Subaru danced through the downturn of 2008 and 2009, and the party didn’t stop in 2010, the company’s best-ever year in the United States. But Subaru’s major new-model introductions are all behind it now.
Tribeca -58%, Subaru’s perennial loser
DAIMLER A.G. +13%
Mercedes is looking pretty good, but Smart is a disaster.
E-class +41%, M-B’s top seller
The Outlander Sport arrived too late in the year to meaningfully affect Mitsuibishi’s total.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER +18%
The new XJ starts with a bang, but the XF is slipping; meanwhile, the SUVs are holding their own.
Land Rover +21%
LR4 +123%, the LR4 accounted for the large majority of Land Rover’s 2010 increase
Range Rover +20%
The Boxster was up a bit, but it is the addition of the Panamera (along with some added Cayenne sales) that accounted for Porsche’s sales increase.
Cayenne +8%, but look for an improvement in 2011, as sales have surged since the redesign (+57% in December)
Panamera, outsells all the sports cars, but not the Cayenne
Suzuki had an awful year in 2010, but December at least provided a ray of hope, in the form of a 40 percent increase over the previous December.
Kizashi, it’s selling at twice the pace of the Forenza/Reno but needs to do better still if Suzuki is to stay viable
Grand Vitara -41%
The uncertainty surrounding Volvo’s sale to the Chinese surely put a damper on the brand’s sales here. We’ll see if Geely, and the new S60, can reverse the slide.
Remember that Saab was all but shut down for the first half of the year, and the GM-based 9-7X previously accounted for roughly one-third of Saab’s volume. The new 9-5 is here, and a wagon is due this spring, but there’s still a long road ahead.