One year ago was the nadir. February 2009 was the low point last winter, when auto sales all but ground to a halt. So the fact that February 2010 sales are up versus last year is good, but it’s not saying much. What’s more encouraging is that the percent gain over one year ago was pretty healthy: 13%. That’s much better than January’s 6% increase over similarly sickly 2009 totals, and close to December’s 15% gain over year-ago figures. But while December sales are always goosed by the year-end deal-a-thon, February’s boost seems more organic. Particularly since it was achieved despite an ongoing publicity nightmare for Toyota and, for much of the country, several days of bad winter weather. The only real qualifier for February is that it did reflect increased fleet sales (up from a very low level last winter) – and the fact that the February’s annualized sales rate of 10 million vehicles is still far off the 17 million of just a few years ago.
Herewith a look at what’s up (by more than 13%, outpacing the industry’s overall gain), and what’s down versus last year.
FEBRUARY 2010 SALES VERSUS FEBRUARY 2009
Ford Motor Company +43%
We start off with Ford Motor Company because it was the number one auto company this month, just squeaking past GM by less than 500 units (142,006 to 141,535). Ford’s total was a big gain from January (driven in part by fleet sales), while GM was slightly lower than last month. If Ford were to keep up this momentum it could potentially outsell GM for the whole year, something that hasn’t happened in eighty years.
Grand Marquis +66%
F-series, Mariner +39%
E-series/Club Wagon +26%
Crown Victoria -24%
General Motors +12%, or, +33% for New GM (Buick-Cadillac-Chevrolet-GMC)
This month really showed the shrinkage effect of GM’s dying brands. Pontiac and Saab each sold fewer than 100 cars; Hummer sold fewer than 300; Saturn fewer than 3000. Even during the grim February a year ago, with bankruptcy rumors swirling around GM, those four divisions sold more than 22,000 vehicles. But although GM is now much smaller, it is getting healthier. Witness the 33% gain in sales for the divisions that are continuing (lead by Buick, up 47%). Two behind-the-scenes factors helping the numbers are increased fleet sales and a return to at least some leasing, which GM effectively wasn’t doing at all a year ago.
Yukon XL +60%
Express/G van +34%
Malibu, Aveo +32%
Escalade (all) +14%
Traverse, Canyon -8%
Savana/G van -9%
Tahoe, Colorado -26%
Toyota Motor Sales -9%
Given the unrelenting stream of bad press for Toyota in February, it’s surprising sales fell by only 9%. Toyota division alone was slightly worse: -15%. A modest 5% increase at Lexus helped. Scion, though, was no help at all, down -21% from last year. The Camry was off by 22%, which is nearly 10,000 units; it appears that those lost sales mostly benefitted the Fusion and the Accord. It’s surprising that the Prius managed a modest increase. Most other Toyota gainers were redesigned models.
Corolla/Matrix, xB, Land Cruiser -6%
FJ Cruiser -16%
Avalon, SC460 -65%
Chrysler Group +1%
It’s been more than two years since Chrysler had a month where it sold more cars than the year prior, so in that sense, February was a good result for Chrysler. It also was a nearly 50% increase over January sales. But the business press reports that more than half of Chrysler’s sales for the month were fleet sales, which jibes with the models showing the biggest increases. And of course it lost market share.
Grand Cherokee +40%
Caliber, Journey, Liberty -10%
Nitro, Dakota -33%
PT Cruiser, Viper -49%
American Honda +13%
American Honda’s sales increase exactly mirrored the overall market, with Acura division (+17%) doing slightly better than Honda (+12%). The figures suggest that Honda did not benefit hugely from Toyota’s troubles, as one might have guessed, although the Accord had a very good month.
Nissan North America +29%
Nissan saw big gains in February, even with little help from Infiniti, which was up only 11%, to Nissan division’s 32%. Volume-wise, the majority of the increase can be credited to the Versa, the Maxima, the Sentra, and the arrival of the Cube.
Xterra, Sentra +35%
The Koreans’ 10 percent sales gain did not keep pace with the overall market, which can be interpreted one of two ways: either the white-hot Hyundai/Kia growth machine is slowing a bit, or sales last year were relatively good (unlike everyone else’s), so a smaller gain is to be expected. Hyundai, up 11%, did slightly better than Kia, up 9%. We might have expected Hyundai to have profited more from Toyota’s misfortune. Still, we’re not predicting that this dynamic duo will cede any market share, once the full-year tally is in.
Santa Fe +53%
VW Group +33%
The Volkswagen Group was moving forward on all cylinders in February, or at least with help from all three of its brands. Volkswagen was up by a third, while Audi nosed ahead with a 34% increase, and Bentley beat last year by 38%. The Jetta was the biggest volume gainer, with the Rabbit, Passat, Tiguan, and Routan all significantly helping the cause, while Audi got the biggest boost from the A5/S5.
New Beetle +37%
Plucky little Subaru overtook the BMW Group in February, as it once again outpaced the industry overall. One wonders whether the brand, which is the new darling of Consumer Reports, has fared better than most in picking off would-be Toyota customers. Nearly all the gains this month came from the Legacy and Outback, whereas the Forester has leveled off, the Impreza slipped a bit, and Tribeca sales have slowed to a crawl.
BMW Group +14%
The BMW Group was just ahead of the market overall, thanks entirely to the BMW division (up 16%); Mini was basically treading water at +2%; and Rolls-Royce sold 29 cars, to last year’s 30.
7 series +8890% (899 cars vs. 10)
Z4 + 1752% (389 cars vs. 21)
1 series -8%
Mazda’s modest increase over last year didn’t come close to keeping pace with market average. In fact, only the Mazda3 and the two crossovers did better than last year; everything else was down.
Mazda6, Tribute -31%
Daimler AG +1%
Mercedes-Benz could muster only an 8% increase over last February, a performance that was not as good as it chief rivals. The gain it is was able to achieve came largely on the back of the E-class, with assists from the GL and ML SUVs. Smart continues to sink. And Maybach, with only 3 cars sold, is not a factor.
This relatively minor decline is not good news for Mitsubishi, although about half of the lost sales are due to the departure of the Raider pickup.
Jaguar Land Rover +11%
Jaguar Land Rover couldn’t quite keep up with the rebounding market, although the largely freshened Land Rover lineup (+18%) outperformed. Jaguar (-4%) was hurt by the model changeover of the XJ.
Range Rover Sport +29%
Range Rover +25%
Porsche went nowhere in February, as the addition of the Panamera and an increase for the Cayenne were offset by the brand’s slumping sports cars.
In addition to slumping sales for all its models save the small-volume Equator pickup, Suzuki is suffering due to the departure of the XL7, and the fact that the new Kizashi, so far at least, is not selling as well as the old Forenza/Reno.
Grand Vitara -58%
Aston Martin -3%
TOP 5 – ACTUALLY, MAKE THAT 8 – BESTSELLING NAMEPLATES
(5th place was so close, we thought we’d add three more)
- Ford F-series 32,895
- Honda Accord 22,456
- Chevrolet Silverado 19,822
- Toyota Corolla/Matrix 16,996
- Toyota Camry 16,552
- Honda Civic 16,471
- Ford Fusion 16,459
- Nissan Altima 16,002