Auto sales are up 17% versus last year and are cruising along at a 12.6-million-unit annualized sales rate, same as in December. The good news is, this is much better than the last two years. The bad news is that it’s still much worse than we had been doing before the big crash.
January sales results, and percent change versus year-ago figures
GENERAL MOTORS +23% (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC only)
All four GM divisions did better than most players this month, and the company claimed to have reduced its percentage of fleet sales. But industry watchers say GM had the highest incentive spending of any automaker this month.
The Impala was on fire (+39%) but may have stolen some sales from the Malibu (-14%). Chevy’s bigger gains were on the truck side, with the Silverado (+24%), the Equinox (+35%), the Traverse (+50%), and the big vans (+91%).
In a reverse of the recent trend, the LaCrosse (-11%) took a breather, while the Lucerne (+62%) bounced back. The Regal trailed behind.
Caddy trucks, the Escalades and the SRX, were up 30%, but the better news was the performance of the CTS (+70%).
A good month for trucks meant a good month for GMC, led by the Sierra (+46%).
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +19% (excluding Volvo and Mercury)
Most sources are reporting Ford Motor Company sales up only 13%, which represents a minor loss of market share — for the second month in a row. But filter out Mercury, which is now officially dead, and sold-off Volvo, and you see that the Ford brand is doing well but Lincoln is still struggling.
A 30% increase for the F-series put Ford on a solid footing for January, helped by the new Explorer (+73%), the somewhat new Edge (+43%), and the not-so-new Escape (+30%). The Taurus (-23%), Mustang (-33%), and Flex (-18%) disappointed.
The MKZ (+18%) was the bright spot for Lincoln in an otherwise grim month.
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES +17%
After a disastrous 2010, Toyota starts out the new year on pace with the market as a whole.
Finally, a good month for the Toyota division, with big jumps for the Avalon (+90%), Highlander (+68%), Sienna (+146%), and Tundra (+56%). The bad news was that the Camry fell out of first place; the good news was that the Corolla/Matrix stepped in to take the crown. Only the Venza (-33%) and perpetual loser the Yaris (-50%) disappointed.
The RX scratched out a minor uptick, but otherwise the news was all bad at Lexus. Worst was the HS250h (-77%); the new CT200h hybrid has yet to reach showrooms.
Once again, the new tC (+58%) was strong enough to push Scion into the black, but the other two models declined.
AMERICAN HONDA +13%
An unspectacular month for Honda. Its 13% increase was slightly off the pace, but still kept Honda in fourth place among the major automakers.
A disappointing month for the Accord (-28%) — it was outsold by the Chevy Impala (!) — weighed on Honda and somewhat negated the strong showings by the CR-V (+69%), the Odyssey (+44%), and the Fit (+60%).
The MDX was the engine of Acura’s increase, with token assistance from the RDX and the TSX.
CHRYSLER GROUP +23%
New product for Jeep (Grand Cherokee) and Dodge (Durango), along with a powerhouse month for the minivans, helped Chrysler start 2011 with a bang.
Chrysler cars slumped but things would have been much worse had it not been for the Town & Country (+45%).
The return of the Durango gave Dodge a boost, but not nearly as much as the massive surge in Grand Caravan sales (+82%). Call this the month of the minivan.
Healthy big pickup sales easily obscured a minor fallback for the Dakota.
Grand Cherokee sales are running at more than double the pace of the previous edition. The Patriot (+75%), Liberty (+36%), and Wrangler (+32%) also enjoyed an upswing. Meanwhile Commander sales (-93%) have all but ceased.
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA +15%
Nissan slightly underperformed the industry but was still able to hang on to fifth place, staying ahead of the surging Koreans.
Nissan couldn’t quite keep up with the market overall, despite the addition of the Juke, and big gains for the Versa (+47%), the Rogue (+72%), and the Sentra (+27%). The Altima slipped (-12%), but still outsold the Honda Accord.
No wild gyrations for Infiniti, whose performance was bracketed by the QX56 (+18%) on the high end and the EX35 (-15%) on the low end.
It was another market-share-stealing month for Hyundai-Kia.
The new Sonata is still on fire (+150%), but the new Elantra (+26%) is less so. The Santa Fe (-39%) was Hyundai’s underachiever.
Boom-and-bust Kia was mostly boom in January, particularly the Sportage (sales up by a factor of 4), and the Soul (+149%). In the bust category, we have the departing Rondo and Borrego, as well as the Rio (-60%).
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP +7%
Volkswagen’s modest increase trailed the industry.
The redesigned Jetta (+29%) and Golf (+30%) were in the plus column, but VW was dragged down by collapsing sales of the New Beetle (-88%).
Even with its biggest-volume model, the A4, off 10%, Audi had a good month, on the strength of the Q5 (+51%), the Q7 (+60%), the A3 (+53%), and the new A8.
SUBARU OF AMERICA +21%
Subaru starts off the year by elbowing past both Mazda and the BMW Group. The Impreza (+34%) had another good month, but the Outback (+28%) has become the brand’s biggest seller.
BMW GROUP +21%
In January, BMW outpaced the industry and — more important, one suspects — archrival Mercedes-Benz.
BMW’s increase was driven wholly by its redesigned models: the 5-series (+76%), X5 (+24%), and the X3 (up nearly fourfold).
DAIMLER BENZ +14%
Daimler’s January increase was not quite as good as that of the overall market.
The new CL, the (old) SLK, and the big Sprinter saw large percentage jumps, but on small volumes. The more significant action was in the E-class (+25%), the M-class (+29%), and the GLK (-10%).
Finally, an up month for Smart.
5 Maybachs were sold in January, one fewer than last January.
A very disappointing month for Mazda, which was the only major manufacturer to sell fewer cars this January than last. The declines were across the board, with the exception of the CX-7 (+45%) and CX-9 (+36%).
Mitsubishi’s sales increase came mostly from the addition of the Outlander Sport. The Gallant was also up, but all other models declined.
Precipitous drops for Volvo’s smaller models, the C30, S40, and V50, as well as the V70/XC70, were countered by the return of the S60 and a big jump for the XC60.
At long last, some good news for Suzuki, as Kizashi sales shot up.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER +24%
Jaguar proved to be the stronger of the two Brits this month, thanks to the new XJ, but the XF was down by nearly a third.
Land Rover +16%
The LR4 leapt ahead (+64%), while the Range Rovers mostly idled.
The refreshed Cayenne (+78%) reaffirmed its position as the number-one Porsche, while the Boxster/Cayman (+97%) picked itself up off the floor.
Saab has begun its climb out of the grave, but this brand has a long way to go.