We shouldn’t have too much trouble hitting the 15-million mark in 2013,” we said at the close of 2012. The year had ended on a high note with an annualized sales rate above that figure. As it turned out, the auto industry came into 2013 running hard, and really never let off the gas.
It easily powered past 15 million units, finishing 2013 with nearly 15.6 million new vehicles sold. That represents an 8% increase over 2012’s 14.5 million. Credit the same set of factors we’ve mentioned all year: pent-up demand, cheap and readily available credit, slowly rising consumer confidence, and a recovering housing market. The latter in particular powers the pickup-truck market, and pickup trucks were a hot segment in 2013.
For 2014, the predictions are becoming less cautious. Analysts are talking about 16 million units, or even 16.5 million. Apparently they are undeterred by the fact that 2013 ended on a flat note in December. Could the comeback be running out of steam? It could, but we’ll still say: We shouldn’t have too much trouble hitting the 16-million mark in 2014.
Percentages are full-year sales results vs. last year (unless otherwise indicated), with Winners and Losers for 2013.
GENERAL MOTORS +7%
With the launch of new full-size pickups, a new Chevrolet Impala, and a redesigned Cadillac CTS, 2013 was a big year for General Motors. All four brands ended upahead of last year. Cadillac set the pace, with a 22% gain, although that was with two key models (the ATS and the XTS) easily beating their previous-year totals due to being on sale for only part of 2012.
ATS +447% (an easy win over a partial year in 2012)
XTS +116% (see above)
CTS -31% (blame the model changeover; 2014 will be the real test)
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +11%
Like General Motors, Ford gained market share in 2013. Additionally,it claimed to be America’s bestselling auto brand. The F-series was a big driver, but not the only one.Credit also the Fusion, the Fiesta, the Explorer, and the Escape.
F-series! +18% (easily the number-one bestselling nameplate, it beat the Silverado, which was sold last year as both the old model and the redesigned model, by more than 250k units)
Flex -8% (proving once again that there’s no accounting for taste)
Focus -5% (but still a healthy 234,570 sold)
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES +7%
Toyota claimed the highest retail sales of any brand in 2013, and the Camry was the bestselling car. The Honda Accord beat it in December, however, a month in which Toyota suffered a slight year-over-year decline. Heading into 2014, Lexus is on the upswing but Scion, starved of new product, is sinking.
FR-S+61% (trounced its Subaru twin, 18k to 8k)
tC, xD -16%
Chrysler has been chugging along, beating its year-ago sales figures month after month. The big Ram truck was a major success story this year, and the new Cherokee is carrying Jeep into 2014 with big momentum. Things have slowed down for the Chrysler division, though, and the Fiat 500 is fading fast.
Charger, Challenger +19%
Dart +230% (last year was only a partial for the Dart, but it also handily beat Dodge’s previous compact entry, the sad-sack Caliber)
Grand Caravan -12%
Ram pickup (1500 and heavy duty) +21% (now making a regular appearance on the Top Ten Nameplates chart)
AMERICAN HONDA +7%
American Honda had a very good 2013, the second-best year in its history. The CR-V fought off the Ford Escape to remain America’s favorite SUV; and the Odyssey was the bestselling minivan. The Accord was number two behind the Camry, although it outsold its archrival in December.
The years of easy growth are behind the Koreans, it would seem. This despite a spate of well received new products, including the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Kia Soul. Last year, soon to be ex-Hyundai USA chief John Krafcik said production constraints were holding back sales.
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA +9%
A strong December helped Nissan outpace the industry for 2013. This was despite sinking sales at Infiniti division. Nissan’s redesigned and repositioned Pathfinder has been a hit, and the Sentra and Rogue both showed growth. The aging Titan, however, was impervious to a rising pickup market, and the Quest is an also-ran in the minivan derby—selling at one-tenth the rate of its rivals.
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP -1%
The Group’s high-end brands masked a decline for theVolkswagen brand, one that has accelerated in recent months. Still, VW Group sold more than 400k cars in the U.S., which is much better than it had been doing only a few years ago. Meanwhile, Audi achieved record sales again, and so did Porsche.
Plucky Subaru pushed past the BMW Group as it racked up another 26% year-over-year sales increase.
XV Crosstrek +627% (the percent increase is skewed; what’s impressive is that this car is selling nearly as well as the Impreza)
BMW GROUP +8%
The BMW Group finished ahead of Daimler-Benz, but the BMW division was outsold by Mercedes-Benz.
The other Minis +0%
Mercedes-Benz was the number-one luxury brand in the United States in 2013, as it enjoyed record sales. The biggest factor driving the brand’s year-over-year gain? The addition of the CLA, which in its abbreviated year surpassed the sales total of the CLS and of the S-class.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER +20%
Jaguar Land Rover accelerated through 2013. With an expanded engine range and the addition of AWD, both the XF and XJ found more buyers. Of course, there was also the arrival of the F-Type. The new Range Rover was the big factor at Land Rover.
Land Rover +15%
Range Rover +56%
Volvo fell while the industry advanced. Blame an aging and shrinking lineup.
TOP 10 BESTSELLING NAMEPLATES OF 2013
1. 763,402 Ford F-series
2. 480,414 Chevrolet Silverado
3. 408,484 Toyota Camry
4. 366,678 Honda Accord
5. 355,673 Ram pickup
6. 336,180 Honda Civic
7. 320,723 Nissan Altima
8. 303,904 Honda CR-V
9. 302,180 Toyota Corolla/Matrix