The big year-over-year sales increases for the U.S. auto market appear to be over, as the industry has successfully climbed out of the hole it fell into in 2009. Volume has leveled off at around the 15-million-unit mark. But that placid surface hides plenty of turmoil, as individual automakers — and whole market segments — rise and fall.
The biggest market segment, midsize sedans, saw volume jump last year thanks to a host of redesigned models. But that momentum has now stalled, and in the current internecine battle within the segment, the freshest entries are stealing share from those just slightly older. The seemingly unassailable Toyota Camry, for instance, was beaten in April by the Honda Accord (and in March by the Nissan Altima). Meanwhile, the Ford Fusion picked up share and the Hyundai Sonata and VW Passat lost it. One area now seeing rapid growth is the full-size pickup market, aided by a swiftly recovering housing industry. The luxury arena remains healthy, as those consumers are better insulated than the population at large from the still-shaky job market.
Overall, we saw an annualized selling rate of 14.9 million units in April, a bit below our recent spate of 15-million-unit months but still better than the 14.1-million rate at this time last year.
APRIL 2013 SALES RESULTS, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS APRIL 2012.
GENERAL MOTORS +11%
General Motors benefited from two trends in April: a robust luxury market and rebounding big pickup sales — although all four divisions beat last year.
The addition of the Encore is what’s driving Buick sales, although the Verano is growing its volume as well. The Regal, though, continues to drop (-39%), while the LaCrosse and the Enclave were down slightly.
With the ATS and the XTS filling two holes in Cadillac’s lineup, it’s no wonder the division saw much higher sales. Of the other models, the CTS sank (-43%) heading into its model changeover and the SRX drifted lower, but the Escalades were up.
Cars were up a bit at Chevrolet, but trucks jumped big-time. The Silverado (+28%), the Tahoe (+55%), and the Equinox (+15%) were standouts. The Cruze (+21%) was Chevrolet’s bestselling car, and the Sonic (+28%) also did well, but most of the other passenger cars lost ground.
GMC’s big pickup and biggest sport-ute were the brand’s big winners in April. The big van was the big loser.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +18%
April’s sales trends benefited Ford in two ways: booming pickups naturally lit a fire under the F-series, and buyers’ obsession with the new was great for the Fusion. Additionally, Lincoln finally had a good month.
The F-series is closing in on the 60,000-unit marker, buoyed by the housing recovery (Ford announced it will be adding 2000 workers to the F-series plant in Kansas City). The new Escape (+57%) is looking good in its popular category, and the redesigned Fusion (+24%) continues to do well among mid-size sedans. Both the Focus (+16%) and the Fiesta (+18%) saw growth, and the new C-Max hybrid added 3608 units to the total.
Now that Lincoln has finally worked out its early production snafus, it has MKZs to sell and delivered just over 4000 of them. Unfortunately, the other Lincoln entries were down, except for the Navigator, which caught a bump from the big-SUV wave.
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES -1%
Toyota’s multi-month winning streak ended in April.
The no-longer-new Camry (-14%) was passed by the Honda Accord. The Prius (-21%) suffered a bigger drop. The new Avalon more than doubled, however. While cars were down, trucks were up, led by the RAV4 (+22%) and the Tacoma (+19%).
The FR-S was the bestselling Scion, and its addition to the lineup masked the flagging sales for the rest of the division.
CHRYSLER GROUP +11%
Chrysler was easily able to continue its streak of year-over-year sales increases in April — now 37 months and counting.
The early arriving 2014 Grand Cherokee (+27%) helped stop the losses resulting from the departure of the Liberty at Jeep. That model’s replacement, the new Cherokee, should shore things up further.
No one capitalized on the renewed interested in big pickups more than Ram, where sales of the big pickup topped 30,000 units.
AMERICAN HONDA +7%
Honda’s total increase was unspectacular, but it scored a helluva trifecta with the Accord the bestselling car, the Civic the bestselling small car, and the CR-V the bestselling SUV.
Beyond its aforementioned major players, Honda saw some gains for its supporting models as well: Fit (+34%), Ridgeline (+48%), Pilot (+20%), and Odyssey (+13%). Only perennial losers the Crosstour (-15%) and the Insight (-47%) were left out.
Acura’s churning lineup saw the new ILX add 1894 units, the just-introduced RLX chip in only 400, while the new RDX doubled year-ago volumes. Continuing models were all over the map: the TSX fell by half, the TL was flat, while the MDX split the difference (-27%).
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA +23%
Nissan is becoming the top-tier automaker whose sales results most closely resemble a roller coaster ride. February was all downhill, March was flat, and April soared.
After taking bestselling car honors from the Toyota Camry last month, the Altima dropped out of the top ten nameplates in April — although it was still +35% over a particularly weak April 2012. At least the new Pathfinder’s trajectory is moving in one direction: up. It tripled the sales of the old model. The new Sentra (+45%) is also reaping the fruits of its redesign. It was a ride down, however, for the Cube (-18%), the 370Z (-28%), the Juke (-15%), the Maxima (-22%), and the Quest (-44%). The Titan (-34%) sank despite the big-pickup upswing, and yet the Xterra (+80%) suddenly popped.
The JX (+24%) is humming along while the EX has ground to a halt (91 sales). The G (+18%) was up but the M (-16%) was down.
HYUNDAI – KIA +1%
The formerly white-hot Koreans have seen another month of essentially flat sales.
The new Azera was up by nearly half, but the other premium Hyundais — the Genesis and the Equus — were both down. The Sonata (-22%) is not old but is suffering against newer competitors. The new Santa Fe, however, was up 10%.
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP -3%
Without the benefit of fresh metal in the high-volume segments, VW’s momentum ran out in April, and the group’s string of sales increases ended.
The Passat (-10%) is another near-new midsize that’s suffering as buyers flock to brand-new competitors. The Jetta (-17%) is also feeling its age, as is the Golf (-33%). The Beetle, at least, is still young (+78%).
5, 6, and 7 were the lucky numbers for BMW in April. The brand’s higher-end offerings were up by 47%, 48%, and 69%, respectively. Add in the X1, and you have enough additional volume to more than make up for declines across the rest of the lineup.
Similarly, at Mini, the Countryman (+22%) offset falling sales of the regular Minis.
Where the BMW Group is stagnating, Daimler-Benz continues to power ahead. Mercedes-Benz is now firmly in front of BMW in the first two months of the luxury-brand derby.
The C-class (+14%) had the best story among the volume models; the E-class (-17%) had the worst. The GLK (+31%) appears to be benefiting from its recent update but the GL (-10%) does not.
ForTwo sales sank, but not as fast as those of its one rival, the Scion iQ.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER +7%
Once again, the XC60 (+15%) was Volvo’s only bright spot, and with all other models down, Volvo’s total was, too.
This time at Mitsubishi it was the Outlander Sport that jumped (+78%) and the Outlander that dropped (-18%). The Lancer (+9%) had a modest gain. The company’s overall decline, however, dropped it down to last place on this list.
TOP 10 BESTSELLING NAMEPLATES IN APRIL
1. Ford F-series 59,030
2. Chevrolet Silverado 39,395
3. Honda Accord 33,538
4. Toyota Camry 31,710
5. Dodge Ram 31,409
6. Ford Fusion 26,722
7. Honda CR-V 26,519
8. Honda Civic 26,453
9. Ford Escape 25,826
10. Toyota Corolla/Matrix 24,273