The nascent auto sales upswing that began in March came into fuller flower in April. The auto industry enjoyed its second month of improved sales, beating the April 2013 total by 8 percent, as the annualized sales rate topped the 16-million-unit mark for the second month in a row. Both passenger cars and light trucks are running ahead of last year, although trucks are accelerating faster. Industry analysts pointed to a full month of (mostly) decent weather and to new-model introductions. Additionally, automakers greased the skids with a more liberal helping of incentive money. Nissan was cited as being particularly generous in the incentive department, and its sales jumped by 18%, the most of any major automaker, with Chrysler (+14%) and Toyota (+13%) not far behind. Even with the cash on the hood, average transaction prices are higher than a year ago, as automakers push sticker prices relentlessly upward. It could be that as the industry enters the prime spring selling season, affordability will be the biggest headwind. —Joe Lorio
APRIL 2014 SALES RESULTS, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS APRIL 2013.
For the second month in a row, GM has been able to beat its year-ago performance despite its recall disaster remaining stubbornly newsworthy. This month, all four GM divisions were in the black. GMC lead the charge, as pickups stepped on the gas, and the Chevy Silverado retook second place among all nameplates, after falling behind the Ram pickup in March.
The Encore baby crossover was Buick’s biggest gainer (+48%), and has become the third leg of support for the brand, along with the LaCrosse and the Enclave.
The new CTS (+36%) was back to posting the kind of gains we’d expect to see, but the ATS was stagnant and the XTS declined, leaving Cadillac cars flat overall. Instead it was the trucks that pushed the brand ahead—specifically the SRX (+31%), as the new Escalade is only just arriving at dealerships.
In addition to the Silverado (+9%), Chevy’s redesigned big SUVs were up in April, led by the Suburban (+32%). The new Corvette continues to zoom ahead (+261%), while the more humble Impala (+27%), Spark (+24%), and Volt (+19%) also posted gains.
The Sierra (+21%) again had a greater increase than the Silverado. The bigger news for GMC was that sales for the new Yukon more than doubled.
After being up in March, Ford lost ground in April. Blame the car side, which was down 9%, while the trucks were up slightly. Also, Lincoln was backsliding.
The F-series (+7%) and the Explorer (+20%) had their best April in years, but the Escape (-5%) fell off the top 10 list, ceding its bestselling SUV title to the Honda CR-V. The C-Max (-42%) continues to disappoint, and the Edge (-29%) was down as well, although a new version of the latter is in the works.
The MKZ (-24%) was the driving force behind Lincoln’s decline.
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES +13%
Toyota enjoyed a healthy upswing in both car and truck sales. Lexus was up again but Scion continues to sink.
The Camry was again the bestselling car in America, and the Corolla the bestselling small car; both were up 20% over last year. Other Toyota passenger cars were all down, however. The truck side was better, with the 4Runner (+64%), the Highlander (+28%), the Sienna (+12%), and the Tundra (+24%) all posting double-digit gains. Strangely, the soon-to-be-dropped FJ Cruiser had a sudden blowout, beating its year-ago volume by a factor of five.
Again in April, the new IS and the far-from-new GX both more than doubled their year-ago volume.
The tC continues to be the bright spot in the Scion lineup (+14%), while the iQ (-49%), skids toward oblivion.
Chrysler has entered its fourth year of uninterrupted monthly sales gains.
The changeover to the new 200 saw sales of that model drop by two-thirds, which dragged Chrysler down in April. But the brand’s other two models, the 300 and the Town & Country, both managed a 16% gain.
The Grand Caravan (+37%) and the Journey (+16%) worked hard to offset the decline of the Avenger, as that model winds down.
Jeep once again set a monthly sales record, with volumes for three models topping 15,000 in April: the new Cherokee, the Grand Cherokee, and the Wrangler.
The big Ram pickup couldn’t hold on to the number-two spot, despite a healthy increase this month (+17%).
The addition of the 500L kept Fiat in the black despite declining demand for the regular 500.
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA +18%
Nissan continues to pour it on, with a big 18% gain that saw it reach 103,934 vehicles, which the company claimed is a record for April.
The Altima (+14%) had its best ever April, but it still fell behind the Accord, the Corolla, the Civic, and the Fusion. Smaller Nissans fared well: the Sentra (+31%) and the Versa (+47%). Nissan’s vans, the big NV and the compact NV200, both posted gains, but the Titan (-8%) was down despite the robust pickup market.
Good news: the QX50 (EX) more than doubled (+147%). Bad news: we’re still only talking about 225 cars. Infiniti’s real growth is coming from the new Q50 sedan.
AMERICAN HONDA +1%
Honda was up only slightly, trailing the industry again. The company, however, claimed to be spending less on incentives than its competitors.
The Accord (+2%) rebounded to the number-two spot among passenger cars, and the Civic (+4%) returned to the top 10 nameplates, in the number 7 spot. The CR-V was the bestselling SUV in the land, but the Pilot (-17%) and the Ridgeline (-15%) declined.
Acura car sales dropped by a third, while its SUV sales were up by a slightly greater amount. The company blamed the drop in TSX (-46%) and TL (-43%) sales on low inventory, as those models are being phased out. Meanwhile, the MDX roared ahead (+80%), becoming Acura’s bestselling model.
HYUNDAI – KIA +8%
Both Hyundai and Kia touted their performance as a best ever for April, as the Koreans overall matched the pace of the industry.
The Sonata (+28%), the Accent (+36%), and the new Santa Fe (+30%) all enjoyed sizeable gains over last April, while the Azera (-50%), the Elantra (-17%), and the Veloster (-12%) stumbled.
At Kia, the Forte (+46%), the Soul (+27%), and the Sportage (+24%) were the big winners, while the Rio (-29%) disappointed. The K900 landed in more dealerships in April, with 260 units sold.
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP -5%
After a brief respite in March, the Volkswagen Group returned to its losing ways in April. As ever, the Volkswagen division was to blame, whereas Audi continues to heat up. Maybe they should rename it the Audi Group.
The Passat (+3%) scratched out a win, but the Beetle (-28%), the CC (-43%), the Eos (-25%), and the Tiguan (-20%) all were down. So, too, was the Golf, but at least that situation should soon be rectified with the arrival of the new model.
The new A3 is here and, predictably, is taking off (2159 sold). So far, those sales don’t seem to be coming at the expense of the A4 (+1%).
Things were fairly status quo at Porsche, which means the Cayenne was far and away the bestselling model, at twice the volume of the second-place 911.
Subaru continues on its quiet tear. The Impreza (+31%), the XV Crosstrek (+28%), and the Forester (+23%) are no longer new, but their percentage increases look like those of a freshly redesigned model.
BMW GROUP +2%
The BMW Group was able to stay ahead of its Daimler-Benz rivals, but just barely.
A roller-coaster ride for the X1 (-27%), the 6 Series (-36%), and the Z4 (-38%), all of which took a big ride down after zooming higher in March. Meanwhile, the X3 (+85%), the X5 (+28%), and the 3- and 4-series (+19%) were on the upswing.
The Countryman is doing OK (+10%) but the standard Mini (-40%) awaits the arrival of the new version.
Mercedes-Benz retook the bestselling luxury brand title from BMW in April.
The new S-class (+73%) continues to steam ahead, with the E-class (+37%), the Sprinter (+29%), the M-class (+17%), and the GLK (+16%) looking strong as well. The C-class (-30%), the CLS (-12%), and the SL (-39%) were down.
Smart bounced back in April.
Mazda was firing on all cylinders in April, with the mainstay models all doing well: the 3 (+22%), the CX-5 (+9%), the 6 (+30%), and even the 2 (+33%). But shouldn’t the Miata (-24%) be having more of a spring bounce?
JAGUAR LAND ROVER +19%
A big drop for the XF (-41%) dragged Jaguar down despite the addition of the F-Type and gains for the other models.
Land Rover +28%
The big Range Rover nearly doubled (+94%) and the new Range Rover Sport was up by half (+54%), but sales of the LR4 have all but stopped (94 units sold).
It’s a Mirage. Mitsubishi’s new subcompact again pushed the automaker to a nearly 50% gain for the month. Credit, too, the Outlander (+125%) and the Outlander Sport (+24%). The tiny i-MiEV made a commensurately tiny contribution—12 units sold.
Volvo managed another positive result in April. Again, credit goes entirely to the 60-series (+45%), bolstered by the addition of the V60 wagon.
TOP 10 BESTSELLING NAMEPLATES IN APRIL
1. Ford F-series 63,387
2. Chevrolet Silverado 42,755
3. Toyota Camry 38,009
4. Dodge Ram 36,674
5. Honda Accord 34,124
6. Toyota Corolla/Matrix 29,061
7. Honda Civic 27,611
8. Honda CR-V 26,519
9. Ford Fusion 26,435
10. Nissan Altima 25,004