Things had been plugging along pretty well. Not great, mind you, but decent. The spring was looking hopeful; June fell back a bit; but then we saw a mild comeback in July. Which is why the August drop-off caught industry watchers by surprise. The annual sales rate, 10.8 million units, was the slowest since February and a sharp comedown from July’s pace of 11.6 million units.
It was no surprise, however, to see August sales come in far below last year’s figure. Although 2010 has been trending ahead of 2009’s abysmal totals, August of 2009 was the peak of the Cash-for-Clunkers frenzy. Smaller, more fuel-efficient models experienced the most extreme spike. Because year-ago sales were so distorted, it wouldn’t make much sense to compare August 2010 totals with those of August 2009. So instead, in our rundown of the strong and the weak, we will compare the most recent month’s sales with those of the month prior, to get a sense of where things are going in this suddenly slower summer.
AUGUST 2010 SALES, AND PERCENT INCREASE/DECREASE VERSUS JULY
GENERAL MOTORS -7% (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC only)
With sales in August of only 205 Hummers, 43 Saturns, and 7 Pontiacs, GM sales are pretty much officially representative of the health of its four continuing divisions. All of them, unfortunately, skidded in August. GM might point to a decrease in fleet sales, but with 28% of its cars headed to fleets, GM’s fleet percentage was still the second highest in the industry in August.
All Buick models declined, except for the new Regal. Buick sold one more Regal in August than in July.
Cadillac’s total would have been worse had the DTS not suddenly powered ahead with a 57% gain. Cadillac’s two hottest vehicles, the CTS and the SRX, both dropped by a quarter.
The Equinox (+7%) and the Impala (+19%) were the only two Chevys in the plus column for August. Of the rest, the Cobalt (-23%) had the best excuse, a selldown ahead of the arrival of the new Cruze in September.
Like its Chevrolet counterpart, the GMC Terrain (+11%) kept the momentum going in August, and the Canyon squeaked out a 4% gain. All other GMCs were down.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY -5% (excluding Volvo)
Ford’s 5% decline actually pushed it ahead of Toyota and moved it into second place. A little more than one in four FoMoCo vehicles went into fleets. This is the first month that Ford did not include Volvo sales, but those 4000 or so units were not a big factor in the company’s total.
We can understand Explorer sales dropping off (by nearly half) with the announcement of a new model, but what happened to the Mustang (-26%), or the Flex (-27%), or the Transit Connect (-23%)? At least the Taurus and the Escape were able to maintain. The best performers were the big vans. All other models were down.
Word of Mercury’s impending death must have reached the nation’s retirement communities last month, as the Grand Marquis enjoyed a major surge in sales (+54%). Attention, seniors: Get one before it goes the way of the dial telephone.
Finally some good news for Lincoln, with nice increases for the MKX (+19%) and the MKS (+15%). Oh, and Town Car sales doubled.
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES -12%
Toyota’s July-to-August drop was the worst of the major Asian automakers, and it pushed Toyota down into third place, behind Ford. That fall only looks good compared to the year-over-year decline, which was 34%. But remember that Toyota was the single biggest beneficiary of last year’s Cash-for-Clunkers sell-a-thon.
When a niche vehicle like the FJ Cruiser is the only Toyota in positive territory, you know it’s a bad month. Big declines for the Corolla/Matrix (-26%) and the Tundra (-22%) hurt the most.
Lexus was a bright spot, with most of the additional volume coming from the HS250h, despite moderate gas prices. The RX was the next-biggest contributor.
The new tC coupe can’t get here fast enough, as all three Scion models were down again in August.
AMERICAN HONDA -3%
Honda declined a bit, but outperformed the industry as a whole.
Honda’s stalwarts, the Accord and Civic, pretty much held their own, while the Insight (+9%) enjoyed an uptick and the CR-Z added 694 units to the total. The Pilot (-11%) was the weakest performer.
The MDX (+5%) moved ahead and the RL chipped in a few, but the other Acura models dropped, even the ZDX (-26%), which was fairly low to start with.
CHRYSLER LLC +7%
Chrysler was the biggest automaker to see a sales increase in August, and its 7% gain pushed it past Hyundai-Kia. Chrysler relied less on fleet sales than in the recent past, but it still uses that crutch more heavily than anyone else, with fleet sales accounting for 36% of its total.
We can believe a 17% increase for the Town & Country, and maybe a 31% pop for the 300, but when Sebring sales surge 45% one suspects the fleet factor at work.
Caliber sales up 84%? Hmm. Other models had more credible increases, except for the Challenger and the Journey, which had minor declines.
With the new Grand Cherokee (+18%) now in volume production, we expected better results from Jeep. But a decline in Wrangler sales (-24%) washed out those gains and more.
Additional Dakota volume (+45%) couldn’t offset slipping full-size Ram sales (-6%).
Again, the Koreans outperformed the greater industry, but this time just barely. It also should be noted that with nearly one in five of their cars headed into fleets, they rely much more on fleet sales than do the other major import manufacturers.
The new Sonata (+20%) continues to gain, surpassing the 20,000-unit mark this month. The Genesis (+25%) also did well. The new Tucson, though, is cooling (-10%), as are the aging Santa Fe (-19%) and Elantra (-17%).
The new Sportage nearly doubled July volume, and the relatively new Sorento was flat, otherwise it was all negative numbers for Kia in August, with the Rio (-39%), the Rondo (-46%), and the Borrego (-68%) faring worst.
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA -7%
Nissan fell a bit more than most, but maintained its number-seven spot. Infiniti did slightly better than Nissan division.
Sales of the Cube (-37%) are melting, more so than other Nissans. The Altima squeaked out a 1% increase, but was still passed by the Sonata, and 5 more GT-R coupes were sold than last month. Everything else was down, save the Titan, which was flat.
No Infiniti slipped more than 5% in August, which is a pretty good showing, actually. The EX managed to make some headway, up 7%.
VOLKSWAGEN OF AMERICA +1%
With a fall-off in sales of the volume models, the Tiguan (-19%) and the CC (-23%), VW sales might have been worse. But VW was able to keep the Jetta (+2%) on an even keel, and it moved a whole bunch of Passats (+114%).
A surge in R8 deliveries (+119%) pushed it past the aging A8 (-21%). But the real driver of Audi’s increase was the Q5 (+39%), with at least some help from nearly all the other models.
BMW N.A. +2%
It appears that August was a good time to make a deal on an X3 (+60%), which is in the final year of its current style. But it may have been an even better time to grab a Z4, which saw sales quadruple compared to July. BMW might have done better, but volume models like the 1-series, the 3-series, and the X5 were all flat.
A minor uptick for Mini, ahead of a revised Cooper coming this fall.
As in July, 26 Rolls-Royce cars were sold in August.
Finally. Subaru, which for the past two years has seemed to defy gravity, actually had a down month. (And switching to a year-over-year comparison, it was a much more sharply down month, but that’s working against the Clunkers-inflated figures of last August.) All Subaru models fell back a bit, except, of course, for the Tribeca, which fell more (-23%).
DAIMLER A.G. +8%
With the exception of the GLK (-21%), all the higher-volume Mercedes models enjoyed a bounce in August: C-class (+15%), E-class (+8%), M-class (+25%), and GL (+14%).
Three (3) Maybachs were sold.
The first month of significant Mazda2 volume saw 469 subcompacts sold, but that fresh infusion of sales was wiped out by a 7% drop in Mazda3 deliveries. Most other models saw declines as well.
In its first month as an independent entity, Volvo gifted its new Chinese masters with a minor, though market-defying, increase in sales. Credit the arrival of the new S60, as sales were otherwise flat overall.
Sliding sales for Mitsubishi’s (relatively) larger volume products, the Lancer (-27%) and the Outlander (-22%), made for a not so good August.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER +4%
The new XJ (+11%) continues to climb, but the other Jags declined.
Land Rover +11%
All Land Rover and Range Rover models were in positive territory, but none was more positive than the standard Range Rover (+22%).
A big down month for Porsche, as the sports cars fell hard. But even the relatively new Cayenne (-15%) and Panamera (-22%) dropped off.
Suzuki slipped again in August, despite a modest gain for the SX4 (+9%).