The August new-car market was little changed from July’s, despite the stock market swoon and the hurricane that closed out the month in the Northeast. Industry-wide, sales were up 8% over last year, while the seasonally adjusted full-year sales rate remained just on the high side of 12 million units. The latter figure was the bit worse than last month; the former stat a bit better. Unemployment and economic anxiety remain high. The Japanese — particularly Toyota and Honda, as well as Infiniti and Subaru — continue to suffer shortages of some models. That has been helping the domestics and the Koreans, all of which outpaced the industry with their sales growth in August.
Eventually, those supply issues will be rectified, which will give the affected players a boost in the coming months. But the economy overall hardly looks ready to take off, so may keep a lid on any real dramatic growth.
SALES RESULTS FOR AUGUST 2011, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS AUGUST 2010
GENERAL MOTORS +18% (continuing nameplates only)
General Motors did better in August than in July, as all four divisions increased sales over last year. In a reverse of last month, GM says that retail sales grew much faster than fleet sales.
The Cruze had another huge month, enough to keep it in the top five nameplates. Other heroes were the Equinox (+58%), the Traverse (+44%), and the Suburban (+60%), all part of a good month for trucks.
The growing Regal lineup more than doubled sales again in August. The Enclave grew modestly (+17%) while the LaCrosse treaded water. Things would have been better were it not for the departing Lucerne (-48%).
Cadillac was able to reverse a recent downtrend, mostly on the strength of the CTS (+39%).
GMC was General Motors’ big winner in August, with the Canyon (+141%) leading the charge and the Terrain (+88%) following behind.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +16% (Ford and Lincoln)
In a repeat of last month, Ford’s increase was mostly due to its SUVs, both the new (the Explorer) and the old (the Escape). Once again, cars were the next most improved and trucks crept up just a bit.
Explorer sales continue to grow by leaps and bounds, but what’s more surprising is Ford’s ability to push the aged Escape (more than 20,000 of them) out of dealerships. Overall, sales of SUVs — with help even from dilettantes like the Flex (+24%) and the Expedition (+42%) — increased by nearly half. Small cars, however, had their own positive story, as Ford claimed that the Fiesta (+76%) and the Focus are its fastest-turning models (although the Focus was off by 9% due to short supply).
Lincoln’s jump in August wasn’t quite as good as its July increase, but was pretty good nonetheless. The same was true of the performance of Lincoln’s biggest-volume model, the MKZ (+50%). The soon-to-be-departed Town Car was the next most improved (+45%).
CHRYSLER GROUP +31%
Chrysler had another big month in August, and was able to squeak past Toyota. Trucks were stronger than cars, not surprising given the fact that Jeep once again was the biggest-gaining division.
The 200 continues to sell at twice the rate of the Sebring and has become the bestselling Chrysler, passing the Town & Country (-7%). Eminem for CEO!
The Grand Caravan swung from negative last month to positive (+32%), but the addition of the Durango had more to do with Dodge’s increase. The Journey (+34%) and the Avenger (+38%) were also up, but the other cars all were down.
Like many other pickups, Ram sales crept ahead in August.
What a difference a face makes — the restyled Compass (+131%) was once again the most improved Jeep model. The Grand Cherokee continues to accelerate (+77%), but all Jeep models did better than last year.
The Fiat 500 had its best month yet in August.
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES -13%
That Toyota’s sales decline in August wasn’t as steep as the one it reported in July was probably a small consolation to the largest import-brand carmaker operating in the United States. Better news was the fact that the Camry, which is in sell-down mode ahead of the redesigned 2012 model’s arrival, easily took the mantle as bestselling passenger car.
Camry sales (-3%) weren’t quite as great as last year, but 30,185 nonetheless bested all comers. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where the good news ended for Toyota, although a couple models managed single-digit increases: Highlander, Tacoma, and Venza.
The CT200h, which sold 2087 units, couldn’t put Lexus into the black, not surprising considering that every other Lexus model declined.
The still-fresh tC managed to eke out a gain (+2%), but the other Scion models slipped.
Hyundai’s increase didn’t come from its newer models; instead, it was the Santa Fe (+55%) that had the biggest gain. Meanwhile, the Sonata (-3%) and the Elantra (-1%) cooled a bit.
As it did in July, the Optima volume more than tripled. The Sorento (+50%) and Sedona (+37%) trailed in its wake.
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA +19%
Nissan has suffered fewer effects of the earthquake/tsunami-related supply shortages than the other major Japanese brands, and that can be seen in the company’s August results. Only Infiniti, a comparably tiny portion of the corporate Nissan total, remains significantly affected.
The Altima had another monster month (+25%), besting all mid-size sedans except the Camry. The Maxima and the Versa also gained, both up 15%. The Cube and the Z both dropped by 37%. All the trucks, save the Armada, were better than last year.
Infiniti wasn’t off nearly as much as in July, thanks to a positive showing by the G (+2%).
AMERICAN HONDA -24%
August was no better than July for Honda, despite what the company characterized as improving production capability.
The Pilot (+16%) and the CR-Z (+7%) were the only two Honda models that sold more than last year. Every other model dropped, some precipitously: Civic (-47%), Insight (-53%), and Ridgeline (-86%). The Accord fell by 21%, and continued to trail competitors such as the Camry, the Altima, and the Fusion.
Like Honda, Acura’s August was every bit as bleak as its July. The TSX (-6%) had the strongest showing. The weakest, and they were very weak in deed, came from the ZDX (-81%, and 81 sold) and, naturally, the RL (-79%, with only 41 sold).
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP +11%
The new Jetta increased by 36%, and so did the Golf. The Touareg more than doubled again this month, which would be more impressive if its total volume weren’t so tiny (581 units). The CC drifted lower (-9%) and the new Passat still has yet to become a factor.
August looks like a repeat of July for Audi, with the A8 way up from its miniscule, year ago levels; the A6, still the old model, doing better (+36%); and the A7 adding incremental sales. Audi’s three biggest-volume products, however, all declined: A4 (-8%), Q5 (-14%), and A5 (-7%).
BMW GROUP +0%
The new X3 continues to far outpace its predecessor, this month by a factor of three. And the 5-series (+41%) is still doing well. But the Z4 swung from way up (+92%) in July to way down (-75%) in August, and the 1-series (-54%) is struggling.
Unlike last month, the addition of the Countryman could not make up for the decline in the other Minis (-44%).
Rolls-Royce had been steady-as-she-goes, rarely varying by more than a handful of sales from month to month. August, however, saw a comparatively severe decline of 13 units, to 30 from 43 last August.
Mazda enjoyed a boost this month, enough to pass Daimler-Benz and Subaru. Nearly every model participated, but the CX-7 (+59%) looked particularly good, and the Mazda2 added a hefty chunk of volume (1387 units).
SUBARU OF AMERICA -6%
It’s four down months in a row now for Subaru, the brand that skated through the financial crisis and resulting recession, when nearly every other carmaker was laid low. Lack of inventory continues to be a problem. Again, the Legacy (+10%) managed to make some headway, this time accompanied by — yes — the Tribeca, but its 205 units sold was hardly significant. The Forester, Impreza, and Outback were all down.
The big stories for Mercedes Benz were the same as last month: The new CLS far exceeding (by a factor of 9) the all-but-nonexistent sales of the old one; the new SLK more than doubling its predecessor; and the Sprinter sprinting ahead (+118%). Against that are lackluster performances by volume models like the C-class (-23%) and the E-class (-4%). Oh, and R-class sales are on the floor, again (30 units sold).
Small comfort: the decline in Smart sales seems to be slowing.
4 Maybachs were sold in August. 5 Maybachs were sold in August 2010. Draw from that what you will.
Mitsubishi pushed out way more cars than a year ago, thanks to the addition of the Outlander Sport, and a sudden, 9-fold surge in demand for the Endeavor (!?).
The S60 all but singlehandedly is keeping Volvo ahead of last year.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER -9%
Jaguar sales have dropped to less than one-third of Land Rover’s, as all three Jaguar models are skidding.
Land Rover +10%
The Range Rover Sport (+39%) was again the biggest gainer of the SUVs, solidifying is position as the top dog.
The encouraging new from Porsche — besides its overall sales increase — is that all three sports cars outperformed last year. The Cayenne did as well, but the Panamera declined.
Suzuki did even better in August than in July, with increases from all five models (including the XL-7, whose sales rose from 5 to 6!).
Despite all the worrisome financial news swirling around Saab, the arrival of the 9-4X (finally!) and the new 9-5 enabled Saab USA to beat last August’s anemic total.
TOP 5 BESTSELLING NAMEPLATES in August (and rank last month)
1. Ford F-series 48,795 (#1)
2. Chevrolet Silverado 36,832 (#2)
3. Toyota Camry 30,185 (#3)
4. Nissan Altima 23,016 (#6)
5. Chevrolet Cruze 21,807 (#4)