This summer has been a good one for U.S. auto sales, and it peaked in August. After flirting with the 16-million-unit level in June, and receding a bit in July, the industry vaulted over that marker in August, as the annualized sales rate reached 16.1 million units. Not only was this August’s pace the most torrid of 2013, it’s the best since 2007. Compared to last August, automakers were up an average of 17%, when the sales rate was 14.5 million units. Once again, pickup trucks were hot (bolstered by a fast-improving housing sector), and they were joined by sizzling sales of luxury cars. A rich model mix and lower incentives made for transaction prices that were at an all-time high — extra-good news for the industry, if not for consumers.
AUGUST 2013 SALES RESULTS, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS AUGUST 2012.
GENERAL MOTORS +15%
GM’s sales increase was very good, though not quite as good as the industry overall. The company claims, however, that retail sales, actually were up 22%, reflecting a declining importance of fleet sales at GM, as elsewhere.
The Silverado again topped 40,000 units, but it got knocked down a peg, from the number two to the number three spot overall, by the surging Toyota Camry. Chevrolet’s small cars recorded big sales, with the Spark (+72%), Sonic (+31%), and Volt (+18%) having their best month ever. The Cruze, however, was off slightly (-8%), as was the new Impala (-22%), and the Corvette (-46%), the latter dealing with a backlog of 2013 models as dealers await the new C7.
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES +23%
Toyota stayed ahead of Ford Motor Company, by a more comfortable margin this month, to remain in second place overall. Despite newer competitors, the Camry had a mega month, and Lexus finally has awakened from its doldrums. The same cannot be said of Scion, however.
The Camry (+22%) soared past the 40,000-unit mark and into second place among all nameplates. The Prius family (+30%) finally overtook the Corolla/Matrix (+11%), as the two took the #9 and #10 spots on the bestsellers list. The new Avalon was able to triple the previous year’s volume over an August ’12, when the old model was being sold down, and the new RAV4 was up by half. Even the hapless Yaris doubled; that left the Venza, the FJ Cruiser, and the Land Cruiser as the only Toyota models in the negative column.
The new IS (+87%) continues to ramp up, while the ES (+1%) has leveled off. Just as important for Lexus, however, was the not so new the RX (+32%). Almost unnoticed is that the big LX is slipping toward obscurity (only 335 sold).
Flat is the new up for Scion, with the tC coupe and xD hatchback overcoming weakness in the iQ and the xB.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +12%
Ford lagged the industry slightly, and paid the price by losing its #2 spot to Toyota. Ford claimed to be capacity constrained with some models, such as the Escape, and is also readying its Flat Rock, Michigan plant to build more Fusions.
Beyond the F-series (+22%), Ford’s other big gainers were the Fiesta (+62%), the Fusion (+14%), and the Explorer (+13%). On the down side we find the Escape, which may have lost some sales to the surging RAV4 and Honda CR-V; and the big vans, which could be losing out to newer competitors from Nissan and Mercedes — or to Ford’s own Transit Connect.
AMERICAN HONDA +27%
Honda remained just out in front of Chrysler, thanks to a big surge in its volume products.
The Civic (+30%) passed the Accord (+10%) to become America’s number-two passenger car behind the Toyota Camry. The CR-V is also on a tear, up by a third over its impressive year-ago total; it stole the bestselling SUV crown from the Ford Escape. We wouldn’t have expected the hot pickup market to reach the Ridgeline, but it did, as that model was up 68%. The only Honda sitting out the good times was the Crosstour (-23%).
With the TL (-30%) and TSX (-17%) down, the ILX stagnant (-2%), and the new RLX counting for only 459 units (incredibly, that’s a 10-fold increase over the old one), it was entirely up to Acura’s SUVs to move the ball forward. Both the MDX (+17%) and RDX (+50%) delivered. The lame-duck ZDX, naturally, did not (selling just 29 units).
CHRYSLER GROUP +12%
Chrysler extended its streak of higher sales to 41 months, even if its increase lagged the industry overall.
The Dart (+127%) is climbing the sales charts at Dodge, this month passing the declining Avenger (-20%) and the Durango — even though the latter model more than doubled. The Grand Caravan (-24%) remains out in front, with the Journey (+12%) and the Charger (+37%) next in line.
Sales of the big Ram pickup roared ahead by nearly one third.
HYUNDAI – KIA +6%
The Koreans did well — both brands claimed their best August ever — but lost market share, primarily to the surging Japanese.
The new Genesis (+30%) and the revised Equus (+47%) were up due to better supply, while the opposite hindered the Sonata (-14%). The new Santa Fe (+79%) posted the brand’s biggest increase, and the Elantra (+37%) was the biggest seller overall.
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA +22%
Nissan was most definitely part of the Japanese surge in August, with the Nissan division claiming its best-ever month of retail sales, which reached six figures for the first time.
Both the Leaf and the new Pathfinder more than tripled their previous August total. The Leaf is one of several Nissan models that have benefitted from recent price cuts. Other models that drove volume were the Altima (+20%), the Sentra (+19%), the Juke (+30%), the Frontier (+21%), and the Rogue (37%). Among decliners we find the Titan (-34%), which defied the bull market in pickups, the Cube (-34%), and the aged Maxima (-27%) and Xterra (-17%).
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP +2%
July was a near repeat of June for the Volkswagen Group, with VW down slightly but increases elsewhere putting the group just ahead of last year.
The Beetle enjoyed a big bounce (+85%) and the Passat plodded ahead (+12%) but otherwise there were a lot of negative numbers in VW’s July report. The worst offenders won’t surprise you: the Routan (-86%), the CC (-52%), and the Eos (-37%).
The initial rush for the new Cayman appears to have worn off, as it has now settled into its usual spot as the lowest-volume Porsche. Meanwhile, the new 911 (+23%) saw the brand’s biggest increase.
After defying the industry-wide downturn, Subaru has emerged into the warm sun of recovery with foot to the floor and its boxer heart bleating away. Once again, the brand has notched the biggest gain among all carmakers. The new Forester nearly doubled, while the XV Crosstrek added 4757 units to the total — and did so with absolutely no ill effect on its sibling, the Impreza, which was up by nearly half.
BMW GROUP +35%
BMW was able to capitalize on the surging luxury-car market. Even with the brand’s nearly-50% jump, however, it still couldn’t snatch the luxury sales crown from Mercedes-Benz.
BMW’s three core sedans surged: 3-series (+67%), 5-series (+158%), and 7-series (+173%). One suspects that August was a very friendly time to lease a new BMW. The X1 also jumped, as it enjoyed a fourfold increase that saw it again outsell the X3. Busy with the aforementioned models, BMW salesmen apparently didn’t have time to write up contracts for the X6 (414 sold) or the Z4 (177 sold).
Whereas last month the Countryman overcame weakness in the other Minis, in August the situation was reversed.
Despite BMW’s big push, the Mercedes-Benz brand was still out in front in August. As usual, though, that’s counting the Sprinter van in the total — without it, Mercedes would be behind the Bavarians.
Big SUVs were the big story at Mercedes-Benz: the GL (+79%) and the M-class (+70%). The GLK, though, was down. Of the passenger cars, the E-class (+45%) rode the luxury-car wave but the C-class (+3%) did not. Future collectors should note that the CL (27 sold) was an even more rare machine than the SLS (32 sold).
Smart was up again in August.
At Mazda, it was all about the new Mazda6 (+167%) and the no longer new but still quite hot CX-5 (+82%). The Mazda3 remains the brand’s bestseller but it’s sales are flat as it undergoes the changeover to the new version. All other models were flat or down slightly.
Volvo defied the industry upturn and fell behind Jaguar Land Rover in total sales. The brand’s twin pillars — the S60 and the XC60 — both were off slightly, and there was no other model strong enough to pick up the slack, although the XC70 (+6%) made a token effort.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER +40%
Jaguar sales were up by two-thirds, but the good news was not evenly spread. The new F-type accounted for nearly a quarter of the brand’s sales. With its expanded powertrain lineup, the XF was up by half. But the similarly enhanced XJ (+17%) was not. And the XK (-40%) appears to have suffered at the hands of its new in-house rival.
Land Rover +33%
All Range Rovers and Land Rovers were up by double digits in August. As expected, the new Range Rover enjoyed a big jump (+48%) but it did not do as well as the Evoque (+53%).
TOP 10 BESTSELLING NAMEPLATES IN AUGUST 2013
1. Ford F-series 71,115
2. Toyota Camry 44,713
3. Chevrolet Silverado 43,603
4. Honda Civic 39,458
5. Honda Accord 38,550
6. Honda CR-V 34,654
7. Dodge Ram 33,009
8. Nissan Altima 30,976
9. Toyota Prius 27,358
10. Toyota Corolla/Matrix 26,861