After industry watchers blamed frigid temperatures and unrelenting snow in much of the country for a dip in auto sales in January, we said, “The good news is that this winter can’t last forever.” We’re now starting to wonder about that. Certainly for a lot of people it lasted throughout the month of February, to the point where it kept them out of new-car dealerships. Automobile sales were down 1% versus last year. While February’s annualized selling rate of 15.4 million units was slightly better than January’s, if the industry is going to reach the 16-million-unit mark that many analysts had predicted for the year, it’s going to have to make up some ground. One hopeful sign is that several automakers reported better showroom traffic toward the end of the month, when temperatures moderated somewhat. It could be that the disappointment of January and February will lead to an upside surprise come Spring—that is, if Spring ever comes.
FEBRUARY 2014 SALES RESULTS, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS FEBRUARY 2013.
GENERAL MOTORS -1%
Minus 1 percent is better than January’s minus 12 percent, so by that measure GM is pulling out of its winter doldrums—also by the more direct measure of February versus January sales volume, which increased by 30 percent. Still, all GM divisions save Buick were down compared to a year ago, and the Silverado was off by double-digits, despite hefty incentives. Passenger cars were a highlight, particularly smaller models.
The Regal’s bounce back continues (+49%), while the new Encore baby crossover doubled.
The SRX (+23%) was the hero for Cadillac in February, as its sale increase helped stem the tide of declines among all other models—most alarmingly for the ATS (-28%).
The new Corvette is +149%, just like last month. Other Chevys in the plus column are more modest: the Malibu (+18%), Cruze (+22%), and Sonic (+26%). The Silverado is down (-12%), as are the big SUVs heading into a model changeover.
The Sierra (+1%) did not move in lockstep with the Silverado. Instead, GMC’s decline was mostly due to the big SUVs, whose replacements are on the way.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY -6%
Ford sales were off in February, despite gains for the F-series and for Lincoln. The company said some fleet deliveries had to be moved from February into March.
The F-series (+3%) had its best month in eight years, and the Escape (-4%) was once again the bestselling SUV in the land. So why the down total? Blame the Focus (-24%), the Fusion (-14%), the Explorer (-20%), the Taurus (-27%), the C-Max (-42%), and the Transit Connect (-38%).
Once again, the MKZ more than tripled its year-ago volume, when the car suffered a slow roll out. The MKX (+8%) was also up, but all other Lincolns declined.
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES -4%
Like Ford and GM, Toyota was down from a year ago, but less so than in January. The Camry spent a rare month not being the number one passenger car (it was number two), but the new Corolla passed the Honda Civic to take the mantle of bestselling small car.
When everything is white outside, evidently it’s hard to think green: see the Prius (-28%). It’s also hard for old people to get out: see the Avalon (-46%). On the other hand, it’s pretty easy to sell SUVs: i.e., RAV4 (+23%), 4Runner (+17%), and Highlander (+30%).
On the car side, logic prevails. The new IS (+130%) continues to sell well, while the not-so-new LS (-27%) is down. On the truck side, Lexus has entered a reverse time warp. The old-school SUV surges (GX, +153%) while the modern crossover fades (RX, -18%).
The tC (+10%) and the xD (+11%) defy the prevailing Scion downtrend.
CHRYSLER GROUP +11%
Once again Chrysler beats its year-ago sales total, this time due largely to Jeep, with an assist from Ram. Dodge was down, Chrysler was flat, and Fiat was up only slightly.
Not much movement either way for Chrysler’s three models. The new 200 is not yet in showrooms.
Lots of negative numbers on the car side for Dodge, most alarmingly for the Dart (-37%). The Grand Caravan, the Journey, and the Durango offset some of the losses—but only some.
The new Cherokee accounted for the vast majority of the brand’s sales increase. The next-biggest factor was the Grand Cherokee (+35%).
The big Ram pickup (+26%) is still doing nearly all the heavy lifting here.
The little 500 was down (-19%) but the bigger 500L made up for it.
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA +16%
For the second month in a row, Nissan proved immune to the cold and posted a nice year-over-year sales gain. This time it was enough to push past both Hyundai-Kia and American Honda and move Nissan into fifth place among the major carmakers.
The Altima (+11%) had one of its periodic surges, which saw it pass the Camry to become America’s bestselling passenger car. Leaf sales doubled, and the Juke (+84%) and the Sentra (+23%) were up. The new Rogue (+73%) made waves on the truck side, joined by surprise gainers the Frontier (+112%) and the Xterra (+83%). Sitting out the party were the Titan (-32%), the Versa (-22%) and the Cube (-31%).
It was the JX/QX60 (+18%) more so than the new Q50 that put Infiniti in the black.
AMERICAN HONDA -7%
Honda sales cooled in February, with only the new Acura MDX significantly bucking the trend.
The Odyssey (+5%) was up and the CR-V was flat; all other Honda’s were down in February. We know that the Insight (339 sold) is being dropped; might the CR-Z (318 sold) follow suit?
Acura is becoming an SUV brand that sells cars on the side. February Acura SUV sales: 7482. February Acura car sales: 4063.
HYUNDAI – KIA -4%
The Koreans ceded a bit of market share in February, with Hyundai down slightly more than Kia.
A big drop for the Sonata (-30%) and a similar decline for the Genesis (-36%) put Hyundai in the red despite increases for the Accent (+25%), the Santa Fe (+10%), and the Tucson (+15%).
The Sportage (+14%), Soul (+10%), and Forte (+10%) were up, while the Rio (-15%), Optima (also -15%), and Sorento (-9%) were down. The Cadenza chipped in 700 units, but the K900 won’t arrive until next month.
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP -9%
The new Golf can’t arrive soon enough for Volkswagen, which continues to be the Debbie Downer of the Volkswagen Group.
Every Volkswagen model is down versus last year, ranging from the Jetta (-1%) to the Touareg (-46%).
Four more Audis were sold this February than last, in a month where Audi cars and trucks were about on a par in their relative strength.
The Cayenne (+7%) and the Panamera (+24%) both bounced back last month, while the Boxster was down—but then, it hasn’t exactly been convertible weather.
Is Cold Miser on Subaru’s payroll? Maybe he should be, as winter weather seems to be a boon for the brand’s all-wheel-drive vehicles. Subaru’s 24% increase over last year rocketed it past Daimler-Benz. The Forester nearly doubled its previous total, but that was during a model changeover. The XV Crosstrek has been a real engine of growth, but we’re glad to see the BRZ with a big increase (+47%)—even if its volume is still small (617 units).
Mercedes-Benz was once again the bestselling luxury brand—even if you factor out the Sprinter.
The CLA’s 1971 units kept Mercedes-Benz in the black, aided by the new S-class, which nearly doubled, and the M-class (+19%). The GL-class (-38%) took a tumble, while the C-class declined (-23%) now that its replacement has been shown.
Looks like Smart’s Super Bowl commercial paid off.
BMW GROUP -4%
As one might expect, the BMW X1 (+57%) and X3 (+52%) sold like gangbusters in the snow—but not so the X5 (-26%) and the X6 (-27%). Meanwhile, the 3 Series/4 Series combo (+12%) is still benefitting from the arrival of the new coupes and, perhaps, the Gran Turismo. The other BMW models dropped.
The standard Mini is down as buyers await the arrival of the new version, but what’s the deal with the Countryman (-18%)?
Some good news in an overall down month for Mazda: The CX-5 (+72%) had its best month ever. The new Mazda 6 was up by nearly half (+46%). The year-over-year decline in February was a lot less than in January. Still, we’re betting Mazda would have preferred an overall sales increase.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER +10%
The new F-Type and the XF moved Jaguar forward even while the XJ (-36%) was riding the brakes.
Land Rover +3%
The new Range Rover Sport (+16%) wasn’t able to move the needle much at Land Rover.
At Mitsubishi, the Outlander Sport (+43%) has got to be feeling like it’s doing all the work around here, while the Lancer (-47%) and the Outlander (-15%) slack off. Then there’s the iMiev (-99%), which won’t even get up off the couch.
With all Volvo models running below last-year’s totals, it’s time to get busy putting those sexy concepts into production.
TOP 10 BESTSELLING NAMEPLATES IN FEBRUARY
Ford F-series 55,882
Chevrolet Silverado 36,584
Nissan Altima 30,849
Dodge Ram 29,303
Toyota Camry 28,998
Toyota Corolla/Matrix 25,299
Honda Accord 24,622
Ford Fusion 23,898
Ford Escape 23,145
Honda Civic 21,575