After 2012 ended on a high note, automakers were looking to keep their momentum going in January, and for the most part that’s what happened. The seasonally adjusted industry sales rate topped 15 million units, with January’s sales running 14 percent ahead of January 2012.
The market appears to be growing at both ends: trucks are benefiting from an improving economic picture (particularly a fast-improving housing market), and small cars and hybrids are getting a boost from high gasoline prices. New entries are helping other manufacturers. With the average age of cars on the road estimated at 11 years, replacement demand is likely to remain strong, and with good credit availability, buyers should be able to finance those new cars. In the words of General Motors’ chief economist, Mustafa Mohatarem, the auto industry is “in a fundamentally sound trajectory.” That sounds pretty good.
PERCENTAGES ARE JANUARY 2013 SALES RESULTS vs. JANUARY 2012
GENERAL MOTORS +16%
General Motors wasn’t looking particularly strong toward the end of 2012 but was hopeful that its new pickups and the new Chevy Impala would help it power up in 2013. Those products aren’t yet in dealerships, but the General nonetheless got a good start out of the gate this year.
It’s still the old model, but the Silverado (+32%) benefited from the surge in pickup sales. The same could not be said of the Colorado, however (-71%). The fleet-only Captiva Sport jumped (+74%). Fuel-sippers on the upswing included the Sonic (+26%) and the Volt (+89%) but not the Cruze (-4%). And, strangely, Corvette sales surged 44% despite the reveal of the new C7.
The arrival of the ATS and the XTS made a huge difference for Cadillac. The ATS has become the division’s bestselling sedan, passing the CTS (-17%). The SRX (+5%) remains Cadillac’s most popular product overall.
A big month for the Verano — 3660 units, slightly more than the LaCrosse — and a nice boost for the freshly tweaked Enclave (+57%) gave Buick a big increase overall. The only troubling note was sinking Regal sales (-46%).
Like the Silverado, the Sierra (+35%) rode the big-pickup wave. The Terrain SUV (+51%) and the big vans also had a good month. Like the Colorado, the Canyon (-72%) fell hard.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +22%
Ford, like General Motors, started off the new year by taking back some market share, with an increase that outpaced the market overall. As ever, the franchise F-series was part and parcel of that increase, but Ford’s small and midsize cars did well, too. Not so the Lincoln division, whose hoped-for comeback has yet to get into gear.
The F-series continued its winning streak, and rebounding work-truck sales also were reflected in increased demand for Ford’s big vans and the Transit Connect (+47%). On the car side, the Fusion came roaring back (+65%) to retake the title of bestselling non-pickup Ford. Small cars looked good: Fiesta (+22%), Focus (+12%), and the new C-Max (2725 units). All Ford models outpaced last year, with the lone exception of the Mustang (-3%).
The much-anticipated new MKZ has been late arriving to Lincoln showrooms, and its resultant sales fall-off dragged down Lincoln this month. Other models fared better: MKT (+47%), MKS (+23%), and MKX (+11%).
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES +27%
Toyota came back big last year, and it extended that performance into the first month of 2013 with a January sales increase that exactly matched the one Toyota enjoyed in 2012.
Toyota wouldn’t be able to maintain its momentum without the Camry (+13%), and the mainstay midsize did not disappoint, once again taking bestselling car honors. The ancient Corolla/Matrix (+32%) was the number five nameplate overall, which is frankly remarkable. The expanded Prius family (+37%) benefited from increased interest in fuel-sippers, but the Yaris (-4%) did not. The new Avalon saw its sales increase by half, as did the not-so-new 4Runner.
The new ES more than doubled its year-ago total, and the LS finally had a good — make that very good — month (+88%). The CT (-2%) and the IS (-23%) were down, and Lexus also delivered its last LFA, one of three sold in January.
The FR-S continues to be the bestselling Scion, which is pretty cool. It accounted for virtually all of the brand’s increase. The other Scions appear to be losing some of their cool, as all but the xB were down versus a year ago.
Chrysler outpaced the overall industry in January, after slightly underperforming in December. All divisions were up except for Jeep.
Chrysler’s weakest offering, the 200, enjoyed the biggest increase (+26%), while its strongest product, the 300, was up only 7%. The Town & Country (+16%) was in the middle.
Dodge saw some wild swings, with the Avenger (+69%) and the Journey (+94%) up big, while the Grand Caravan (-39%) slumped. The Dart reached 7154 units.
The Liberty, which has stopped production, was down 70%, dragging Jeep into negative territory. The baby Jeeps, the Compass and the Patriot, were both up by a third.
AMERICAN HONDA +13%
A big increase for the Accord was good news at Honda, but otherwise it was an unspectacular month, with the company slightly behind the industry overall.
The new Accord surged (+75%) but remained well below the Camry in the number two spot among passenger cars. The Civic was flat, and the CR-V slipped slightly (-6%). Meanwhile, a hot market for small cars and hybrids did nothing to help the Insight (-35%), the CR-Z (-1%), or the Fit (-18%).
Acura benefited from the addition of the ILX, which was the brand’s bestselling sedan in January, as the RL (-61%), the TL (-34%), and the TSX (-42%) all dropped. The RDX, running at nearly three times the old model’s volume, was the only bright spot on the truck side, where the MDX and the ZDX both were down.
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA +2%
Nissan’s unimpressive 2% increase somehow allowed it to squeak past the Koreans, who also posted at 2% increase for January.
The arrival of the JX, and a minor increase for the QX, offset declines for all the other Infiniti models.
The new Pathfinder, which tripled the previous volume, was the big winner for Nissan, but the new Altima (-4%) was down slightly; in between was the new Sentra (+27%). Other than the Pathfinder, there were lots of negative numbers on the truck side for Nissan, including the Murano (-23%), Frontier (-31%), Quest (-17%), and Rogue (-10%).
The Koreans cooled down in January relative to the market overall. It could be that after years of explosive growth, Hyundai’s and Kia’s positions in the U.S. market have matured. Interestingly, both brands were up by exactly the same percentage.
The Sonata enjoyed its best-ever year in 2012, but with a drop in January (-9%), it looks like 2013 will be tougher. The Elantra managed to make some gains (+12%), but the Accent (-20%) was down. Predictably, the new Santa Fe (+24%) enjoyed a boost — so, too, did the no-longer-new Tucson (+12%).
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP +9%
After a white-hot 2012, the Volkswagen Group started off 2013 with something of a whimper. VW executives, though, predicted the slowdown; they’ve acknowledged that the easy big gains from last year — the New Beetle and the Passat — won’t be repeated this year.
The New Beetle and the Passat are still posting healthy year-over-year increases (+59% and +40%, respectively), but they’re not as huge as they once were. And they got very little help from elsewhere in the lineup, with the Tiguan down (-8%), the Jetta down (-4%), and the Golf flat.
Audi was mostly looking good in January, particularly the Q5 (+18%), the A8 (+56%), and the A5 (+37%). The only declines were at the fringes of the lineup: A3 (-61%, but soon to be replaced), R8 (-38%), and TT (-30%).
Only one Cayman was sold in January as dealers await the new model. As a preview of what the new version might bring, check the new Boxster, which sold 392 units (or nearly eight times its year-ago figure). Still, that was far behind the Panamera (-16%), the 911 (+29%), or the Cayenne (+51), which is easily the bestselling Porsche.
Plucky little Subaru powered past Daimler-Benz and the BMW Group with a share-grabbing 21% increase in January. Both the BRZ and the XV Crosstrek were additions to the lineup, so that helped significantly. Also contributing were the Forester (+28%), even though it’s near the end of its life cycle, and the Outback (+17%).
Mercedes-Benz was fast out of the gate in the luxury-car derby, sprinting ahead of BMW and Lexus (even factoring out the Mercedes Sprinter van).
All the core models performed well for Mercedes in January: the E-class (+34%), the S-class (+20%), the C-class (+11%), the GLK (+21%) — make that all except the M-class (-27%).
Mazda suffered with the departure of the Mazda6 (-56%); the new version should be in showrooms next month. There’s no easy explanation for the fall-off in the Mazda2 (-49%) or the Mazda3 (-12%). For better news, we turn to the Mazda5 (+61%) and also note that the CX-5 continues to do well.
BMW GROUP +2%
It appears that BMW’s big December may have stolen some sales from January.
BMW’s SUVs all looked good last month, including the aging X5 (+57%), the niche X6 (+35%), and the popular X3 (+19%). Also, the X1 added 1165 to the brand’s total. On the car side, the story wasn’t as happy, from the 7-series (-40%), down through the 5-series (-20%), the 3-series (-28%), and the 1-series (-28%).
The Countryman (+13%) did slightly better than the other Minis.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER +25%
The addition of all-wheel drive and smaller-displacement engines appears to have helped the XF (+12%) and, to a lesser extent, the XJ (+6%).
Land Rover +31%
The new Range Rover jumped (+88%), and the Evoque continued to pull well (+37%), but all Land Rover models beat last year’s numbers.
Volvo’s bread-and-butter entries, the S60 (+38%) and the XC60 (48%) continue to do well, but the rest of the lineup is slipping.
A big month for the Lancer (+116%) and an assist from the Outlander Sport (+21%) almost keep Mitsubishi from losing ground, but not quite.
TOP 10 BESTSELLING NAMEPLATES IN JANUARY
1. 46,841 Ford F-series
2. 35,445 Chevrolet Silverado
3. 31,897 Toyota Camry
4. 23,924 Honda Accord
5. 23,822 Toyota Corolla/Matrix
6. 22,399 Ford Fusion
7. 21,881 Honda Civic
8. 21,464 Nissan Altima
9. 20,474 Ram
10. 19,939 Ford Escape