The stagnant economy and continuing supply difficulties for some key Japanese players made July a torpid month for new-car sales. Deliveries were up by only 1% versus 2010, compared to 7% in June. Stubbornly high unemployment may have kept individuals out of dealerships, and general economic anxiety — highlighted by the debt-ceiling circus — may have reduced buying by businesses, hurting pickup sales.
But things weren’t equally bad for everyone. Again in July, the Japanese — particularly Toyota and Honda, but also Infiniti and Subaru — had fewer cars to sell. Their issues probably helped the domestics and the Koreans gain market share, but Chrysler (despite a healthy 20% increase) did drop behind Toyota, which retook the number three spot.
Supply issues eventually 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 any pent-up demand that might exist could remain pent up for a while.
SALES RESULTS FOR JULY 2011, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS JULY 2010
GENERAL MOTORS +8% (continuing nameplates only)
General Motors gained market share again in July, paced by GMC and Chevrolet, while Buick treaded water and Cadillac declined. Chevrolet might have done even better, but ran low on inventory of the Cruze, which by the end of the month had a 30-day supply, or about half the ideal level. Even so, the Cruze was the second-best-selling car in America. GM also sited lean supplies of the popular Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain. Fleet volume increased at twice the rate of retail sales, and accounted for roughly 1 in 4 GM sales. GM characterized its incentives as in line with industry averages.
The Cruze had another huge month and the Equinox (+73%) also did well, as did the Traverse (+43%). On the down side, Impala sales were halved while the Malibu slipped only a bit (-5%). The Silverado fell back slightly (-5%), reflecting the downturn in commercial business.
Cadillac was down across the board, with the CTS, the SRX, and the Escalades all moving pretty much in sync.
There was a considerable amount of fleet sales in GMC’s mix, which probably explains the sudden popularity of the Canyon (+123%). But there was good news on the retail side as well, with sales of the Terrain to individual buyers up by two-thirds over last year (and up 93% overall), and Acadia retail sales up 33% (versus a total increase of 87%).
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +13% (Ford and Lincoln only)
SUVs, both new (the Explorer) and old (the Escape), were the chief engine of Ford’s growth in July, with cars playing a supporting role and trucks basically stagnant.
Ford was able to push the aged Escape (+66%) into fifth place overall again this month, making it the brand’s bestselling nameplate after the F-series. The Fiesta was up (+58%) and the Fusion did well (+11%) but Focus sales (-3%) were supply-constrained. The Taurus (-10%) had no such excuses, and slipped below the Crown Victoria (+62%) in volume.
Town Car sales doubled, as livery services rushed to get cars before the model’s immanent demise. A bigger factor in Lincoln’s upswing, however, was the MKZ (+80%), just over half of which were the hybrid version. The MKX also was up, by a third.
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES -23%
Toyota continues to be affected by supply issues, but despite the sharp drop-off versus year-ago volume, sales did increase by 18% over last month. The Camry returned to the number-one spot among passenger cars, and Toyota passed Chrysler, to move back into third place. Fleet sales were a tiny fraction (less than 2%) of the Toyota total.
All passenger cars save the Venza were below their year-prior figures, but things are improving. The Prius (-44%) nearly doubled June’s volume but was still down. The Camry (-23%) looks bad, until you see that sales totaled 27,016. On the truck side, the Highlander (+22%) and Sienna (+2%) have bounced back, but all other models remain negative.
The new tC is up (+23%) but the xD is off by a third and the xB by nearly half.
CHRYSLER GROUP +20%
Chrysler fell behind Toyota but there was still plenty of good news in Auburn Hills. The company’s sales increased more dramatically than either Ford’s or GM’s, even as fleet sales accounted for a smaller percentage of the total.
Ram momentum finally ran out of steam as big pickup sales stalled.
Fiat wasn’t here a year ago, but its July sales exceeded those of June by two-thirds.
Like Hyundai, Kia had its best-ever July, led by the Optima, whose volume more than tripled, and the new Sportage, which more than doubled. By comparison, the Sorento (+47%), the Soul (+26%), and the Forte (+10%) were relative slackers.
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA +3%
Nissan’s anemic uptick wasn’t much better than the industry overall, but was enough to slip ahead of Honda.
The Altima had another monster month (+17%), besting all mid-size sedans except the Camry. Unfortunately it was the only Nissan car in positive territory. The addition of the Juke and the Quest made for a happier scene on the truck side, as did increases for the Rogue (+3%) and the Frontier (+22%) of all things.
Infiniti continues to suffer far more than Nissan division from product shortages, and all models declined.
AMERICAN HONDA -28%
Honda suffered the worst decline of all major manufacturers in July. The company has indicated that it expects to return to full production in August, so perhaps the worst is now behind it.
With the lone exception of the Pilot (+4%), every single Honda model was down in July. That includes the new Honda Civic (-40%), which continues to be hampered a slow build rate. The Accord fell by 25%, putting it behind several key competitors.
All Acuras were down, but none more so than the ZDX (-82%)
BMW GROUP +12%
It’s no surprise that the new X3 is up hugely (selling at 4 times the rate of its predecessor). The Z4 (+92%) and the 5-series (+59%) are also doing well. The 1-series (-52%), though, is sinking, and the aging 3-series (-3%) is finally looking tired.
The addition of the Countryman more than made up for a decline in the other Minis.
Rolls-Royce sold 1 more car this July than it did last July.
SUBARU OF AMERICA -9%
Subaru suffered its third down month in a row, as it, too, struggles with supply issues — and an Impreza that’s at the end of its life span. Not surprisingly, Impreza sales fell the most (-19%); only the Legacy (+14%) was in the positive column.
The new CLS has zoomed ahead of its moribund predecessor and, strangely, ended up just a nose behind the Audi A7 (704 to 709). The new SLK is even stronger out of the gate, and together those two new models overcame slipping sales of Mercedes’ volume cars, the C-class (-14%) and the E-class (-6%). SUVs were stronger, led by the M-class (+41%) and the GL (+60%) — the Sprinter (+154%) lent a hand as well.
Smart continues to be a weight around Daimler’s ankle — a small weight, perhaps, but a weight nonetheless.
Maybach sales dipped from 5 to 4, so apparently the rich are suffering too.
Mazda sales were flat, as the addition of the Mazda2 and an uptick for the CX-7 (+19%) ran counter to lower volumes for all the other models.
The new Outlander Sport just missed being the second-best-selling Mitsubishi, edged out by the Galant, whose sales nearly doubled. Other suspicious leaps included the Endeavor (+203%) and the Eclipse, which increased by a factor of 4.
The return of the S60 is behind the increase here, and the S60 is now Volvo’s bestselling model.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER +0%
All three Jaguars dropped significantly in July, most notably the XK, which fell by half. The XJ (-39%) was little better, and so the XF (down by only 25%) was the bestselling Jag.
The Kizashi (+12%) notched a gain but the real driver of Suzuki’s increase in July was the SX4, which was up by half.
A 19% decline doesn’t look good for Saab, but sales actually were up a bit compared to June. And the 9-4X is finally starting to roll into showrooms.
TOP 5 BESTSELLING NAMEPLATES in June (and rank last month)
1. Ford F-series 49,104 (#1)
2. Chevrolet Silverado 33,121 (#2)
3. Toyota Camry (#9)
4. Chevrolet Cruze 24,648 (#3)
5. Ford Escape 24,411 (#5)