IHS Markit had expected 2018 U.S. car and light truck sales to end up at 17 million, about half a million short of 2016’s record. But after September’s seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 17 million, the analysis firm is increasing that number.
How? It’s statistics. “Seasonally adjusted” means just that.
“This September bounce back, and expectations that the pace of sales in the fourth quarter should not move drastically from this level will likely push full-year light vehicle sales volume to 17.1 million units in total,” says Christopher Hopson, manager of IHS Markit’s North America light vehicle forecasting.
Seasonal adjustments mean that July and August historically are very strong sales months as consumers take advantage of warm weather and end-of-model-year prices, while September traditionally is a transitional month as new model-year cars and trucks arrive.
Even though Ford Motor Company, Toyota Motor Sales, American Honda, and Nissan North America saw sales declines last month, the numbers are skewed because September ’17 sales to which they’re being compared were “atypically high,” says IHS Markit’s principal automotive analyst, Stephanie Brinley.
Which might help explain why General Motors switched from monthly sales reports to quarterly sales reports early this year. Quarterly reports give a more steadied look at what’s happening to auto sales. This serves as a reminder that from now on, I’m running year-to-date auto sales ever quarter in place of monthly sales columns, with percentage increases or decreases compared with the same period a year earlier.
We know so far that most car models continue to decline as most SUV and truck models increase, and that Subaru is running ahead of both Hyundai and Kia, while Volkswagen struggles—it’s up 5.5 percent thanks to a new, more competitive Tiguan and the addition of the Atlas three-row SUV, but seems to be selling them mostly to fans of its Golf, Jetta, and Passat.
Mercedes-Benz including its van and Smart division can’t keep up with BMW and Mini, though Mercedes the marque, on the strength of its GLC- and C-Class, has sold 319 more cars and SUVs so far, than BMW without Mini.
Among popular-priced marques, the Toyota RAV4 remains the bestselling model after the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, and Ram 1500 pickup trucks. Speaking of those trucks, the Ram brand is about even for the first nine months of this year, compared with the first nine months of last year, while Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep brand is on fire, outselling Subaru by more than 240,000 units so far this year.
While the Fords Escape and Explorer have lost a combined 26,659 so far this year, the Chevrolets Equinox and Traverse are up a combined 40,134, which is a commentary on either the power of having fresh product on your showroom floors, or the problem with everything at Ford except pickup trucks and truck-based SUVs, or both.
One more clear trend is that with midsize sedan owners trading them in for compact SUVs, compact sedan sales is catching midsize sales by default. So the Honda Civic is outselling the Accord, the Toyota Corolla (including iM) is outselling the Camry, and the Nissan Sentra is just 1,452 units behind Altima.
And so, to the numbers …
1. General Motors: 2,168,808, off 1.2 percent.
- This breaks down to 1,504,038 Chevrolets, off 0.8 percent, 395,924 GMCs, off 2.4
percent, 155,606 Buicks, off 2.6 percent and 113,240 Cadillacs, off 0.5 percent.
- Chevrolet has sold 424,403 Silverados for 2018 so far, up 1.4 percent. All but a few thousand sold in September were the old ’18 model. GMC Sierra was off 1.4 percent, to 152,242.
- Chevy Equinox was up 10.2 percent, to 234,379, while Malibu was off 23.9 percent, to 107,458 and Cruze was down 26.5 percent, to 109,662.
- Chevy Traverse was up 20.4 percent, to 106,998 and Colorado was up 26.3 percent, to 104,838 and GMC Canyon was up 8.6 percent, to 25,273.
- Encore again leads Buick sales year-to-date, up 7.7 percent, to 69,747. Buick has sold 35,277 Enclaves, up 12.1 percent, while Regal is up 22.4 percent, to 11,008.
- Cadillac has sold 46,983 XT5s year-to-date, off 5.7 percent, plus 212 XT4s all of the latter in September.
- Cadillac Escalade is up 3.3 percent, to 27,299, while CT6 is off 10.6 percent, to 7,270.
- Both Chevrolets Bolt and Volt have slipped this year, so far. The Bolt EV is down 17.4 percent, to 11,807, trailing the Volt, which is off 13.7 percent, to 13,243. Corvette is off 21.2 percent, but leads both electrics with 14,881 sold in ’18 so far.
2. Ford Motor Company: 1,887,625, off 2.4 percent.
- Ford Mustang leads Pony Car Wars, at 61,619, off 0.9 percent, to Dodge Challenger’s 52,313, up 37 units for the year so far, with Chevy Camaro third at 39,828, off 25.9 percent.
- Ford says September sales of the F-Series topped 70k for the seventh straight month, at 75,092, off 8.8 percent. Year-to-date, Ford has sold 679,018 F-Series, up 3.1 percent.
- Escape is off 10.2 percent year-to-date, to 210,050 and Explorer is down 1.6 percent, to 171,416, meaning that both models are slipping in two of the hottest segments.
- Ford Fusion is off 21.8 percent, to 124,964 and Focus was off 19 percent, to 100,267.
- Expedition is up 0.3 percent, to 40,521, while Lincoln Navigator has rocketed up 81.9 percent, to 13,085.
- While the Ford marque is off 2.1 percent, to 1,812,345 through September, Lincoln is down 9 percent, to 75,280.
- MKX was off 12.6 percent, to 19,886 through September, a month before first deliveries of the Nautilus replacement. MKC is down 5.5 percent, to 19,270.
- Continental languishes at 6,334, off 28.6 percent.
3. Toyota Motor Sales: 1,824,235, off 0.4 percent.
- Toyota Division has sold 1,610,613 so far this year, off 0.1 percent, and Lexus has sold 213,622, off 2.7 percent.
- RAV4 is Toyota’s bestseller, and according to the automaker, the best-selling non-pickup in the U.S. It was off 8.2 percent, to 37,440 for September, and is up 2.2 percent, to 319,147 for the year.
- Toyota Camry is off 6.9 percent, year-to-date, to 262,887, while Corolla is down 11.3 percent, to 265,273 (this includes 17,867 iMs, up 10.6 percent).
- Prius is off 17.3 percent year-to-date, to 68,925.
- Highlander is up 14.2 percent, to 180,699, and 4Runner is up 7.6 percent, to 102,267.
- Tacoma is up 24.8 percent, to 183,909, while Tundra is up 2.5 percent, to 87,782.
- Buoyed by addition of the three-row model, Lexus RX is up 4.9 percent, to 79,563. NX is up 3.6 percent, to 43,513.
- ES is the bestselling Lexus car, off 12.1 percent to 34,344.
- IS is off 9.8 percent, to 17,393. LS is up 115.1 percent, to 6,672.
4. Fiat Chrysler: 1,679,983, up 6 percent.
- Fiat Chrysler had a particularly good September, with sales up 15 percent, to 199,819 over September ’17. Jeep remains its star, up 14 percent for the month and up by 20 percent for the first three quarters, to 746,194. Ram was off slightly (2,032 units, or 0 percent) to 416,661 year-to-date, though up 9 percent last month. For the first three quarters, Chrysler was off 12 percent, to 127,156, Dodge slid 2 percent, to 359,728 and Fiat slumped by 43 percent, to 12,084. Alfa Romeo was up 147 percent, however, to 18,160.
- Wrangler has become Jeep’s bestseller for the year so far, at 190,951, up 27 percent. Cherokee is next, up 53 percent to 179,743, while erstwhile brand leader Grand Cherokee was off 8 percent, to 166,653 year-to-date.
- The new Jeep Compass also is a success, up 146 percent to 132,674, while Renegade is off 6 percent, to 75,574.
- The 2019 Ram 1500 pickup was beset by launch problems, though Fiat Chrysler still sells the old truck. So year-to-date sales are 0-percent changed, up by 682 units to 375,583. ProMaster van is off 1 percent, to 31,591.
- Chrysler Pacifica is up 6 percent for the first three quarters, to 91,595. The 300 sedan is off 13 percent, to 34,555.
- The old school Dodge Caravan is up 12 percent to 120,935, and Journey is up 2 percent, to 77,233. Charger is off 12 percent, to 59,308 and 15 Vipers were sold, off 97 percent.
- Fiat 500X was down 28 percent to 4,221, and the 500 two-door fell 64 percent, to 3,717.
- Stelvio leads Alfa Romeo, up 1,329 percent, to 9,044 and Giulia was up 39 percent, to 8,933.
5. American Honda: 1,206,997, off 2 percent.
- Honda accounts for 1,092,514 of that, off 2.2 percent, with Acura at 114,483, up 0.3 percent.
- Bestseller CR-V is running -1.2 percent, at 277,621.
- Civic is off 10.3 percent year-to-date, at 255,036 and Accord is off 14.2 percent, to 215,299.
- Pilot is Honda’s big gainer, up 42.4 percent, to 199,901. HR-V is off 5.5 percent, to 69,979.
- RDX leads Acura, up 13.8 percent, to 44,598. MDX is off 2.6 percent, to 37,187.
- Acura TLX is off 13.6 percent, to 22,917. Acura has sold 122 NSXes this year, off 65.6 percent.
6. Nissan Group: 1,124,682, off 6.0 percent.
- Nissan division is off 5.8 percent, to 1,082,527. Infiniti has lost 7.4 percent, to 105,249.
- Rogue remains Nissan’s bestseller, up 4.4 percent to 309,979, but it’s 9,173 units behind Toyota RAV4 for the year-to-date.
- Altima is off 16.6 percent, to 166,599 and Sentra is off 0.3 percent, to 165,147.
- The Leaf EV is off 0.5 percent, to 1,686.
- Pathfinder has slid 18.7 percent, to 50,152, though Titan is up 6.4 percent, to 37,839, and Frontier is up 7.9 percent, to 59,574.
- Over at Infiniti, QX60 is up 8.3 percent, to 31,795, while Q50 is off 6.8 percent, to 26,180.
7. Subaru: 503,418, up 5.1 percent.
- Outback leads sales, off 1.8 percent to 137,992, and Forester is off 7.7 percent, to 121,924. Crosstrek is up 45.1 percent year-to-date to 11,415, but sales have slid for a couple of months. In September, Crosstrek was off 0.9 percent.
- The new Ascent more than covers decreases elsewhere, with 16,580 of the new three-row SUV sold.
- WRX/STI is off 9.1 percent, to 21,957.
BRZ sales have slid 11.4 percent, to 2,930. Combined year-to-date sales with Toyota 86 is off 30.2 percent, to 6,153.
8. Hyundai: 501,701, off 2 percent.
- Hyundai is off 0.8 percent, to 492,792, while Genesis has dropped 40.9 percent year-to-date. Genesis has held back on importing vehicles as it prepares for the 2019 model year, and a change in its distribution model at Hyundai dealerships.
- As Hyundai sorts out its SUV strategy, its sales leader remains the Elantra compact sedan, up 41 percent to 148,879.
- Tucson is next-bestseller, up 25 percent to 103,514.
- Santa Fe is off 7 percent, to 88,969 and Sonata is down 24.8 percent, to 80,975.
9. Kia: 452,042, off 1.3 percent.
- Sorento leads Kia sales, up 10.8 percent, to 85,692 through Q3.
- Optima is off 5.7 percent, to 79,845.
- Soul is off 14.2 percent, to 77,888.
- Forte is off 18.7 percent, to 74,888.
- Sportage is up 11.7 percent, to 62,272, and Niro is up 6.9 percent, to 22,100.
- Kia has sold 12,999 Stingers year-to-date.
10. Volkswagen: 266,228, up 5.5 percent.
- VW was off 4.8 percent for September.
- Although Jetta led for September, the new Tiguan SUV has become VW’s sales leader in the first nine months, up 987.2 percent, to 67,232.
- Jetta is down 32.8 percent, to 61,118. Golf is off 38.1 percent to 34,353.
- Atlas is up 251.6 percent, to 43,002. Passat is down 33.8 percent, to 33,527.
- Beetle, entering its final model year, is off 2.6 percent, to 12,150.
11. BMW Group: 259,258, up 1.7 percent.
- BMW is up 2.2 percent, to 225,065, while Mini has slid 1.7 percent, to 34,193.
- X3 leads BMW sales, up 30.2 percent, to 41,825.
- Soon-to-be replaced 3 Series is down 19.6 percent, to 34,731. The 4 Series is off 22.5 percent, to 23,466.
- The 5 Series is up 9.3 percent, to 31,181, and X5 is down 9 percent, to 31,120.
- Mini Countryman is up 33.7 percent, to 14,142 and the Hardtop 2 Door is off 7.4 percent, to 7,320.
12. Mercedes-Benz USA: 254,366, off 5.8 percent.
- Mercedes cars accounts for 225,384 off 7 percent. Vans are up 11.1 percent, to 28,023, and Smart languishes at 959 sold year-to-date, down 63.6 percent.
- Mercedes GLC-Class sales account for nearly one-fifth of MBUSA sales, up 53.8 percent, to 50,585.
- A car model is next; C-Class is down 28.3 percent, but still at 42,252.
- GLE-Class is off 11.3 percent, to 34,617 and E-Class/CLS is down 12.3 percent, to 32,013.
- S-Class is off 3.2 percent, to 10,334.
13. Mazda: 235,122, up 6.7 percent.
- CX-5 is up 26.1 percent, to 116,728, year-to-date, and continues to outpace VW Atlas and (new) Tiguan sales combined. It has outsold the two Volkswagens by 6,494.
- CX-3 is up 14.5 percent, to 13,715, and CX-9 is up 17.2 percent, to 21,184.
- Mazda3 is off 14.7 percent, to 51,294.
- MX-5 Miata is off 23.2 percent year-to-date, to 7,460. Combined sales with the Fiat 124 Spider is 10,375 for the first three quarters, off 22.5 percent.
14. Audi: 167,420, up 24.4 percent.
- Q5 was up 27 percent, to 49,694.
- Q7 was up 2 percent to 27,270, and Q3 slipped 0.2 percent, to 14,630.
- A4 was off 4 percent to 28,783, while A5 was up 52 percent to 21,244. A3 slipped 17 percent, to 15,579.
15. Mitsubishi: 93,398, up 17.9 percent.
- Outlander Sport sales totaled 31,407 for the three quarters, up 30.8 percent.
Outlander is up 17.8 percent, to 30,810.
- Mitsubishi has sold 3,050 Outlander PHEVs and 5,513 Eclipse Crosses for the year, so far.
16. Jaguar/Land Rover: 86,309, up 2 percent.
- Land Rover is running plus-20 percent year-to-date, to 65,133, while Jaguar is off 30 percent, to 21,176.
- Range Rover Sport sales are up 13 percent, to 17,321. The new Velar is Range Rover’s second-bestseller, at 12,761 delivered, so far.
- F-Pace is Jaguar’s bestseller, though off 30 percent, to 10,088. Jaguar has sold 2,808 E-Paces, so far.
- Jaguar XE is down 54 percent, to 3,381, and F-Type is down 43 percent, to 1,739.
17. Volvo: 73,929, up 29.8 percent.
- Volvo splits its bestselling XC60 into two numbers; one for the old model and one for the new. But I’ll combine it here. It’s at 23,511 sold year-to-date, up 44.9 percent.
- XC90 is up 15.9 percent, to 23,652.
- S90 is up 2.5 percent, to 5,732; V90 is up 209.2 percent, to 371; and V90CC is up 12.3 percent, to 1,710.
18. Porsche: 42,626, up 3.4 percent.
- Macan is the clear sales leader, up 11.6 percent, to 18,103.
- The 911 is Porsche’s second-bestseller, up 7.4 percent, to 7,013.
- Cayenne sales are down 29.6 percent, to 6,841.
Luxury/Premium Brands, YTD:
1. Mercedes-Benz 225,384
2. BMW 225,065
3. Lexus 213,622
4. Audi 167,420
5. Acura 114,483
Sports Cars and EVs, YTD:
Midsize cars, YTD:
Compact CUVs, YTD: