By on January 13, 2012

2011 was a fascinating year to follow auto sales. With the overall market up over 10%, and hot new products hitting showrooms, there was definitely room to grow… and yet everyone seems to have an excuse for why growth wasn’t stronger. Japanese automakers, the biggest losers of 2011, had a strong of natural disasters to blame the bad year on. Detroit showed strong volume gains in terms of percentage growth, and earned respect in growing segments where they were previously weak, but couldn’t match the expectations of its perennially over-optimistic boosters. The Korean manufacturers showed strong market share growth but lack of capacity prevented them from bounding into the top tier of the US sales game. In fact, only the European luxury manufacturers could point to 2011′s sales performance with unalloyed satisfaction, as they grew some 29.5% as a group, from an already-strong volume position. So, given these mixed results, what was the lesson of 2011?

Given the interruptions endured by their Japanese arch-rivals, Ford and Chevy  were nearly guaranteed to win the brand volume sweepstakes. But look closer and all is not entirely well at the top of this heap. Ford, the volume leader, grew its overall sales by just 11% last year, in a market that grew 10.3%… in short, Ford didn’t lose any market share, but it didn’t win much either. More troubling for the brand’s long-term prospects, much of that growth came from trucks (up 15.1%), while car volume improved only 3.7%. In short, despite launching a brand-new Focus (which had a disappointing 2011), Ford lost ground in the car game (which grew more slowly than trucks, but nearly matched them for volume). The news was better at GM, where overall sales rose 13.2% on 17.8% car growth and 10.6% truck growth. Still, given the weakness at Honda and Toyota, one would have expected more from a GM that is still rebuilding from its bailout-era downturn.

Toyota and Honda posted similar results, having lost 6.7% and 6.8% volume drops respectively. But Nissan, which recovered far faster from the tsunami and was hit less hard by the Thai flooding, made up for some of their losses, putting a  14.7% volume increase in the Japanese side of the ledger. All three Japanese brands lost volume on their luxury brands, however, bowing before the German onslaught. And though Toyota’s losses were evenly-distributed by vehicle type, both Honda and Nissan relied on truck sales (including non-BOF CUVs) to boost volume. More importantly, the qualitative weaknesses of newly-launched products from Honda and Toyota helped fuel a sense of Japanese downturn that could prove to outlast any impacts of 2011′s natural disasters… but only time will tell.

With Detroit’s offerings enjoying the benefit of comparisons to their ignominious predecessors and new Japanese products enduring the exact opposite, Detroit’s market share growth continues to be mysteriously stalled. Chrysler’s turnaround continues apace, with 26.2% corporate volume growth, but with truck volume dropping in an otherwise strong market for the segment, profits will not grow commensurately. And a 66% increase in car sales growth looks a lot less impressive when you realize that its car sales were a mere 354,359 units… which is fewer than VW/Audi sold in the same period.

So, what happened? Think of the current Republican presidential nomination process as a parallel: Instead of the long-running pitched war between Detroit’s “Big Two” and Japan’s “Big Two”, the market is fragmenting, creating a thick pack of contenders rather than clear winners and losers. Hyundai/Kia enjoyed 26.5% combined growth on record volume. Nissan began to emerge as a rising power after decades of playing catch-up to Honda and Toyota. Volkswagen began its new value-oriented volume blitz, growing VW-branded car volume 29.4%. 44% growth at Jeep propelled Chrysler up and away from unsustainable volumes. Even Mitsu and Volvo posted some of the biggest volume percentage gains, up 41.9% and 24.6% respectively. The days of Toyota-Honda-GM-Ford dominance seem to be coming to an end, forcing brutal battles for every tiny sliver of growth.

Things have not changed dramatically in the truck world over the last year. Though truck volume outstripped car volume by nearly 400k units and though truck sales growth outstripped car sales growth, those gains largely came on the back of non-BOF CUVs. My analysis on the truck front has changed little since I wrote about The Great American Downsizing, and the new CAFE regulations that came out this year show that the days of BOF truck/SUV dependence for any manufacturer are coming to an end. On the car front, the action has been in the compact/midsized arena, the former of which is unsurprisingly exhibiting the wealth of solid options and killer competition that is beginning to define this industry. As 2012 unfolds, I’ll continue to look at the compact segment as a bellwether for the strength of brands. And with new versions of the Camry and Passat out, new Malibu and Fusion models coming, and an Altima replacement likely waiting in the wings, look for the midsized segment to continue to heat up as well. Meanwhile, with the luxury sedan segment essentially treading water, nearly all of the Japanese and American brands will need to dig deep to fend off the German takeover of the market.

The best news coming out of 2011 was that North American-sourced vehicles continued their strong turnaround. Fueled by Japan’s Yen crisis, the weak dollar and overseas natural disasters, insourcing of US sales picked up pace after a decade of precipitous declines. And given the larger trends in the industry, this dynamic should continue as production flees Japan… at least until Chinese imports gain acceptance in the marketplace. Given that this trend is being driven by foreign brand insourcing rather than a resurgence of sales from Detroit, it seems clear that the prospects for US auto industry employment have improved independently of the bailout. Though GM and Chrysler would not have survived this long without government intervention, and though they seem to have stabilized, there’s little to indicate that either GM or Chrysler is en route to juggernaut status in the US market (and GM could well take a PR and sales hit if the government exits its “investment” with a taxpayer loss).

Of course there is much more to analyzing 2011′s sales results than volume alone… from pricing to incentives, from fleet sales to inventory, there are a million qualifiers to the volume numbers that I simply don’t have the data to analyze effectively. Luckily TrueCar, which looks at as much data as anyone, has released a grade sheet for the industry by manufacturer and by brand. And the results there seem to reinforce my perception of 2011: an inevitable loss by the Japanese, and not much momentum gained by Detroit. In short, 2011 appears to have been the year of the insurgent brand (with the notable exception of Subaru, which saw its share peak in 2009-10 and is now falling off), and the opening of a new, more competitive chapter in the US market. This bodes well for consumers, who can anticipate better vehicles over the next product cycle or two, but it also foreshadows another shakeout further down the road. And this time it seems just as likely that Honda or Toyota could find themselves knocked out of the top tier as Ford or GM. In short, there’s never been a more exciting time to be watching the US auto market.

 

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55 Comments on “2011: The Year In Auto Sales...”


  • avatar
    unseensightz

    The way I look at it for General Motors though, in regards to domestic production, is that it is actually increasing alongside the imports growing domestic production. When you look at all of the new cars GM is bringing to market and how much money GM has placed into almost every single one of its plants for upgrades or retooling, it seems very promising. The Volt, new Malibu and upcoming Impala will all be built in Detroit at Hamtramck, the Lambdas are built at Lansing Delta in Michigan, the CTS and new ATS are being built at Lansing Grand River, Lordstown, Ohio is doing the Cruze, Orion in Michigan is building the Verano and Sonic(the only American built compact car), Spring Hill is being reopened for overflow capacity, the new Colorado at Wentzville, some of the last body on frame SUVs still built at Arlington Assembly and finally Bowling Green for the Corvette. That is still quite a heavy dependence on domestic production if you ask me. So I do believe GM leads or at least is tied with the other domestic manufacturers and certainly leads any foreign makes in terms of domestic production. You also have the Wixom performance Engine plant along with all of the other transmission/parts/casting/engine plants.

    (Disclaimer: I do not know all of the plants for other manufacturers as well as I do GM’s, so I could be underestimating the competition’s domestic production.)

  • avatar

    Looks like I’m not the only one who isn’t yet recognizing RAM as a separate brand–those Dodge sales figures clearly include RAM trucks. Source of the first two charts?

  • avatar
    JMII

    Who the hell is buying all these trucks? Seriously the numbers just seem way out of proportion to the general population. There can’t be that many general contractors out there.

    • 0 avatar
      SevenIM

      A good number of people who bought a new Silverado or F-150 probably bought a new Silverado or F-150 2-3 years ago. My neighbor has gone through 3 different Silverados in the past 6 years. If they have the money to do so, then more power to them I guess, but why they don’t just lease is beyond me.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        SevenIM, a very great number of people trade their cars every 2-3 years. Most of them do keep those cars for the length of the original warranty period but those who trade more often are usually the ones who enjoyed several warranty visits to the dealership during those 2-3 years and don’t want to take any chances with possible future breakdowns. Critical, if they rely on that car or truck as a daily driver or for their livelihood.

        And it has nothing to do with whether they can afford it or not. Sometimes it’s cheaper to trade because at least you have the new car warranty on your next vehicle. If you finance the vehicle at least you have some equity. If you lease you have none.

        I used to keep my vehicles beyond the original warranty period but I have since reconsidered and understand the wisdom of trading every 2-3 years, or when the warranty expires.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I don’t buy that logic. First of all, if the buyer was so spooked by some repairs that unloading after 2-3 years was common, pickups would not enjoy the brand loyalty that they do. I don’t know of any car that shares the same repeat performance that pickup buyers do. Also, when it cheaper to trade? For warranty work coverage? Even if you burned through several thousand dollars after the warranty expired. you lose thousands more on depreciation. Keeping until unreliable is almost always the cheapest, even it it is not the most desirable. As someone who keeps cars a long time, I see zero wisdom in trading every few years. Is new every few years enjoyable? Sure it is. But retiring before 60 is even more enjoyable.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        I retired at age 38 after serving 20 years in the US Air Force and have never been employed since.

        And I don’t finance. I buy outright. I used to keep all my cars forever. Before buying my 2011 Tundra in Jan 2011 I had 11 of my old cars parked on my property in the desert. They all ran. I kept them running with the help of Autozone.

        Once I bought my Tundra my wife insisted that I sell all of the vehicles (cars, trucks and motorcycles) I had parked behind the house. All of them were sold off and several of the bigger ones even were used in a demolition-derby in El Paso, TX.

        I am now sold on the concept of keeping a car or truck only for the duration of the original warranty coverage. You may not buy into that, but a great many people do. Look around your own neighborhood.

        And when it comes to depreciation? It’s only money. I’ve never seen a hearse with a U-Haul behind it. I have reached the stage in my life where I want to enjoy vehicle ownership.

        At age 65 I’m too old to wrench and tool on them and I’m not going to buy OBD2 Diagnostic tools and special laptop software to chase sensor glitches or hunt down mechanical failures.

        Maybe I’m just too cheap to pay others to do that work for me after the warranty expires. I’d rather drive new. You bet, it’s peace of mind.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        Regarding leases and equity, it is possible to have equity at the end of a lease. I’ve traded people out of leases multiple times where the trade in value was higher than the lease buyout price.

        The majority of the time if you know you are going to want another new vehicle in two or three years and have a good idea about the number of miles you are going to drive a lease is going to be cheaper than buying outright and trading. Since the lease residual and buyout price is set at the time the lease is signed it’s a win win for the buyer. If at the end of the lease the trade value is higher than the buyout price, it can be traded with the equity. If at the end of the lease the trade value is lower than the buyout price, which is the usual scenario, the owner is not responsible for the negative equity.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        You’re right Nullo. But how many people actually delve that deep into the particulars of a lease?

        First, they have to be predisposed to leasing over buying, and secondly, it has to be more advantageous for them to lease than it is to buy.

        My wife’s dad had a realty business for decades and had all sorts of reasons and advantages that justified leasing over buying and he never leased.

        Which brings us back to why so many people trade every 2-3 years. I guess it depends on their situation, although I am surprised that so many people seem to do just that. Among those are several of the contractor builders I see driving a new truck every other year.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        highdesertcat -

        I get plenty of people for whom a lease would make more sense, but who are just dead set against it because of some something they’ve heard that they’ve misinterpreted or that’s just plain wrong. At the end of the day though, if they want to buy, I have no problem with it, whether they lease the car or buy the car it’s the same to me that day (although leases in general are nice because you know you’ll likely see the person again in a few years). I can’t tell you how many people tell me they don’t want to lease because they don’t ‘own’ the car during the lease period. These are people who constantly finance and trade before the loan is payed off, so they don’t truly own that car either.

        As far as the quick trade cycles go, I’ve seen plenty of reasons. Sometimes it’s fear of being out of warranty, but as often as not it’s just because they have the money and after a few years with a car they’ve grown tired of it, they see some new feature they want to have, some new car they like the looks of, or their neighbors/relatives just bought a new car so now they want one too.

        With contractors and guys working in development, construction, natural resources, and other outdoor jobs with multiple worksites I’ve seen three year old trucks come in with over 100,000 miles, so sometimes they trade something that still looks pretty new on the outside but that’s crossed some mental mileage barrier they have that says they have to replace it. There are also sometimes tax purposes for trading more often for vehicles in business names. The biggest write-offs for depreciation happen in the first few years, so the buying a brand new truck doesn’t really cost them as much as the purchase price would suggest after the new depreciation write-off has been figured in.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        …..I retired at age 38 after serving 20 years in the US Air Force and have never been employed since….

        If you can pull that off, enjoy your new cars…Mortgage, non contributing wife, area with a staggering cost of living means that I have to make concessions to get out of the rat race before 60.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Nullo, some of those fears you allude to often are the deciding factor. Regrettably, SOME people, especially old people, have had some really bad experiences with lease-companies, one of my more mature neighbors among them. In the end, the customer should decide what works best for them.

        golden2husky, just so you don’t think that I’m just a beer-swilling, burrito chomping, long-haired bum (all of which I am I freely admit), I have to hastily add that even before retiring from the Air Force I started building our home in the desert from scratch.

        It took me fifteen years to expand it from the core 1600 sq ft cinderblock&brick core I started with to the sprawling 3800 sq ft southwest rancher it is now. And that is just the roofed portion of the house.

        I started out as a carpenter in the Air Force and progressed up to the supervisory level, specializing in bare-base construction in combat zones, among which Viet Nam. After that, building a residence from scratch was a piece of cake.

        I should also add that my wife worked full-time at her parents’ real estate brokerage business until her dad sold it in sept of last year.

        Once you retire from working-for-the-man you may find that working-for-yourself is much tougher.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Despite wild sales figures, not that many pickups stick around. Notice the prices of 20 year old pickups vs cars. Aside from cash4clunkers, Mexico devours 10 to 25 years old pickups but only allows importation of exactly 10 year old cars from the US. Their 10+ year old pickups are beat to death and decontented. Plus Canada loves rust free pickups from the Southwest. US pickups also get shipped all over as they’re kind of seen as exotic. South Africa, Saudi Arabia, OZ, Europe, you name it… Military? 900 bases around the world?

    • 0 avatar

      Check out the office parks surrounding Dallas. Nothing but little air conditioned cubicle farms surrounded by acres of glistening scratchless pickups.

      Check out the inventory of used trucks and see just what percentage don’t have a single scratch on the hitch or in the bed.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    According to my rough math, these top 25 vehicles add up to about 5.6 million sales, or about 41% of all US sales for 2011. Every other vehicle sold is fighting for the balance.

    Among those 5.6 million in this list, about 2.5 million are trucks/CUVs with relatively poor EPA MPG ratings, while US gasoline prices are about $3.50/gallon, and under economic conditions that most people still characterize as a recession. So anyone expecting to see a permanent jump in Volt/Leaf sales when gasoline prices rise is mistaken, although there may be a temporary one.

    The recent rise in small/economy car sales may have more to do with the recession and high unemployment, than it does with fuel prices. http://www.randomuseless.info/gasprice/gasprice.html People simply have less disposable income right now, and so they’ll gravitate towards cheaper vehicles. If/when the economy improves, you can expect even more bias toward trucks and away from small cars, which will really hurt those companies investing so heavily in small cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Patrickj

      Pickup buyers are pickup buyers; the fact that most will never do anything that a Honda CR-V with a blue tarp in the cargo area can’t do makes no difference. I don’t think that $10 gas would stop them either, though the pickups might return to more realistic size.

      As for the CUVs, the 4 cylinder versions of the ones on the list don’t do badly in fuel mileage. The Focus and Elantra buyers aren’t going to trade them on Sequoias and 3/4 ton Suburbans when the recession ends.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Observations Top Selling Vehicles:

    1. Congrats to Toyota. 308K for the Camry was an impressive feat, tidal wave, heavily subsidized lease deals, and cash on the hood and all. And hey, according to Toyota they’ve dropped their average buyers age from 60 years old (near Buick level of 64) down to 52.

    2. Congrats to GM on the Chevy Cruze. Yes, the Toyota Corolla outsold it at 240K units versus 231K for the Cruze, but remember, the Matrix is rolled up into the Corolla number. Even if the Matrix sold just 1K units a month, the Cruze, sedan vs. sedan straight up – came out on top. Even if you won’t give that, 231K was solid. Now the question is how will it fare in 2012.

    3. Oh Honda, tidal wave or not, you’ve got some big problems, except for the CR-V.

    4. Seriously, who is buying all these Escapes. Incredibly impressive for the venerable (and soon to be updated) ute.

    5. A tale of two cars being refreshed for next year. Fusion, best year ever, Malibu, going down.

    6. Camry, Altima, Fusion, yes America is still buying midsize.

    Observations on Top Selling Brands:

    1. Nissan is right up Honda’s ass – Honda needs to get their act together fast.

    2. Thank God Dodge has the Ram and lots of fleet sales on the Charger.

    3. Will Hyundai pass Dodge in 2012? It seems possible.

    4. If Buick is irrelevant than someone needs to stick a fork into Infiniti…not bad right behind Lexus.

    5. Oh Lexus, you need to get your product mix and act together fast. You’re the new Buick.

    6. How many of those Mercedes sold were vans?

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I did not think that Toyota and Honda would do this well in view of all the setbacks they had.

      OTOH, I really believed that GM and Ford would have made a killing because of the setbacks at Toyota and Honda.

      So it appears to me that potential buyers are holding off until both Toyota and Honda can regroup and recover from the disasters, rather than buying Ford or GM.

      If that is the case, we should see major gains in Toyota and Honda sales once the supply line gets going full-bore again.

      And while we all wish that both Ford and GM sales would have been better in 2011 because of the problems faced by Toyota and Honda, it is clear that they only marginally improved over the previous years which were clearly disasters for the American auto makers.

      Fiatsler did well, in any scenario.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        The declines in Honda and Toyota seem to have been picked up by a combination of increases from Ford, GM, Chrysler, Nissan, and Hyundai/Kia. While I’m sure there are some dedicated Toyota/Honda fans out there, in my experience most people aren’t willing to wait weeks, much less months, for a car to become available if they have they’ve decided it’s time to buy something new.

        Ford never fell as far as GM and Chrysler, so the gains haven’t been as big year over year. Similarly, GM made up a lot of ground last year. Chrysler finally put some decent product back on the lots this past year, and took the biggest dive of the D3 to begin with, making the year over year growth easier, though still impressive. Hyundai and Kia have gone from being minor players to legitimate forces in the market over the past couple of years. The easy gains have been made. If they continue their upward trajectory at the same rate I’ll be amazed, but I predict much slower, but steady, growth from here on out as long as they continue to both put out good products.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        I think you’re right. I can only draw from experiences at the dealerships in CA, AZ, TX and AL owned by my brothers until Sept 2011. Although Ford truck sales were strong, it was the foreign brands they carried that ruled the year for their bottom line.

        They could have sold a lot more Hyundai cars if they had them, and ditto with the Toyota line of cars. They didn’t sell Honda or Fiatsler. Their GMC and Buick sales pretty much remained the same year after year because each brand had their own clientele and demographic. New customers to those brands were few and far between.

        Barring any unforeseen upheavals in the global economy, 2012 promises to be a better year for those who are employed, retired, or independently wealthy.

        I fully expect Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Kia to improve their sales YoY, and I expect Fiat to do extremely well in 2012.

        But everything hinges on two factors that directly influence the attitude of potential buyers: employment status and housing foreclosure.

        The people who have money are going to buy, regardless. But I found it interesting that several Camry shoppers held off until the new Camry came out, and several Hyundai buyers held off until the model they were interested in became available.

        Now that the actual sales figures have been published, we can finally put to rest all the bickering of which brand will beat what brand. I think Toyota and Honda can only go up in sales in 2012, as will Hyundai and Kia when they increase production. We’ll know next January.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Two trends that jump out at me:

      1) The eye-popping numbers for the prehistoric Escape (which trounced the CR-V!) and the pricey Explorer put an asterisk on the success of the Fusion, which after all is due for a refresh. This says that Ford’s enormous dealer network has an amazing ability to move ordinary metal — and/or that Ford is still buying market share with piles of cash on the hood.

      2) CUV’s continue to kick butt, but the presence of the Sorento on this list — ahead of its Hyundai brother, tied with the RAV4 — is impressive. I don’t think Kia has all that many dealers.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Kia is the #8 brand in the US. #8! Consider the brands behind it, and the imbalance in press coverage of those brands.

    Kia seems like the brand which people scoff, then buy.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    The critically-acclaimed new Focus was outsold by the critically-panned new Jetta. Hilarious.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      That’s just because VW has so many more dealerships than Ford does. The bought and paid for press tasked with selling the Focus said people didn’t care about rear seat headroom or frangible transmissions. Maybe the attempted Jedi mind trick served to remind people to try sitting in the back seat before buying and gave them time to think about the transmission in the Tempo they had in college, the one that really did fail completely after feeling like it was going to fail completely.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        My Tempo didn’t have any transmission problems. It had a bad spark plug wire that the dealer had a hard time figuring out (pissed me off). Hmmmmmmmmmm…that’s the sum total of problems I had.

        It was good basic transportation.

        Oh ya, the Focus was production constrained.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Maybe some businesses really aren’t in it to make a profit, considering the number of promotions my local Ford dealers have advertised to saturation level for a car that was production constrained. You’d think they’d have been resistant to heavy discounting, considering the way the same dealers gouged on the early Raptors and anything else Ford comes up with that people actually want more of than is available.

        Glad your Tempo was good to you. I rode in a bunch of them back in the day, and the automatic ones chunked off downshifts as you rolled to stop like they were never going to move again. More than a couple of them sent friends’ parents to other brands for the first time. A new Merkur XR4Ti my mother test drove downshifted with equal violence.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        And I could say the exact same thing about the 2011 Corolla six months ago when Toyota was giving them away on lease deals, $1000 cash on the hood if you bought, and the strength of the Yen sucking away almost every penny of margin.

        Amazing how you claim Ford doesn’t care about profits, when they didn’t get a bailout, and have been profitable.

        Merkur xR4Ti was a totally different engine and transmission (although displacement for both were 2.3 liters – the Tempo 2.3L was designed specifically for that car.

      • 0 avatar
        vbofw

        Cinjsd the focus was without a doubt production constrained until the last couple months. Nullo can probably verify but I think it was a dashboard part. As an anecdote I tried to test drive a Titanium in September and they said they’d call me back in a month when they were hoping to get one. Never did. But the focus finally being targeted by the Mike Roe commercials this month says to me they finally started building up before year end.

        In any event, agreed the focus’ showing had to be worst than Dearborn’s forecasts. Being production constrained right at launch isn’t great, but I suspect it’s a lot more of underestimating the impact of a downmarket Jetta. And the Cruze is more formidable than I would’ve guessed.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I wasn’t suggesting that Ford doesn’t want to make a profit, I was suggesting that my local Ford dealers must not be profit motivated if all the advertising they’ve done showing discounts on the Focus hasn’t been backed up by available cars. It certainly looks like they’ve got Focuses on the lots, but maybe I can’t tell them apart from Fiestas. I doubt it though.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      That’s what happens when you price a vehicle right. I’m also going to guess that some of the volume is due to the previous ‘high-ball’ perception of the Jetta. When you cheapen a vehicle, people come running for a ‘deal.’

      And now the Focus is a high margin vehicle. Strange days.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      @CJinSD

      Assuming “SD” = San Diego, perhaps part of it is that you are in an area that just does not buy American cars? Seems like the Civic and Corolla are the standard Southern California cockroaches.

      Per my car salesman buddy, they are selling very well here in the opposite corner of the country – to the point where they are often pre-sold before they get off the truck. No idea what the deals are, but I doubt there is substantial cash on the hood. The Japanese just DO NOT have a rabid following here – too many years of rustbuckets. Though Subaru gets a pass on this.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I wonder if Ford is sweating their decision to replace their high value, practical Escape with another over-styled, cramped, sticker shocker.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      As far as I know there are no reviews of the 2013 Escape yet, and I don’t have pricing available yet, so I’m guessing you don’t either. Therefore, calling it cramped and a sticker shocker seems a bit premature.

      Wheelbase and width are both up on the new Escape, so there’s a good chance it will be at least as roomy, if not roomier, than the outgoing model. As for pricing, it will likely go up some, and incentives will be greatly reduced just as it was with the 2012 Focus, but even though Ford sold less Focuses this year than last year, with an average transaction price thousands higher it’s quite likely that the profits increased even on the lower volume.

      The current Escape has its charms, but the Panther is a great example of what happens when you let a vehicle get by on being a value proposition. Sales will eventually slip away until the model can’t be sustained. The current Escape platform has been updated and modernized about as far as it can go, it’s time for a clean sheet redesign which is why the all new one is coming out.

      • 0 avatar
        FromaBuick6

        No rational person is suggesting that the old Escape continue on forever. The question is whether the move to flashy styling and an emphasis on expensive luxury/tech options is a wise move. The old Escape sold well because it was a good value for the money and probably because of the conservative styling. Same goes for the Fusion.

        Enthusiasts have been carping for years about Euro this and hatchback that. Now that Ford is granting their wish, it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

        Given the staggering number of cheapass Jettas VW sold this year, I’m guessing most consumers won’t even notice the difference.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        I had a chance to get some decent seat time in the new Jetta recently (returning a rental for a customer whose previous car was totaled out and who purchased a new Focus). My impression was that it wasn’t as nice as the ’04 (maybe ’05?) GTI that a friend of mine had owned, but it was still a decent car. It’s certainly roomy, and it doesn’t feel too cheap unless you start touching everything. The 2.5 I5 wasn’t as awful as I remembered it being, and even had some pep.

        I think that VWs have in recent years had a bit more brand cache than American or Japanese cars to the typical (i.e. non-enthusiast) car shopper simply by virtue of their German origin. The Jetta and Golf were typically pricier than a similar Focus, Corolla, Civic, etc. Now that VW is offering a car that’s not only bigger but price evenly or cheaper than the competition I don’t think the success is too hard to explain. The key will of course be how well they hold up. Perhaps the simplified cars will be easier on maintenance.

        The negative reception by the automotive press hasn’t hurt the Jetta for the same reason that negative opinions amongst food-writers haven’t reduced wait times at the Olive Garden – the enthusiast community for any particular interest is much smaller than the general mainstream public that still takes part, but who trust their own instincts and opinions over the so-called experts.

        As far as the Escape goes, GM has made a killing with the new swoopy Equinox compared to it’s more conservatively-styled value-driven predecessor. On the lot I get about as many people who comment about how the Escape looks too much like an older SUV as I do people who like that look. It’s certainly a gamble any time a quick-selling vehicle undergoes a radical change, but at long as the new model does everything the old one did, plus more, and does it better, I think even the fans of the older one will accept the styling change.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Nullo, I think CJ is partially right. The cramped and over priced comments are just typical backlash from someone who hates much about the US auto industry, and as you pointed out, are based on zero data. Lets hope that he does not turn out to be correct, but for now that comment does not mean anything. But I fully agree with the style and value comment. I firmly believe that most of those buyers who gravitate to Escapes like the “real” SUV look. Escapes look and feel much like scaled down old school SUVs but without the high cost of operation and other baggage that comes with large(er) SUVs. I totally get the Panther analogy, but if the new Escape does not offer the same virtues that the old one does, those buyers will start comparison shopping. Some may well end up in the new Escape, but many may end up buying something else.

    • 0 avatar
      toxicroach

      My wife seems to be a fairly solid gauge of mainstream reaction to cars. She reacted very very positively to the new Escape. Really positively.

      I think it’ll do just fine.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      Stodgy-styling in the SUV world can be as much of a postive as a negative. As an example, consider the Jeep Patriot vs. Compass. The squared-off Patriot continues to have solid sales with the same body it was introduced with. Sales of the Compass, OTOH, were dismal until an update which brought it in line with the more cohesive styling of the new Grand Cherokee.

      The old Escape continues to enjoy solid sales because it’s a good value (big money on the hood) and the boxy styling has held up well (similiar to the Patriot). I, for one, like the more practical boxy SUVs and only time will tell if the styling direction of the new Escape will be as much of a success as the old one.

      Not to mention the archaic styling (yet solid sales, year-to-year) of the ultimate box, the Jeep Wrangler (and that’s with one of the worst reliability/repair records).

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      “I wonder if Ford is sweating their decision to replace their high value, practical Escape with another over-styled, cramped, sticker shocker.”

      Probably not as much as Honda is sweating redoing the Civic and its rubbermaid interior after only a year on the market! When Consumer reports speaks, the suits quiver in their boots apparently…

      “Krisher says Honda execs confirmed that the early redo, but say they’re just trying to stay ahead of the competition. The compact segment got pretty much a complete batch of redesigned models this year. “It’s about how do we get two or three laps ahead of the competition,” American Honda Executive VP John Mendel told Krisher.”

      Now there’s as fine a piece of utter corporate BS as I’ve ever read.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    A couple of things. First, the economy and employment have pretty much flat-lined for the last 4 years. There were about 145 million working Americans before the storm broke in Sept 2008 and there are about 141 million now. That translates into little or no growth in the number of buyers.

    Second, the clean affordable late model used car has vanished from the market place, and will not return soon. Few new cars were sold in 2008, 2009, and 2010, their absence will raise the cost of new cars for several years.

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    I noticed that the seperated twins from GM did not total together more than the Ford F’s. I thought they ususally do and just let Ford Yell Look at my F’s.

    BTW, The F150 and the Larger F’s are not the same truck. Why do they get to total them together anyway?

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      GM usually sells less but not by too much. If Ford could only count F-150s while Ram and GM compiled all their full-sizers, the totals would be harder to decipher. 1/2 tons make up about 80% of the full-size market.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      Silverado and Sierra 1500, 2500 and 3500 are counted in the totals. Ditto for the Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500.

      While the bodies of the Dodge and GM products are mostly similar to the 1500 models, the 2500 and 3500 models are not the same truck either at a chassis and powertrain level.

      F-Series also includes the F-450, 550 and 650, but these sales are marginal to the total.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    WE MISS YOU ED

  • avatar
    Pch101

    TrueCar, which looks at as much data as anyone, has released a grade sheet for the industry by manufacturer and by brand.

    TrueCar ranked Saab above Toyota. Forgive me if I’m a bit skeptical about that.

    despite launching a brand-new Focus (which had a disappointing 2011)

    Focus sales for CY 2011 were about 175,000. Even if the fleet numbers are high, that’s still high enough to be competitive, although not a class leader.

    Chrysler’s turnaround continues apace, with 26.2% corporate volume growth, but with truck volume dropping in an otherwise strong market for the segment

    Chrysler’s press release indicates that its truck sales were up 27% for the year. Ram pickup sales were up 23% for the year, and comprised 18% of CY 2011 sales. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/chrysler-group-llc-reports-december-2011-us-sales-increased-37-percent-full-year-sales-up-26-percent-136653443.html

    What’s interesting, though, is that Chrysler has no home runs in its portfolio. Aside from the pickups, the only things that Chrysler has that sell more than 100,000 units are the minivans (many of which go to rental), the Grand Cherokee and the Wrangler. Even though the 200 is selling in higher volumes than the Sebring, it’s still well behind its competition.

    One has to wonder how sustainable this is over the long run. Even with generous platform sharing, it must be more costly to sell a bunch of low-volume nameplates than it would be to offer just a couple of high volume ones.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      When all you’ve been doing is hitting foul balls, bloopers to the outfield, and striking out, you don’t need home runs. You just need some singles and a few stand up doubles to work your way back to a winning streak.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Ultimately, this focus on sales numbers is just silly. PROFIT is all that really matters and the Focus is the poster child for this. Does anyone believe Ford made less money selling fewer new Foci than they made selling old Foci? It is entirely possibly that they were losing money on every old Focus they sold once the gigantic incentives were taken into account. Toyota is practically giving Corollas away at the moment – how much money are they making on them? Only the accountants know.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Ford’s premium pricing strategy will not be sustainable. Ford is currently sitting with a 120+ days supply of Fiesta and a 90+ days supply of Focus, per an industry analyst I heard on The John Bachelor radio show. This was supposed to be a POSITIVE segment about Ford, but he thinks that Ford will either have to cut production of Fiesta/Focus or start laying some heavy money on the hood, both of which will eat into the high profits they are currently generating for these models. The Fusion has done well this year because people are sticker shocked by the Focus price. Fusion sales are up, with Focus down. I predict the same fate awaits the 2013 Fusion if they try the same premium pricing strategy. After the early adapters buy one, they will end up looking overpriced vs. competitors, much as the Fiesta and Focus do now.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Fusion sales are up, with Focus down.

      Focus sales for 2010: 172,421

      Focus sales for 2011: 175,717

      I’m pretty sure that 175,717 isn’t a smaller number than 172,421. The difference is small enough that one could say that sales were flat, but they definitely were not down.

      As for the Fusion, CY 2011 sales were up by 28,848 units. But sales of the Mercury Milan twin fell from 28,912 units in 2010 to zero in 2011. Net-net, sales of the Fusion platform for 2011 were essentially the same.

      http://media.ford.com/images/10031/Dec11sales.pdf

      • 0 avatar
        mjz

        Thank you, I stand corrected. However, it doesn’t change the fact that the Focus is underperforming in sales in the C-segment, especially since it is an all-new model that has been lauded in the press. Plus the fact that it is offered as BOTH a sedan and hatchback, unlike the competition. Outsold by all-new Chevy Cruze, Hyundai Elantra and VW Jetta(!). I think this relates directly to Ford’s pricing strategy, and if they want to keep the sales up, they are going to have to do something about that.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        But to a point, who cares? Ford is making a FAT profit on every Fiesta and Focus they sell, and I bet they will make a FAT profit on every new style Fusion too. To a large extent, the top of the sales chart is bought and paid for with incentives. As I mentioned previously, Toyota is GIVING away Corollas in my neck of the woods, and while I doubt VW sells many of those stripper 2.0l Jettas, I bet they lose money on every one of them they do sell.

        People will have to get used to the idea that smaller cars do not need to be cheap penalty boxes. Those who do want a cheap penalty box can buy a Corolla, those who want a nice car in that segment can buy a Focus.

        BTW, my take on why the new Jetta is doing so well has nothing to do with the price or the interior – it is simply that it just looks like a car. No wierd cut lines or headlights bluring into the top of the fenders, just simple, handsome, conservative, GERMAN (pre-Bangle) looks. Plain is not a bad thing if the proportions are perfect. Which is something the Koreans need to learn.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        But to a point, who cares?

        It isn’t as simple as that. Cars in these segments have to be sold with a combination of margin and volume, in order to amortize the production costs.

        While it isn’t necessary to be at the top of the segment, being at the bottom of the segment would probably be a problem. At these prices, it isn’t possible for a major automaker to profit strictly on the margin.

        That, and the compact segment is a good segment for identifying and capturing long-term customers. One of the goals of compact sales should be to develop long-term loyalty, since many of the buyers are younger and have a lot of car buying years ahead of them. It can be worth leaving a bit of money on the table if it creates the pathway to a customer who will buy several more cars in his lifetime.


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