As the American auto industry soared past 2014’s output on the way to a record-setting year of new vehicle sales volume, the rising tide did not lift all boats.
Smart, Bentley, Dodge, Maserati, Jaguar, Fiat, Volkswagen, Scion, and Buick all sold fewer vehicles in 2015 than in 2014. The year-over-year rate of growth produced by Cadillac, Mini, Mazda, Chevrolet, Toyota, Chrysler, and Ford was, in each case, slower than the industry’s overall rate of expansion.
Thirteen automobile brands did, however, sell more new vehicles than at any time in their respective histories.
Arranged in reversing order of total sales, these are they.
Porsche’s U.S. operations generated fewer sales of the 911, Boxster, and Panamera in 2015 than in 2014. Did it matter? Of course not. In addition to the best-selling Cayenne’s 2-percent increase (to 16,474 units), Porsche’s second-best-selling Macan was up 87 percent to 13,533 units. In the doldrums of 2009, Porsche sold 19,696 vehicles in America. 51,756 Porsches were sold in America in 2015.
It’s difficult to imagine how an automobile brand which only sells premium SUVs would fail to sell at a record-setting pace in a market that’s gone crazy for premium SUVs. Land Rover, oft derided by the automotive press for poor reliability, features a fresh product lineup and majors on moving its most expensive products. Land Rover’s three-pronged Range Rover sub-brand accounted for 53,863 of Land Rover’s 70,582 U.S. sales in 2015.
Brand-wide Audi sales grew 11 percent to 202,202 units in 2015, the sixth consecutive year of U.S. sales growth for Volkswagen’s key upmarket brand. The A3, the first Audi linked to Volkswagen’s TDI scandal, generated 35,984 U.S. sales in 2015, more than in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 combined. The new Q3 also added nearly 10,000 additional sales, while the brand’s best-selling model, the Q5, jumped 23 percent to 52,006 sales, more than double the Q5’s 2011 U.S. sales total.
A late charge by Lexus to end 2015 as America’s top-selling premium brand, a title Lexus hasn’t held since 2010, fell just short. Total Lexus sales grew 11 percent, year-over-year, to 344,601 units — 1,422 sales shy of BMW. Predictably, Lexus car volume was down 2 percent in 2015, in line with the decline of the overall car market. But with the NX fully on stream and the declining RX still the best-selling premium brand vehicle in America in its transition year, Lexus sold more SUVs/crossovers than cars.
No premium auto brand in America sold more new vehicles in 2015 than BMW, a fact which once would have been considered tasteless given the need for luxury brands to be considered “exclusive.” BMW sales increased just 2 percent to 346,023 units in 2015, modest gains for the top-selling auto brand as the X3, X1, Z4, 7-Series, 6-Series, 5-Series, and 3-Series – America’s top-selling premium brand passenger car – all declined.
Excluding Sprinter and Metris vans, Mercedes-Benz USA sold 4 percent more new vehicles in 2015 than in 2014 for record-setting annual performance. Thanks to a 17-percent increase from six G models (G, GL, GLA, GLE, GLC/GLK) and the ML, despite a 3 percent car sales decrease, Mercedes-Benz sold 343,088 vehicles. Throw in 29,889 vans for a 372,977-unit total. The best-selling C-Class was America’s second-ranked premium brand car, up 15 percent to 86,080. Combined, the M-Class and its GLE successor were the next-largest contributors with 53,213 sales in 2015.
True, Ram doesn’t actually claim record-setting sales in 2015. Prior to its separation from Dodge, the vehicles which would one day constitute the Ram brand actually sold more vehicles in 2005. But since Ram became Ram, sales have never been this high. And the brand’s namesake model, the line of full-size pickup trucks, reported all-time record sales of 451,116 units in 2015. The brand, including commercial vans, was up 5 percent, year-over-year, to 493,807 units last year.
A 13 percent, year-over-year increase to 582,675 sales for Subaru’s U.S. outpost translates to a 118 percent improvement compared with 2011, as Subaru exited the recession having increased sales in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Subaru hasn’t looked back, and the streak continued in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. Most every nameplate gets in on the fun, save for the brand’s only non-AWD model — the BRZ. Impreza, WRX/STI, Legacy, Outback, Crosstrek, and Forester sales all increased in 2015. The latter three generate seven in ten Subaru sales.
An additional 22,188 minivan sales, the Sorento’s 13 percent jump to 116,249 units, and a 25-percent Sportage increase overcame mixed results in Kia’s overall flat car lineup in 2015. The aging Rio’s 34-percent decline stung. Kia also lost nearly 2,000 Cadenza sales and Optima volume was flat. The Soul, down 9 percent through the first half of 2015, ended the year up 1 percent with 147,133 sales, as 2015 was the boxy hatch’s sixth consecutive year of growth. Total Kia volume rose 8 percent to 625,818 sales in the U.S. in 2015.
A 5-percent uptick to 761,710 U.S. sales in 2015 represented a seventh consecutive year of sales growth for the Hyundai brand, which nevertheless did not manage to increase its share of the U.S. market. Against the grain, Hyundai car volume increased in 2015, thanks largely to the Elantra’s sterling 9-percent increase in the fifth-generation model’s final full year. The 17-percent increase in utility vehicle volume was the real ticket for Hyundai in 2015, however, as the Tucson’s 34-percent improvement joined the Santa Fe’s 10-percent jump. The Santa Fe and Tucson only combined for a quarter of Hyundai’s U.S. volume in 2015, low by industry standards.
Not for the first time will we point out that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ U.S. sales volume doesn’t appear nearly so healthy without Jeep’s meteoric rise. Excluding the Jeep brand in 2015 would have resulted in a 1.5-percent decline in FCA sales in 2015. With Jeep, FCA sales jumped 7.2 percent across the Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Ferrari, Fiat, Jeep, Maserati, and Ram brands. Jeep volume jumped 25 percent to 865,028 in 2015. Even without the Renegade’s additional 60,946 sales, Jeep would still have blown past its one-year-old record by nearly 112,000 units.
Total U.S. Nissan brand sales increased 6 percent to 1,351,420 units in 2015 despite flat car volume and a 17 percent loss from its trio of truckiest vehicles: Frontier, Titan, and discontinued Xterra. The Rogue’s steady climb — sales jumped 44 percent to 287,190 in 2015 — was Nissan’s key answer to issues in the car lineup, where sales of the Altima, Cube, GT-R, Leaf, and Maxima combined to fall 7 percent.
The launch of one all-new vehicle, the HR-V, and replacements for two popular vehicles, Pilot and Civic, bolstered Honda’s volume in 2015 even as sales of the brand’s best-selling Accord tumbled by more than 8 percent. The CR-V’s 3-percent sales growth compares unfavourably with the SUV/CUV sector’s rapid movement, but 2015 was nevertheless the fourth consecutive year of record-setting CR-V sales. Pilot volume jumped 25 percent, the HR-V added 41,969 sales in the final eight months of the year, and Civic volume jumped 20 percent in the final one-third of 2015. Compared with 2014, calendar year Honda brand U.S. sales rose 3 percent to 1,409,386 units.