By on September 18, 2017

Old Mazda dealer- Burdick Mazda - Image: Mazda“We have been working more closely with our dealers to evolve their businesses and through that process,” Mazda tells Automotive News, “some new dealers have chosen to begin working with us, while others have made the decision to leave the Mazda brand.”

Mazda has been open about its goal of earning 2 percent of the U.S. market while being forthright about the brand’s intentions to do so only on solid ground. This means fewer discounts, a premium vibe, and the kind of higher margins that make dealers happy.

On the dealer side of the equation, Mazda now wants those dealers to improve. In some cases, that means a new location. In others, a new exterior design is necessary. More thoroughly trained staff members is key, as well. But it’ll be slow going. Of Mazda’s roughly 600 dealers, the brand acknowledges that some have forsaken the automaker, though Mazda won’t say how many. Since the efforts to revamp dealers began last year, only 26 have been upgraded so far. By the end of the decade, Mazda believes roughly one-sixth of its network will have undergone a remodel.

In the meantime, Mazda is getting further away from reaching its 2-percent goal. (Read More…)

By on September 1, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Atlas - Image: VolkswagenIn 2009, during the depths of a global financial crisis the likes of which generations had never seen, Volkswagen of America set forth on a nine-year plan that would more than triple sales to 800,000 units in 2018.

Stuff happened. A crisis (or two) got in the way. An overly Americanized product lineup lacking in utility vehicles underachieved. Volkswagen lost its right to sell diesel models in America. Volkswagen will struggle to sell 400,000 new vehicles in the United States in 2018.

Although at first it seemed possible — Volkswagen sales grew far faster than the market as a whole exiting the recession — the 800,000-unit sales goal has long since been abandoned. By 2014, before the diesel emissions scandal even broke, now-departed Volkswagen of America CEO Michael Horn was questioning the timing of the 800,000-sales goal.

As the summer of 2017 approaches a close, however, Volkswagen’s global boss Herbert Diess has a new, seemingly unrealistic goal for the brand’s U.S. operations, Bloomberg reports. With a stronger SUV lineup, Volkswagen wants to grow its U.S. market share to 5 percent in 2020.

Volkswagen’s market share in 2017? Less than 2 percent. (Read More…)

By on August 11, 2017

2006 Toyota Camry XLE - Image: Toyota“This was the harshest move in consumer preference the industry has ever seen.”
– Bob Carter, Executive Vice President, Toyota North America

37 percent of the new vehicles sold in the United States in the first seven months of 2017 were passenger cars. That’s correct. 63 percent of the new vehicles now sold in America are pickup trucks, SUVs, crossovers, and vans.

But how did we get to this 37-percent basement? When did we get here? How long did it take to get here? And is it really the basement? (Read More…)

By on July 18, 2017

2018 Hyundai Sonata - Image: HyundaiLaunched for the 2015 model year, the seventh Hyundai Sonata was not the avant-garde successor to the 2011-2014 Sonata for which many hoped. The new Sonata, while objectively better in virtually every way, was missing a key ingredient.

For 2018, Hyundai has thoroughly refreshed the seventh-generation Sonata, hoping that a far more aggressive front fascia will draw more eyes. Hyundai went much further than the superficial, however, by stiffening the Sonata’s structure, upgrading to an eight-speed automatic, and including more safety equipment as standard fit.

Yet while Toyota and Honda believe their new Camry and new Accord can ignite the midsize sedan segment in a bid to wage war against a crossover onslaught, Hyundai’s goals for the refreshed 2018 Sonata are far more modest. Much more modest. Más modesto. (Read More…)

By on July 17, 2017

2017 BMW X1 white off road - Image: BMWDepending where you live, it’s possible the shift away from luxury cars to luxury SUVs is dramatically more apparent than America’s nationwide figures suggest.

In 48 of 50 states, luxury utility vehicles outsell luxury cars. In seven states, premium brand utility vehicles form more than 65 percent of the premium market.

But according to Edmunds, the two states in which luxury cars still outperform luxury utility vehicles account for 31 percent of America’s luxury SUV market. (Read More…)

By on July 12, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry Georgetown Kentucky assembly line - Image: ToyotaAs Toyota watches its RAV4 quickly climb sales charts, the Japanese behemoth estimates it will sell fewer copies of its new-for-2018 eighth-generation Camry than it has in six years.

According to Reuters, Toyota is targeting 30,000 monthly Camry sales in the U.S. once the 2018 model fully takes over. That’s 360,000 Camry sales per year, well below the 412,000-unit average Toyota has managed over the last half-decade; 7-percent below last year’s output.

Toyota considers the thought of overall midsize sedan demise “inconceivable” but is by no means blind to the segment’s evolution. Recent deaths, such as the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger, followed the disappearance of the Mitsubishi Galant, Suzuki Kizashi, and domestic nameplate removals, as well. Remember the Mercury Milan, Pontiac G6, and Saturn Aura?

But as the midsize segment struggles, Toyota looks down from its lofty perch and sees the odds increasingly turning in the Camry’s favor. “If other automakers left the sedan market to focus more on SUVs,” Camry chief engineer Masato Katsumata says, “that would be an opportunity to expand our market share of the segment.” (Read More…)

By on July 11, 2017

2017 Honda CR-V Touring – Image: Honda

What’s big these days? You know the answer. Avocados. Leasing. Saying “it me” on Twitter. But above all else, crossovers and SUVs.

Not only have utility vehicles become the driving force in the North American automotive marketplace, ownership of these versatile vehicles is apparently becoming harder and harder to quit. More than ever, owners of crossovers and SUVs find themselves bolting from their old utility vehicle into a brand new one.

As for sedan buyers, never has love drained so quickly from a relationship. (Read More…)

By on June 12, 2017

2016 Chevrolet Cruze Grille logo, Image: General Motors

General Motors has decided to further shrink its outgoing fleet of rental vehicles to prioritize its in-house vehicle lending service, Maven, and focus on getting newer cars to customers. That does mean building fewer vehicles overall, but GM shouldn’t care if it can keep raking in the profits — something rental fleets aren’t particularly good at in lower volumes, unless you’re the one charging a daily rate.

Alan Batey, president of GM’s North American operations, claims sales to rental fleets should drop by about 50,000 units this year and an undisclosed amount in 2018. It follows the company’s trend to scale back fleet sales in general. Big businesses accounted for 16.1 percent of its total U.S. sales in 2014, but that was reduced to 11.7 percent in 2016.  (Read More…)

By on May 22, 2017

Bill Ford and Mark Fields 2018 Ford F150 - Image: FordPrior to this morning’s announcement that outgoing Ford Motor Company CEO Mark Fields is “retiring,” Fields was in charge at the Blue Oval for nearly three years. Just a little more than ten quarters, to be more precise.

In eight of those quarters, Ford Motor Company U.S. market share declined, year-over-year.

Ford was not without excuse, of course. There was always market share to be taken if Ford wanted it. But an attempt to limit reliance on daily rental fleet sales, particularly with Ford’s passenger car division, did the automaker’s market share no favors. Ford’s transition from old F-150 to the new aluminum-bodied model was a major switch, too, and sales growth during the transition phase wasn’t easy to come by.

Nevertheless, Ford’s U.S. market share didn’t nosedive during the Mark Fields era. The burden on incoming CEO Jim Hackett’s shoulders won’t be the elevation of Ford Motor Company market share in the automaker’s home market.

No, it’s the price of a Ford share that matters right now. (Read More…)

By on May 15, 2017

2016 Mazda CX-9 - Image: Mazda“I am not comfortable with 2 percent. I’m comfortable with a good 2 percent.”
– Masahiro Moro, President and CEO, Mazda North American Operations

Mazda’s U.S. market share fell to a 10-year low in 2016 and hasn’t noticeably recovered in the first four months of 2017. A small lineup with no presence in key segments limits Mazda’s chances of becoming a major automaker.

But Mazda doesn’t want to be a major automaker. Mazda wants to be a small but profitable automaker with profitable dealers and loyal buyers.

Mazda also wants to carry greater sway in the U.S. market than it does at the moment. Only slightly. Fractionally more. Marginally, almost imperceptibly more. Only 1.7 percent of the new vehicles sold in the United States are Mazdas. Mazda wants 2 percent, surely a reasonable and easily attainable goal.

But Mazda’s North American boss, Masahiro Moro, has no intention of jumping up to that 2-percent marker rashly or hastily. (Read More…)

By on May 4, 2017

2017 Nissan Titan Crew Cab - Image: Nissan

After improving in 11 consecutive months, U.S. sales of pickup trucks declined 4 percent in April 2017.

8 of the 11 truck nameplates on offer in America sold less often in April 2017 than in April 2016, causing declines in both the dominant full-size pickup truck sector and in the until-this-year burgeoning midsize category.

One month does not a trend make, but April’s downturn didn’t represent the first batch of evidence suggesting a forthcoming pickup truck sales slowdown.

Granted, not all trucks are heading in the same direction.

Nissan Titan sales quadrupled in April 2017. (Read More…)

By on March 8, 2017

2018 Toyota C-HR, Image: Toyota

Today’s marketplace is a crowded affair. Each manufacturer seems to sit down at the table every new model year with more. More variants, more things with all-wheel drive, more CUVs, and more vehicles which split the pieces of the sales pie down to ever smaller fragments. This fragmentation leads to the eye splinter above, whatever the hell Toyota thinks it is, which will clog up parking lots everywhere starting next year.

To cure this portion issue, I think some models need to die, and I want you to help me choose which ones.

(Read More…)

By on September 15, 2016

2016 Toyota Tacoma blue

The Toyota Tacoma entered the year in an enviable position. Soaking up nearly half of all sales in the growing midsize pickup segment, the venerable nameplate’s spot on top of podium seemed unshakable.

Eight months later, Toyota seems spooked. The Tacoma’s market share is eroding, down to 38 percent of the midsize segment in August as its competitors surge. To stay ahead, the automaker plans to send a bundle of cash south of the border to boost production, Automotive News reports. (Read More…)

By on July 8, 2016

Flint Silverado assembly plant

“Has GM lost market share? Yes.”
Alan Batey, President, GM North America,
Wall Street Journal, July 6, 2016

From 17.7 percent in the first-half of 2015, General Motors’ U.S. market share tumbled by more than a point to 16.6 percent in the first-half of 2016.

But, GM’s North American president points out in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, profitability is on the rise.

TrueCar estimates that, as a percentage of the average transaction price, GM’s incentive spend in June 2016 fell by half-a-percentage point to 10.9 percent, year-over-year. As for the average transaction price, TrueCar says GM’s rose 6.5 percent in June 2016 to $36,489. That is 9.4-percent higher than Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s June 2016 ATP, which also required greater incentives to achieve according to TrueCar. Meanwhile, Batey wrote in The Journal that GM has “reduced low-margin sales to daily rental companies in the U.S. by 88,500 units.”

This explains the marriage of two conflicting subjects: GM’s decreased volume in a growing market and GM’s corresponding increase in profitability. (Read More…)

By on August 19, 2015

TTAC SUV market share chart July 2015

U.S. sales of SUVs and crossovers jumped 14 percent in July 2015, a year-over-year improvement equal to more than 67,000 extra sales compared with July 2014.

As a result, just under 36 percent of the U.S. auto industry’s volume was produced by utility vehicles in July 2015, a three-percentage-point increase over the same period one year ago.

Passenger car volume, meanwhile, slid 3 percent last month, a drop of around 18,000 sales as the overall market grew by more than 5 percent, or 75,000 units. (Read More…)

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