The Truth About Cars » Sales The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Apr 2014 05:18:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Sales Cain’s Segments: Canada Recap April 2014 Tue, 15 Apr 2014 13:23:35 +0000 TTAC-Q1-Canada-recap-chart-best-selling-SUVs
March 2014’s Canadian auto sales results displayed a further willingness on the part of buyers to gradually forsake cars and turn to smaller crossovers.

Despite the increased strength of the Toyota Tundra and Ram Pickup range, pickup truck sales growth has stalled, and indeed reversed.

Year-over-year, minivans are getting back into the swing of things, but not to the extent that they’re selling as well as they did two years ago.

Although sales at BMW, the second-ranked luxury brand through the first quarter, are down slightly this year, overall premium brand auto sales are up 7% in a market that’s managed less than a 1% improvement over the last three months. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi own 52% of the market for luxury auto brand vehicles. Mercedes-Benz has the advantage in Canada of not just selling a new entry-level sedan, the CLA, but also the more popular entry-level hatchback B-Class, which accounts for 16% of Mercedes-Benz passenger car sales.

Canadians are very nearly as willing to support traditional Detroit-based brands as their neighbours to the south – GM, FoMoCo, Chrysler/FCA own 45% of 2014’s U.S. market, 44% – but the same does not go for Cadillac and Lincoln. Cadillac is America’s fourth-ranked premium brand, but Cadillac slides to seventh in Canada. Lincoln ranks ninth in Canada, but in the U.S., where Lincoln volume is 19 times stronger, it moves up to eighth. Land Rover sales are 52% stronger than Lincoln sales in Canada, while Lincoln sales in the U.S. are 65% stronger than Land Rover sales. 1.6% of the new vehicles sold in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2014 were Cadillacs and Lincolns; only 0.8% in Canada.

Canadians still made Ford the top-selling auto brand in Q1 of 2014. Ford brand sales tumbled 11% in March and 8% in Q1, however, as first quarter car sales slid 22% and the F-Series, approaching replacement, fell 6%. (YOY, Ford’s share of a pickup truck market that’s down 2.5% has fallen from 38% to 37%.) The Fusion is currently Canada’s second-best-selling midsize car after leading the category in calendar year 2013. In fact, the Mustang is the only Ford car product to record a year-over-year sales increase in Q1.

As a whole, Ford Canada was outsold by the Chrysler family of brands in each of the last three months. (GM Canada outsold Ford/Lincoln in December.) Ford had become the usual leader, but even with the Chrysler Group’s total lack of car success in 2014, Dodge/Ram/Jeep/Chrysler/Fiat have opened up a 7726-unit lead through three months. Chrysler Canada says their car sales are down 21% this year. Even if we exclude the 200 and Avenger (about to be replaced and defunct, respectively) from the equation, the company’s car sales were down 1%.

But the Ram truck lineup, Dodge’s Grand Caravan, and the Jeep brand currently account for seven out of every ten Chrysler Canada sales, and the volume achieved by that group is up 12% in 2014. Minivan sales in Q1, 65% of which came from the Grand Caravan and Town & Country, are up 7%.

Cars are still capable of succeeding in the Canadian auto market. Sales of the best-selling Civic, Canada’s third-best-selling vehicle overall, are up 10% this year. Yet cars are currently responsible for less than 41% of the industry’s volume, and the decline can be spotted in the Civic’s closest rival, the Hyundai Elantra, which is down 9%. Hyundai and Kia, which combine to sell more passenger cars in Canada than any other automotive conglomerate by far, have seen their car sales slide 9%.

As a symbol of the tussle between traditional passenger cars and newfangled crossovers, consider the BMW 3-Series and Audi Q5. No other premium brand products have sold as often as this pair. They’re tied for the lead as Canada’s top-selling luxury brand automobiles through three months. With 1664 sales each, they’re not uncommon: only 53 nameplates have generated greater volume in early 2014.

The Q5 is playing on the winning side. 55% of vehicles sold in Canada in 2014 by Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Cadillac, Lincoln, and their luxury rivals have been SUVs or crossovers of one kind or another.

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Cain’s Segments: Muscle Cars Fri, 11 Apr 2014 18:43:11 +0000 2010_Dodge_Challenger_RT_Classic

The Ford Mustang is selling more frequently in 2014 than it did in the same period of 2013. Ford is also grabbing greater U.S. market share in the relatively high-volume muscle car sector.

This might seem surprising given that Ford is set to replace their fifth-gen pony car with a new edition for 2015 – don’t people want to wait for the new model? Yet such a turn of events isn’t unprecedented, and it’s not as though a few current Mustangs couldn’t be sold at this moment because their buyers find the next Mustang less desirable.

Unlike the Porsche Boxster’s class of European roadsters, the sales achieved by the Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Dodge Challenger garner attention not just because they stir up the passions of automotive enthusiasts but also because the numbers are high. These aren’t rare cars; their ubiquity can be traced back both to their affordability and to their history.

Moreover, there may be no sports/sporting/sporty car sub-segment where the competitors are so easily identifiable. While it’s true that loyal Mustang owners may never consider the Camaro, the three cars in this group are still plotted on the same connect-the-dots map. The same can’t really be said of the Scion FR-S (hardtop, and a backseat) and Mazda MX-5 Miata (two-seat droptop), nor even the Honda Civic Si (two doors and a trunk) and Volkswagen Golf GTI (hatchback).

And so we compare rear-wheel-drive muscle. Even at the end of winter. Even in a transition year.

The Mustang, sales of which have improved by 2276 units through one quarter of 2014, is America’s 60th-best-selling vehicle overall, less than 1700 sales back of the Lexus RX, GMC Acadia, Jeep Patriot, and Subaru Impreza/WRX. It ranks just ahead of the Nissan Pathfinder, Chevrolet Camaro, Nissan Frontier, and Kia Forte.

Camaro sales have increased by a less impressive 370 units. The Camaro is America’s 62nd-best-selling vehicle so far this year.

Both the Camaro and Mustang have stolen market share from the declining, aging Dodge Challenger. Never capable of challenging the Mustang and Camaro in terms of U.S. volume, Dodge has nevertheless increased its Challenger sales volume every year since the car arrived in 2008. In 2013 there were twice as many Challengers sold in America as there were in 2009.

The first quarter of 2014 has seen the Challenger’s market share in the category fall to 22% from 28.5% one year ago. Meanwhile, the Mustang has outsold the Camaro by a grand total of 28 units in 2014 – 681 units in March, specifically – and its share in the category has grown to 39% from 33.9% in Q1 of 2013. Camaro market share is up from 37.6% to 39%.

To better understand just how common these cars are, however, consider the total sales from individual automakers. Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge combined for 50,198 Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger sales in the first three months of 2014, 16,519 units more than the combined sales at Fiat, Mini, and Scion. The Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger’s total beats the whole Mazda brand by 8230 units; Infiniti by 18,977 units. The Mustang and Camaro, individually, outsell Volvo.

2014 won’t necessarily be a reliable barometer for American muscle car sales, with a redesign of the Challenger yet to be introduced, the aging Camaro, and the Mustang’s replacement. But the first three months of 2014 could still be an accurate gauge for what we can expect as the pages on this year’s calendar flip over.

And by the by, GM also sold 8179 Corvettes during the first three months of 2014, a 178% year-over-year increase.


3 mos.
3 mos.
Chevrolet Camaro
8624 8102 + 6.4% 19,568 19,198 + 1.9%
Dodge Challenger
4882 6132 - 20.4% 11,034 14,540 - 24.1%
Ford Mustang
9305 7688 + 21.0% 19,596 17,320 + 13.1%
21,922 + 4.1% 50,198 51,058 - 1.7%
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Tesla Follows The Money, Launches Financing Arm Tue, 08 Apr 2014 17:29:12 +0000 550x365xtesla-model-s-logo-550x365.jpg.pagespeed.ic.C2rTVvi0LG

After setting up a retail lease program, Tesla is now moving closer towards a full-fledged captive financing arm, by launching a financing unit for corporate leases.

According to a statement released by Tesla,

The Tesla business lease is available through Tesla Finance, a subsidiary we’ve set up especially to offer this new product to business customers. The lease program completes a suite of products, including the Resale Value Guarantee and loans from our banking partners, that covers a comprehensive range of financing needs for Model S customers.

While Tesla touts the simplicity of the lease, which contains a simple agreement that can be completed electronically, the real news is the establishment of Tesla Finance. The business lease program could very well be a stepping stone to a full-blown captive financing arm for Tesla, which would enable them to expand sales of their future products to a wider customer base, as well as providing a new revenue channel for their auto manufacturing business.


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Cain’s Segments: Large Cars Tue, 08 Apr 2014 16:00:50 +0000 550x412xCharger-front-550x412.jpg.pagespeed.ic.KXQyYPzVIR

America’s large car category shed more than 18,000 sales in the first quarter of 2014 as new entities weren’t able to add enough sales to overcome the declines of established players.

The Nissan Maxima was the only volume-brand big car to record more sales in the first one-quarter of 2014 than during the first three months of 2013. In March, the Dodge Charger was the only volume-brand big car to generate a year-over-year sales increase.

March large car sales were down 5%, a loss of just under 3000 units.

Buick has posted only two months of improved LaCrosse sales in the United States in the last year. LaCrosse volume decreased in 2011 and 2012, then fell 17% in 2013 and is down 15% in 2014. Improved Regal sales over the last six months have softened the blow, but the Regal remains the lowest-volume Buick.

Elsewhere at GM, the desire to reposition the Impala upmarket has resulted in an anticipated sales decline. The Impala range continues to be one of America’s best-selling car lines: it ranks 15th among passenger cars year-to-date, down from 12th in Q1 2013. In a market where car sales have fallen 4% in 2014, GM’s car division is up 3% and Chevrolet car sales are up 6% (and 13% in March).

The Cruze’s 17% Q1 boost and the Corvette’s extra 5238 extra sales have carried the bulk of that increase. The SS, a car we knew was headed for niche status in its quest to steal sales from SRT Chryslers and Dodges, plays in the high-priced corner of this arena. Only 1283 have been sold since its introduction in the fall.

Chrysler and Dodge have combined to own 28.5% of the category’s early 2014 sales, up slightly from the 27.8% they achieved a year ago despite their decreased volume. Passenger car sales in Chrysler/Dodge/Fiat showrooms are down 20% this year as the Avenger dies off, the 200 awaits replacement, the Dart slides 30%, and the 300 and Charger suffer from the same affliction that is besetting other big cars.

Ford is kind enough to fill us in on specific Taurus Police Interceptor sales data. 887 of the 6576 Tauruses sold in the U.S. in March were not intended for civilians; 2285 of the 14,594 year-to-date. The Explorer Police Interceptor has generated 1415 more sales than its sedan counterpart so far this year. Sales of the conventional Taurus are down 28% to 12,309 units in 2014, less than what the Impala range managed in March alone. (Chevrolet has also sold 769 Caprice PPVs in 2014, up from 679 a year ago.)

Kia’s Cadenza has outsold the Hyundai Azera by 491 units since the Kia went on sale in April 2013. On four occasions between June and October of last year Kia managed to top 1000 units, selling more than 3300 Cadenzas in July and August combined. On admittedly subjective grounds, we’ve left the Hyundai Genesis and Equus, Kia K900, and Lexus ES off this list because of their premium standing. It’s arguable, and you will argue. But for the record, total Genesis sales were down 31% to 2170 units in March (down 35% to 5236 in Q1) in the lead-up to the replacement of the sedan’s portion of the lineup. Hyundai also sold 331 Equus luxo-barges and Kia sold its first 105 K900s. The ES was down by just 14 units to 6784 in March but is down 10% to 15,103 sales year-to-date.

Speaking of the Camry’s Lexus sibling, the latest Avalon got off to a rip-roaring start in December 2012, but those massive year-over-year increases were bound to come to an end. The bad news? Toyota isn’t selling as many Avalons this year as they did last year. The good news? Toyota should easily sell more than 50,000 Avalons this year, having sold an average of 31,000 Avalons per year between 2008 and 2012.

Nissan is having no problem selling more of their handsomely priced Maximas in 2014. But the year-over-year comparison only tells part of the story, as Maxima volume had fallen 9% to a four-year low in 2013, and Q1 2014 sales are actually down 17% compared with the first quarter of 2012. The Maxima’s replacement was foreshadowed by the Detroit auto show’s Sport Sedan Concept.

Passenger cars account for a smaller portion of the auto industry’s output this year than last. And after bringing in 7.9% of 2013’s first quarter car sales, these large cars are responsible for just 7.2% of America’s car market in 2014.

3 mos.
3 mos.
Buick LaCrosse
3550 4157 - 14.6% 10,522 11,372 - 7.5%
Chevrolet Impala
12,952 14,766 - 12.3% 36,858 44,343 - 16.9%
Chevrolet SS
350 865
Chrysler 300
5367 5686 - 5.6% 13,000 16,034 - 18.9%
Dodge Charger
10,816 9386 + 15.2% 24,956 26,098 - 4.4%
Ford Taurus
6576 7929 - 17.1% 14,594 19,442 - 24.9%
Hyundai Azera
760 1117 - 32.0% 2118 2709 - 21.8%
Kia Cadenza
868 2495
Nissan Maxima
6008 6088 - 1.3% 14,461 14,007 + 3.2%
Toyota Avalon
5946 6982 - 14.8% 13,295 17,525 - 24.1%
56,111 - 5.2% 133,164 151,530 - 12.1%
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QOTD: Honda Insight Failed Because Of Marketing Mon, 07 Apr 2014 21:47:59 +0000 2010_Honda_Insight_LX_--_10-03-2009

Did the second-generation Honda Insight fail in the marketplace because of a lack of marketing resources? If you said “yes”, then you may want to look at a gig at American Honda.

Speaking to Ward’s Auto Honda’s Jeff Conrad, the Insight, which was generally regarded as a far cry from the class-leading Toyota Prius, failed not because of its rather coarse hybrid system or its Prius-aping styling, but from the lack of marketing resources. Said Conrad

“We had an initial launch, we spent a few dollars, but then we wanted to grow volume in other places, and that’s where the marketing dollars went.”

Far from the 90,000 units Honda aimed for annually, the Insight sold just under 21,000 units in 2010, its best year ever.  Meanwhile, Prius is to hybrid as Hoover is to vacuum cleaner.

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Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Arrives In UK Showrooms Minus Premium Price Fri, 04 Apr 2014 12:04:34 +0000 03-2013-mitsubishi-outlander-phev-paris

Already available throughout Europe, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is now just arriving in United Kingdom showrooms at a post-credit price tag of £28,249 ($47,000 USD).

Autoblog Green reports the plug-in hybrid SUV without the £5,000 credit would start at £33,249 ($55,000 USD), but with the credit, the starting price is around the same level as its diesel-powered sibling, thus allowing UK consumers to pick the SUV they want without worrying too much about affordability.

As for what they will get out of their Outlander PHEV, the hybrid has a range of 32 miles in all-electric at a limited speed of 75 mph, and can tow over 3,000 lbs.

On sale now, the first SUVs will arrive in May, with the PHEV arriving in the United States in 2015, which will share a facelift with its U.S.-based gasoline-powered twin. No word on how the PHEV will be priced in the U.S.

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Subaru May Revive The WRX Hatchback Fri, 04 Apr 2014 11:10:18 +0000 2015-Subaru-WRX-blue-tree_rdax_646x396

Strong sales of the WRX hatchback in America have led Subaru to re-consider their “sedan only” policy for the current generation WRX.

An Australian enthusiast site spoke to WRX Project General Manager Masuo Takatsu, who said that strong demand for the hatch in America (where it accounted for half of WRX sales) has led them to re-consider their plans

“We have received strong interest from the US, where the hatchback was 50 per cent (of previous-generation WRX sales), so we’re now considering. The main target for WRX is the US…Japan is number two, Australia number three. Basically, we target these three markets.”

Takatsu said that limited resources were behind the lack of a hatch at launch, and interestingly, a two-pedal variant of the STi. Subaru’s Australian arm eventually expects the CVT powered WRX to account for as much as 50 percent of WRX sales, though the hatch has always been a much weaker play.

Oddly, the 90+ percent take rate for the sedan in Australia runs counter to its competitors like the VW Golf GTI, Ford Focus ST and Renaultsport Megane, which are all hatches. On the other hand, Americans are notoriously fond of sedans, but are the biggers buyers of WRX hatchbacks.

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Answer Of The Day: Reader Response To The ELR Sales Question Fri, 04 Apr 2014 09:00:17 +0000 cadillac-elr-ad

The best comment on the ELR sales and inventory figures post didn’t even come from the comment section. Instead, it ended up in the TTAC reader feedback inbox.

One of our readers, who asked for his name to be withheld, had this to say about my ELR post

Not trying to excuse the elr….but you have to look at inventory on it with some sort of intelligence… not the usual approach. There are about 500 elr dealers…. do the frickin math.

Two units per store. Some have more….some have less. You act as if there are ELRs pouring onto the streets.

OEM has to supply the dealers who signed up to sell it right? Launches have to fill the channels…. you write like Cadillac is drunkenly building these without a clue.

Our reader certainly has a point, but I still think that there are too many examples on the lots, given how these cars are selling.  And the high price tag – even if most of these cars will be leased – makes it a hard sell, especially against a Tesla Model S.

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March 2014 Sales Surge, With SAAR Pegged at 16.4 Million Units Tue, 01 Apr 2014 23:00:40 +0000 2013WranglerJKUR

March saw a 6 percent bump in auto sales, with a 16.4 million unit SAAR calming fears about a stagnant market. Light truck sales were up 11 percent, with passenger cars up by just one percent.

Among the top auto makers were Chrysler, with a 13 percent gain (mostly due to trucks, as the car-heavy Chrysler brand fell 23 percent), with Daimler up 11 percent and Volvo up 10 percent. Subaru and Mitsubishi also posted strong gains of 21 percent and 70 percent respectively. Honda was the lone auto maker to take a hit, down 2 percent, despite the Acura brand being up 11 percent.

Among brands, luxury labels like Lincoln, Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz all posted double digit gains. Buick was up 13 percent, while Jeep was up a whopping 47 percent. Mini posted a 40 percent decline (due to a new model changeover), while Scion was down 8 percent, with sales of the FR-S declining by 26 percent.

For a full table, see Automotive News.

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QOTD: Ram Beats Chevrolet For The First Time Since 1999, GM Gets Pouty Tue, 01 Apr 2014 22:06:20 +0000 2014-RAM-1500-Eco-Diesel-Exterior-001

For the first time since 1999, Ram trucks outsold Chevrolet in a monthly sales period, with Ram edging out the bowtie brand by just 285 trucks.

With 42,532 trucks sold in March, Ram just edged out Chevy’s 42,247 trucks, but lagged Ford, which moved just under 71,000 F-Series trucks.

GM spokesman Jim Cain issued a rather acid-tongued statement to Automotive News, telling the trade paper

“The 1980s called. They want their marketing strategy back…It’s really easy to deeply discount your truck, mine the subprime market and offer cheap lease deals to buy market share.”

Although I am a dubious authority figure when it comes to withholding sharply worded responses, I can’t help but wince when I see this quote by Cain, as well as his other comments about the Chevrolet Colorado rendering other trucks “obsolete”. Clearly, things aren’t going well over in GM’s truck department, but reacting with a response best left for a “deep background” conversation at a Detroit-area watering hole only serves to further telegraph that fact.

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Analysis: Three Shifts, Four Models A Profitable Formula For Daimler’s Front Drivers Thu, 20 Mar 2014 17:39:59 +0000 2013-03-05_Geneva_Motor_Show_8072

Strong sales of the Mercedes-Benz CLA have led Daimler to add a third shift at the Hungarian factory that produces the compact front-drive sedan, as well as the B-Class hatchback.

According to Bloomberg, Mercedes can’t get enough capacity for the new small cars based on their front-drive architecture. Even though parent company Daimler also builds the smaller A-Class, the B-Class and GLA compact crossover at a factory in Germany, they also had to contract out production of 100,000 units of the A-Class hatchback to Finland’s Valmet Automotive. In the United States, sales of the CLA have been strong, with over 14,000 units sold in 2013, despite being on sale for a mere four months. Although sales were weaker at the start of 2014, sources report that inventories are tight in many key markets, with most cars being pre-sold.

In our market, the CLA is a strong proposition for many buyers, offering an entry point into the Mercedes brand below the larger, rear-drive C-Class, at prices more in line with a well-equipped Honda Accord (the CLA starts at just under $30,000). But in world markets, specifically Europe, the CLA is crucial for Mercedes-Benz. A weak economy has hit young Europeans the hardest, leaving older buyers best positioned to buy new cars. Despite their affluence, they are, literally, a dying demographic.

On the other hand if there is indeed a “lost generation” of consumers, continuing to sell expensive vehicles on a volume basis is not necessarily sustainable over the long run. The CLA allows Mercedes to capture both older buyers looking to downsize, and appeal to younger buyers with less money, but premium aspirations, both in Europe and other markets worldwide. The latter demographic may not be conventionally wealthy, but they are used to brands and products that are considered to be luxury products, even if they don’t necessarily have the exorbitant price-tag of exclusive brands – think Starbucks, J.Crew and Apple.

This is the kind of car buyer that will gravitate to the CLA, and you can bet that the GLA will be also a smash hit in the nascent small-crossover segment. Like the CLA, it has the right badge and the right price tag, but with the added bonus of having the right form factor to sell not just in Europe and North America, but emerging markets with a whole new class of affluent customers, willing to pay a significant premium for a slightly higher ride, a two-box body and perhaps some faux-rugged cladding.

The target buyer for the CLA and GLA often comes up for criticism on TTAC, as well as the vehicles themselves: a small Mercedes with a transverse engine layout and a four-cylinder engine is anathema to most car enthusiasts, and a crossover doubly so. But in this kind of analysis, it’s important to suspend value judgements and look at it from a business perspective.

The business case for the cars is stellar. Four models spawned from one architecture, with the CLA and GLA able to serve as the high-margin variants. Combine that with the low assembly costs presented by building the cars in Eastern Europe, and you have a textbook example of how a car company can leverage economies of scale while also bringing to market a series of enticing products that are able to penetrate emerging markets and untapped demographics. Even BMW is looking to get in on the action, with their new front-drive 2-Series Active Tourer minivan.

The idea may not be terribly enticing to some – as an enthusiast, I’m certainly not thrilled about this direction - but this is where the market is going.

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Canada Sales Recap: February 2014 Mon, 17 Mar 2014 18:46:10 +0000 TTAC_Canada-auto-brand-market-share-chart


In February 2014, for the eleventh consecutive month, Canada’s auto industry generated year-over-year sales growth. The gains produced in each of the last two months aren’t significant. In fact, auto sales through the first two months of 2014 are down 1.4% compared with the January/February period in 2012.

Automakers chasing a second consecutive record year of total auto sales can’t be too concerned by the slim YOY improvement. Sales in March and April will likely be more than 60% stronger than they were in January and February. And though auto sales only rose 1.5% during the first one-sixth of 2014, a less vicious winter could have allowed more customers to enter new car stores.

The Chrysler Group’s buyers have not been deterred by harsh weather, at least not on the light truck side of the ledger. In February and on year-to-date terms, Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram/Fiat sales led all manufacturers, outselling the second-ranked Ford Motor Company by nearly 2300 units in February.

With sales that were 64% stronger than Toyota’s, the Ford brand was by far the highest-volume specific brand. Ford brand car sales are down 21% in 2014.

2668 additional sales from the Jeep Cherokee, Canada’s seventh-best-selling utility vehicle, have been a big help at Chrysler. (Excluding the Cherokee, Chrysler Group volume is down 1%. With the Cherokee, sales are up 7%.) Likewise, Chrysler finds strength in its Ram Pickup, which has seen a market share boost in the truck category to 29% from 27% at this time last year.

Car sales across the Chrysler/Dodge/Fiat range are down 10% in 2014 and fell 22% in February. Only 12% of the vehicles sold by the Chrysler Group in February were passenger cars.

Though it’s exacerbated in Chrysler’s showrooms, Canada’s distaste for cars is becoming more obvious. Automotive News says 39.2% of the new vehicles sold in Canada last month were passenger cars, way down from 43.9% in February 2013 and 44.3% in February 2012. February’s top-selling car, the Hyundai Elantra – which trails the Honda Civic through two months – was down 6%. Sales of the Mazda 3, Volkswagen Jetta, Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Hyundai Accent, Ford Fusion, and Honda Accord, which ranked fourth through tenth among cars in February, were down YOY.

Meanwhile, massive increases were reported by many of Canada’s top-selling small crossovers. The Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Chevrolet Equinox, Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, and Subaru Forester averaged year-over-year gains of 47%.

BMW was the top-selling premium brand in Canada in February, though not year-to-date. Lexus is far from being the Canadian luxury leader, but Toyota’s premium division has outsold Acura in 2014, no mean feat for Lexus. Acura has outsold Lexus by an average of nearly 2300 units annually over the last five years. Typically, Lexus’s car division simply doesn’t pull its fair share of the weight. In fact, at both brands, as is the case among numerous premium automakers, utility vehicles carry the load. 59% of Lexus’s February volume was RX/LX/GX-derived (compared with 40% in the U.S.) while Acura generated 67% of its February Canadian sales with the MDX and RDX.

However, it’s the BMW X5 and not the Lexus RX which currently leads all premium brand crossovers. Indeed, the X5 has led premium utility sales in three of the last four months, a meaningful achievement for a vehicle that’s priced in excess of $63,000 when vehicles like the second-ranked Audi Q5 start just above $40K.

So-called premium automobiles form a burgeoning part of the Canadian market, a part of the market that’s being fuelled as much by high riders as it is by entry-level luxury cars. That should come as no surprise in a country where seven dozen SUV/CUV nameplates have produced 34% of the new vehicle sales in 2014.

On the other hand, maybe Canadian consumers are setting the stage for a return to tradition. Minivan sales jumped 17% to 6671 units in February, equal to 6.3% of the industry’s total volume, almost twice the market share achieved by minivans in the U.S. Or maybe not.

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Cain’s Segments: Luxury Crossovers Wed, 12 Mar 2014 12:30:07 +0000 TTAC_luxury-crossover-sales-chart-February-2014

A strong start to 2014 has the BMW X3 leading its segment even as it’s challenged more closely in BMW showrooms by the slightly smaller and less expensive X1.

X1 sales in February jumped 57% to 2329 units, only 318 units shy of what BMW USA managed in January and February of 2013 combined. More direct competition for the X1 is set to arrive soon in the form of the Mercedes-Benz GLA and Audi Q3.

At this time, however, potential X1 buyers look across the BMW showroom floor and wonder why they wouldn’t pay a bit more for the X3. Over the last two months, 62% of the X1/X3 juggernaut’s sales have been X3-derived, up just a hair from last year’s 61%.

The X3 outsold Acura’s much less costly RDX by 390 units in February. The RDX is wildly popular, but like the X3, it’s not among the quartet of top-selling premium utility vehicle nameplates in America.

That group begins with the Lexus RX, a viable alternative to these entry-level crossovers, particularly as Lexus doesn’t yet offer a production version of the LF-NX Concept. Likewise, the Cadillac SRX would be seen by many to be Detroit’s rival for the X3, RDX, Q5, and GLK, at least until Lincoln’s MKC arrives. The third-ranked premium SUV/CUV nameplate in America is the Acura MDX; it’s followed by the Mercedes-Benz M-Class.

Although they don’t lead the way for premium automakers, for many buyers these entry points to the brands’ crossover lineups form the entry point to the brand, full stop. Forget the CLA, A3, and 2-Series; passenger cars with trunks that they are. Growth from these luxury crossovers is significant, especially when one considers that America’s new vehicle market hasn’t grown at all in 2014. The RDX, Q5, X1, X3, QX50, LR2, and GLK have all sold more often over the last two months than during the first two months of 2013.

The Audi Q5’s slight February decline was the first such decrease for the Q5 since October 2012. Q5 volume has improved each year since the model arrived in 2009. Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque is certainly small enough to be displayed here, although its base price might place it out of reach for a typical Acura RDX customer. Evoque sales are down 5% this year; February volume slid by 54 units. (The Range Rover Sport generated two-thirds of Land Rover’s U.S. February volume.)

Volvo’s XC60 is, not unlike the Volvo brand which it helps to lead, struggling in the United States. Like the Q5, XC60 sales have improved each year since it arrived in 2009, but 2014’s inauspicious start is not terribly surprising given the brand’s recent struggles to attract large numbers of American buyers.

Nevertheless, the story of small luxury crossovers is not told with an emphasis on irregular year-over-year decreases. The RDX, X1, X3, QX50, LR2, and GLK jointly rose 26% in February 2014. Those were not at all the sorts of figures commonly achieved by automakers last month.

2 mos.
2 mos.
Acura RDX
2911 2795 + 4.2% 5641 5284 + 6.8%
Audi Q5
2643 2753 - 4.0% 5417 5097 + 6.3%
2329 1482 + 57.2% 3661 2647 + 38.3%
3301 2175 + 51.8% 6000 4180 + 43.5%
Infiniti QX50/EX
220 150 + 46.7% 417 318 + 31.1%
Land Rover LR2
358 273 + 31.1% 721 573 + 25.8%
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
927 981 - 5.5% 1806 1910 - 5.4%
Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class
2624 2420 + 8.4% 4926 4816 + 2.3%
Volvo XC60
1146 1496 - 23.4% 2088 3062 - 31.8%
14,525 + 13.3% 30,677 27,887 + 10.0%
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Cain’s Segments: Midsize Sedans Wed, 12 Mar 2014 04:01:05 +0000 TTAC_midsize-car-sales-chart-February-2014

By stealing the Toyota Camry’s best-selling midsize car crown, albeit likely on a temporary basis, the Nissan Altima ended February 2014 as America’s best-selling car overall. The Altima’s lead was also substantial enough last month to make the midsize Nissan America’s leading car year-to-date.

It’s early. But the Altima’s trend is a good one. Year-over-year volume has increased in each of the last four months while rising nine times in the last eleven months. As Versa sales have fallen harshly – it’s still America’s leading subcompact – and the Sentra continues to play in the second tier of popular compacts, the Altima’s responsibility to produce big volume for the Nissan car lineup becomes more essential. Three out of every ten Nissans sold in the United States in February 2014 were Altimas.

By one standard of measurement, this means the Altima was far more important to Nissan than the Camry was to Toyota, where only 21% of the brand’s sales were midsize-car-derived. Camry volume decreased in February, the eighth such decline in the last year. To suggest there was some great gap between the Altima and camry in February would be to ignore the actual numbers. Per selling day, Toyota sold 1208 Camrys; Nissan sold 1285 Altimas.

Moreover, the Camry’s 7.3% drop was par for the midsize course in February. Segment-wide sales slid 6.3% – 6.6% if you discount the more premium-oriented Buick Regal and Volkswagen CC – as the auto industry as a whole levelled off and consumers flocked to entry-level crossovers. From the soon-to-disappear Dodge Avenger and the all-but-disappeared Mitsubishi Galant to high-volume players like the Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, and Kia Optima, midsize cars were down.

Volkswagen Passat sales slid 7%. The Subaru Legacy, entering a replacement phase but anything but popular, was down 31%. Help from the Mazda 6 is of little consequence. Mazda’s 46% increase translated into just 1243 extra sales. Mazda sold one 6 for every two Dodge Avengers sold in America last month. Fleet or retail, those figures prove the lauded 6’s rarity.

According to Automotive News, car sales overall were down just under 6% in February. This isn’t a midsize anomaly. But these midsize cars certainly play a large role in the passenger car market, as they were collectively responsible for 32% of the cars sold in the U.S. last month.

At Nissan, even fretting minds must be put at ease by the Altima’s improvement, not just in terms of the nameplate’s U.S. volume but the increased market share. Through the first two months of 2014, Nissan owns 16% of the midsize market as we’ve configured it here, up from 13% during the equivalent period one year ago.

2 mos.
2 mos.
Buick Regal
2200 1474 + 49.3% 3634 2479 + 46.6%
Chevrolet Malibu
17,448 14,817 + 17.8% 29,270 30,640 - 4.5%
Chrysler 200
12,046 11,446 + 5.2% 22,958 20,292 + 13.1%
Dodge Avenger
8189 9980 - 17.9% 12,984 19,608 - 33.8%
Ford Fusion
23,898 27,875 - 14.3% 44,615 50,274 - 11.3%
Honda Accord
24,622 27,999 - 12.1% 45,226 51,923 - 12.9%
Hyundai Sonata
11,190 16,007 - 30.1% 21,005 29,254 - 28.2%
Kia Optima
11,226 13,195 - 14.9% 21,205 24,447 - 13.3%
Mazda 6
3945 2702 + 46.0% 7117 4849 + 46.8%
Mitsubishi Galant
25 209 - 88.0% 42 433 - 90.3%
Nissan Altima
30,849 27,725 + 11.3% 53,364 49,189 + 8.5%
Subaru Legacy
2575 3745 - 31.2% 5310 6929 - 23.4%
Suzuki Kizashi
446 - 100% 732 - 100%
Toyota Camry
28,998 31,270 - 7.3% 52,330 63,167 - 17.2%
Volkswagen Passat
6997 7532 - 7.1% 13,233 16,388 - 19.3%
Volkswagen CC
964 1123 - 14.2% 1845 2315 - 20.3%
197,545 - 6.3% 334,138 372,919 - 10.4%
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Cain’s Segments: Trucks Redux Tue, 11 Mar 2014 05:47:39 +0000 450x244x2014-Chevrolet-Silverado-1500-Exterior-006-450x244.jpg.pagespeed.ic.zAXX8qzO80

February 2014 sales of America’s six continuing full-size pickup lineups grew 1.8%, but GM’s truck twins, the newest trucks on the block, fell 8.9%. Ford, Ram, Toyota, and Nissan combined for an 8.7% year-over-year increase to 94,225 units. The Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra’s decline equalled a loss of 4960 units compared with February 2013.

These full-size trucks accounted for 12.2% of the U.S. auto industry’s total February 2014 volume, up slightly from 11.9% in the equivalent period one year earlier.

Although the F-Series’ gain of 2.6% appears slight, this improvement occurred in an auto market which grew not at all. Moreover, a 2.6% increase for the F-Series adds 1393 extra units of a very profitable vehicle, more added sales than the Chevrolet Volt managed in total.

Total Ford brand sales slid more than 7% in February as car volume plunged 16.8% and sales of the Blue Oval’s five utility vehicles dropped 4.3%. Ford’s car division outsold the F-Series by just 1354 units; the F-Series outsold the utility vehicle lineup by 3040 units. 30.5% of the new vehicles sold by the Ford Motor Company last month were F-Series pickups.

At the Chrysler Group, where car sales dropped 14.7% and generated just 29% of the company’s February sales volume, the Ram Pickup range’s 28.4% improvement was more than welcome. And it was also expected. Over the eleven months leading up to February, the average year-over-year Ram P/U sales increase weighed in at 25.5%. From 16.3% in February 2013, Ram’s share of the full-size truck market (extinguished Escalade EXT and Avalanche excluded) rose to 20.2% in February 2014.

Often mocked for its inability to crank out sales like the top-selling Detroit trucks, the Toyota Tundra continues to be a somewhat popular vehicle by conventional automobile standards. Through the first two months of 2014, it ranks 41st among all vehicles in total U.S. sales, having ended 2013 as America’s 43rd-best-selling vehicle. Tundra sales have increased in each of the last five months, but the current pace won’t have Toyota matching 2007’s high-water mark. Toyota could easily sell more than 120,000 Tundras in 2014 – 196,555 were sold in 2007.

Analyzing the Nissan Titan’s market penetration as it begins its eleventh full year without any meaningful refresh is like studying the merits of a veteran linebacker’s knack for sacking in the twilight of his career. The Titan has for the most part become irrelevant, a fact which won’t make the reintroduction process an easy one when the new Titan arrives. Titan sales reached their peak in 2005 at 86,945 units, fell below 20,000 units four years later, and totalled just 15,691 in 2013. Titan volume is down 33.8% this year and February market share in the category fell below 1%.

From a market share-losing perspective, the Chevrolet Silverado’s decline was worse. (Obviously, the Silverado is America’s second-best-selling vehicle. The Titan is not.) 29.2% of the segment’s sales were Silverado-derived at this time last year, but last month, that figure fell to 25.2%. GMC Sierra market share declined by only a hair, from 9.9% in February 2013 to 9.8% last month.

As a whole, the pickup truck segment generated 11% of its February 2014 sales with small/midsize trucks, on par with results from the equivalent period one year earlier. Thank the Nissan Frontier. Sales of the Titan’s little brother shot up 112% to 5791 units.

2 mos.
2 mos.
Ford F-Series
55,882 54,589 + 2.6% 102,418 101,330 + 1.1%
Chevrolet Silverado
36,584 41,643 - 12.1% 65,510 77,088 - 15.0%
Ram P/U
29,303 23,289 + 25.8% 54,374 43,763 + 24.2%
GMC Sierra
14,232 14,133 + 0.7% 25,350 26,979 - 6.0%
Toyota Tundra
7923 7306 + 8.4% 15,813 14,310 + 10.5%
Nissan Titan
1117 1634 - 31.6% 2004 3028 - 33.8%
142,494 + 1.8% 265,469 266,498 - 0.4%


2 mos.
2 mos.
Ford F-Series
38.5% 38.2% 38.6% 38.0%
Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra
35.0% 39.1% 34.2% 39.0%
Ram P/U
20.2% 16.3% 20.5% 16.4%
Toyota Tundra
5.5% 5.1% 6.0% 5.4%
Nissan Titan
0.8% 1.1% 0.8% 1.1%
Full-Size Share Of
Total Pickup Truck Market
89.0% 87.6% 88.7% 87.2%
Full-Size Pickup Share
Of Total Industry
12.2% 11.9% 12.0% 11.9%
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Poor Sales Of Dodge Dart Prompt Plant Layoffs Wed, 05 Mar 2014 16:02:02 +0000 450x221xdart-450x221.png.pagespeed.ic.ly_3Q05If7

Poor sales of the Dodge Dart have led to temporary layoffs at the auto maker’s Belvidere, Illinois plant, where the Dart is produced. Despite Chrysler sales being up 11 percent last month, sales of the Dart were down 37 percent.

Speaking to the Daily Herald, Autopacific’s Dave Sullivan noted that

“What’s going on now with the Dart is that when buyers go into a Dodge showroom they are getting such great incentives on the Dodge Avenger that buyers are choosing the larger car. It’s going to be several months before the Avenger is sold out, then we’ll get a better sense where the interest is in the Dart.”

Current incentives on the Avenger mean that it’s possible to get a mid-level Avenger for roughly the same price as a Dart. Although the difference may be $1,000-$2,000 in MSRP, it means virtually nothing in the realm of monthly payments that most car shoppers operate in.

As of February 1, Chrysler had a 220 day supply of Avengers and a 129 day supply of Darts. Both figures are abnormally large for the industry, but they only serve to highlight the problem outlined by Sullivan. Incentives on the Avenger will rise, as Chrysler tries to clear out the remaining stock, meaning the Dart could languish on the lots. Year-to-date, the Avenger is even outselling the Dart by about 3,000 units.

Prior to the Dart’s launch, Sergio Marchionne sat for an interview with 60 Minutes, where he proudly showed off the Dart for the cameras and said “If you’re a serious car maker and you can’t make it into this segment, you’re doomed.” At the time, it might have seemed like harmless bluster. Right now, those words look a bit ominous – even if the Dart itself isn’t such a bad product.

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February 2014 Sales: Sales Flat, As Auto Makers Blame Bad Weather Tue, 04 Mar 2014 04:34:18 +0000 db6783680a0d02b7000c4cee2ff1397a

Subaru, Nissan and Chrysler were the big winners this month, with GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda and Hyundai-Kia blaming poor weather for their decline in sales for February. Subaru, up 24 percent, seemed unfazed by the cold snap.

N.B: You can now access the full table at Automotive News. Tim Cain will continue with his full segment of sales segment analysis pieces.

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Cadillac ELR Sells Just 99 Units Mon, 03 Mar 2014 18:59:50 +0000 450x300x2014-Cadillac-ELR-_12_-450x300.jpg.pagespeed.ic.rYtST8SCgA

With just 99 units sold , the Cadillac ELR is going to have a tough time hitting its 3000 unit target for 2014. At $76,000, it’s hard to imagine anyone lusting after one when a Tesla Model S is within its price-point. Hell, even the dealers don’t want it.

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Honda Insight Gets The Axe Wed, 26 Feb 2014 15:13:31 +0000 2010_Honda_Insight_LX_--_10-03-2009

Sales of the slow-selling Honda Insight will end, with Bloomberg reporting that production will end this month. Despite being released before the Toyota Prius, the Insight has lagged far behind it in sales.


While the Prius is the best-selling hybrid of all time, the second generation Insight has been heavily criticized for delivering an inferior driving experience and using a less sophisticated hybrid system. Sales of the Honda Civic Hybrid have far outstripped the Insight, with inventories ballooning to 237 days worth of supply, according to data from Automotive News. The equally slow-selling CR-Z could conceivably meet a similar fate in the not too distant future. Here’s hoping that the Fit Hybrid takes up the slack.

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Presidents Day, Warmer Weather Provide Small Jump In February Sales Wed, 26 Feb 2014 11:00:08 +0000 Mazda-Dealership

Brief warming spells between polar vortices and Presidents Day sales boosted sales in February, though rising inventories and incentives raise questions about sales momentum heading into the oncoming spring selling season.

Automotive News reports seasonally adjusted annualized rates of 15.4 million units from TrueCar and, and 15.3 million from Kelley Blue Book, up from 15.2 million SAAR projected last month after snowstorms and colder temperatures across most of the country kept consumers out of the showroom.

Meanwhile, fleet sales also took a hit this month, contributing to overall SAAR projections of 15.5 million from Barclays Capital, 15.7 million from LMC Automotive, and 15 million-plus from Wells Fargo Securities. Wells Fargo Securities senior analyst Richard Kwas also estimates March’s SAAR could surpass 16 million units, a figure last seen in August and November 2013, while he and J.D. Power senior vice president of the global automotive practice John Humphrey both believe the negative effects bestowed by winter weather systems earlier in February would be mitigated by stronger push in sales — boosted by Presidents Day promotions — at the close of the month.

Part of that push comes at the heels of more incentives. TrueCar listed increases of 3 percent over January, 5 percent from the same point in 2013, and a year-over-year of 20 percent for Honda, Hyundai/Kia, Toyota and Volkswagen. Ford also boosted their year-over-year to 16 percent, while General Motors and FCA’s Chrysler Group saw their incentive spending fall. Transaction prices also rose this month, with LMC predicting a record average of $29,000 per unit, beating the previous record from last February by over $400 per vehicle.

At the start of February, automakers began with an 88-day supply of inventory, the highest since 2009 when automotive sales collapsed at the start of the Great Recession. LMC expects the inventory should thin by spring — projecting a 16.2 million SAAR for 2014 — though warned production levels could drop if the backlog is still an issue come June, forecasting a 2.5 percent decline in North American production to 16.5 million units.

Even more interesting will be the month of March. It could be the first indicator of over-exuberance about the auto market, or it could be the sign of things picking up after a nasty bout of cold weather.

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Ford Raises Incentives To Clear Growing Fusion Inventories Tue, 25 Feb 2014 11:00:34 +0000 fusion

As inventories of Ford’s Fusion continue to outpace demand — the result of a second plant brought online last year to keep up with demand for the newly redesigned midsize sedan — the automaker has been raising incentives to move more Fusions out of the lot.

Automotive News reports most dealers around the United States are offering potential Fusion owners zero-percent financing for 60 months plus $1,000 cash back, with discounts up to $3,000 available for trade-ins to those who decline the financing; lessees receive no money due at signing with no payment for the first month of the lease.

The incentives — the most generous offered since the Fusion’s new look debuted in 2012 — come as inventories of the midsize sedan climbed to 97 days as of February 1 — up from 84 days in January — while sales of midsize cars overall have declined from a peak of 200,000 since August of last year, with winter weather holding back more sales.

Though Ford is spending $2,900 in incentives on every Fusion — Toyota’s Camry and Nissan’s Altima both hold higher incentives — the automaker’s chief analyst, Erich Merkle, says the car still commands the highest transaction price in the segment, and is confident inventories will thin as winter gives way to spring:

The midsize sedan segment is the most competitive segment in the industry right now. The good thing is average transaction prices are still very healthy.


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Honda Accord Is America’s Best-Selling Car – With Retail Customers Fri, 21 Feb 2014 21:17:04 +0000 550x366x2013-Honda-Accord-EX-005-550x366.jpg.pagespeed.ic.DmlRlcKdR_

Although the Honda Accord finished second to the Toyota Camry in the official sales rankings, Honda is touting the Accord’s dominance in retail sales, which accounted for 98 percent of overall Accord sales. By contrast, Bloomberg reports that Toyota’s retail mix for the Camry was 84 percent, with 342,007 Camrys ending up in the hands of retail customers. The Accord sold 360,089 units at retail.

Retail sales are more profitable for auto makers, and contribute to better resale value, but many OEMs rely on fleet sales to move inventory. Many mainstream auto makers conduct significant fleet sales programs for government and daily rental fleets, with Honda being a notable exception. While Honda has dabbled in fleet sales before (the much-maligned 2012 Civic being one example) the company still had no central fleet office.

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Slow Sales Of Scion FR-S Disappoint Toyota, Jeopardize Engine Upgrades Wed, 19 Feb 2014 22:40:23 +0000 2013_Scion_FR-S_--_2012_NYIAS

The Scion FR-S – lightweight, affordable sports car that the world was supposedly waiting for – is reportedly lagging behing its sales targets across the globe, making it difficult for Toyota to justify upgrading the engine or bringing a convertible to market.

Speaking to Auto Express, Toyota Europe R&D head Gerald Killman said

“A faster version of that car would be at the top of most people’s wish lists, but like the cabriolet, it is hard to justify a business case to push either model into production based on the current sales.”

Killman also reportedly expressed befuddlement over the car’s cool reception in the market, depsite enthusiastic reviews, not realizing that this is exactly the problem. Enthusiasts, like automotive journalists, don’t buy new cars. Even though they clamored for a new rear-drive sports car that was relatively affordable, gearheads still found fault with all sorts of things, from the lack of power to the less than impressive numbers it put up and even the sub-$25k pricetag (according to some, it should have been around $20k). If this car suffers an unnaturally short lifespin, there will be plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth from the same people who criticized it and never bought it in the first place.

This is also a particularly tough time for a youth-oriented sports car to exist in the marketplace. Car ownership for the FR-S’ target market has become a faraway dream in Europe, a relic of an idea in Japan and a luxury in North America. Personally, I think the car was a victim of too much hype. The Toyobaru could never measure up to the effusive praise heaped on it by the media, though I have grown to like the car more and more as time goes on.






]]> 331
Mazda CX-5 Closes In On 100,000 Sold Wed, 19 Feb 2014 16:15:20 +0000 2013 Mazda CX-5. Picture courtesy

Mazda moved nearly 80,000 CX-5s from the lot to the highway in 2013. If the automaker has its way this year, the C segment crossover may break 100,000 units sold.

WardsAuto reports Mazda North American Operations CEO Jim O’Sullivan his employer can hit the 100,000-mark again with the CX-5, placing the crossover alongside the Mazda3 within the company, and the Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V in the overall C segment crossover record books.

Factors cited by O’Sullivan in his hopes for the CX-5 include a recovering United States auto industry, brand awareness among U.S. consumers, reduced fleet volume, a new plant in Mexico that will build the Mazda3 while allowing more capacity in Japan to be used for CX-5 assembly, and a growing enthusiasm for the C segment and small crossovers:

We’re seeing really good, organic growth from our current-generation Mazda3 customers that have bought maybe (the old compact) Protege, then Mazda3, (and) now (are) moving into crossovers and the CX-5.

Speaking of crossovers, O’Sullivan says Mazda is looking at entering the B segment with a subcompact crossover slotted under the CX-5. The so-called CX-3, expected to be based upon the Mazda2, would see production in Mexico beginning July 2015.

Finally, the CX-9 will undergo a new redesign for 2016, and will make use of the automaker’s SkyActiv brand of fuel efficiency technology upon introduction late next year.

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Canada Sales Recap, February 2014 Mon, 17 Feb 2014 18:33:37 +0000 2014-Ram-1500-diesel-grille-450x337

Forgotten in the industry’s excitement over a record year for Canadian auto sales was the challenging start to 2013.

Sales in 2012 had risen to a ten-year-high, and in each of the 2013’s first three months, sales were down, year-over-year. The predicted record sales level eventually materialized, but not in the first quarter.

January 2014’s results, therefore, appear to formulate a better start for automakers competing in the Canadian auto market. In fact, compared with January 2012’s figures, sales were down 2% last month, but the year-over-year tally produced a 0.4% increase.

In recent months, improved auto industry sales figures in North America have been motivated in large part by pickup trucks. Not so in January, not in the United States; not in Canada. Canadian truck sales slid 4.5%. Total GM pickup sales dropped 16.8%, an 888-unit decline. Ford F-Series volume was off January 2013’s pace by 5.6%. The three remaining nameplates in the small/midsize truck segment combined for just 985 sales, only 5.3% of the overall truck category.

Ram sales rose slightly. Toyota, Nissan, and Honda all produced increased truck sales. But with trucks – responsible for fuelling so much more of the Canadian industry’s volume than they do in the U.S. – falling by 885 units, it became clear that January was not a month for extreme auto sales growth.

Minivan sales in January were down 10.9% despite a 9.3% increase in sales of the Dodge Grand Caravan, Canada’s fourth-best-selling vehicle overall. With its twin, the Chrysler Town & Country, losing two-thirds of its volume, total Chrysler minivan sales were down 4.3%. More than 5% of the new vehicles sold in Canada in January 2014 were minivans. Excluding the Mazda 5, Chevrolet Orlando, and Kia Rondo, the category still owned 4.6% of the industry’s total sales. “Full-size” minivans accounted for just 3.1% of the U.S. market last month.

Canada’s perennial car leader, the Honda Civic, was up 32.4% in January 2014 after Civic sales plunged 49.3% a year ago. According to the Automotive News Data Center (subscription required), passenger car sales in Canada were down 6.3% in January 2014 as Acura, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Mini, Porsche, Scion, Toyota, and Volkswagen all reported decreased car sales.

GM car sales were down 35.2%. Even with a big (percentage-wise) Lincoln car increase, total Ford Canada car sales were down 23.3%. The ANDC says total Toyota Canada car sales were down 15.1%. All too often, the passenger car sales improvements reported by 15 other brands (Dodge, Fiat, Honda, Infiniti, Jaguar, Lexus, Lincoln, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Smart, and Subaru) were not as significant as the decreases reported by brands in the first group.

With great frequency, however, an automaker’s car losses were cancelled out by SUV/crossover gains. BMW’s four X models generated a 36% year-over-year increase, enough for the BMW brand to post a 5% increase even as car sales slid 26.9%. Despite a 15.9% car sales drop, Toyota brand sales were up 11.8% in large part due to the 118% increase in SUV/crossover sales, led by the RAV4’s 221% jump.

From 29.8% in January 2013, the market share afforded to SUVs and crossovers shot up to 34.5% in January 2014 as seven dozen nameplates combined for a 16.3% increase.

Nevertheless, the follow-up to last year’s first quarter decline proves just how lacking in relevance January auto sales figures are in the Great White North, especially when the January in question was a particularly cold and white one. Last year, Canadians registered nearly twice as many new vehicles in May as they did in January.

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