The Truth About Cars » Segments http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 05 Dec 2014 17:06:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (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 » Segments http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Canada Sales Recap: October 2013 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/canada-sales-recap-october-2013/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/canada-sales-recap-october-2013/#comments Thu, 14 Nov 2013 12:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=650378 With forecasters calling for another year of improved Canadian auto sales, 2013’s early months didn’t add up. January volume fell 2.2%, February sales were down 3.3%, and March’s results were off the pace by 0.7%. But not since the first quarter ended have the players competing for sales in Canada reported anything but collective improvement. […]

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TTAC_canada-recap-chart

With forecasters calling for another year of improved Canadian auto sales, 2013’s early months didn’t add up. January volume fell 2.2%, February sales were down 3.3%, and March’s results were off the pace by 0.7%. But not since the first quarter ended have the players competing for sales in Canada reported anything but collective improvement.

55,000 more vehicles have been sold during the first ten months of 2013 than during the equivalent period in 2012, a 3.8% increase. 2013’s rise follows three consecutive years of improved Canadian auto sales. The current pace suggests Canadians will end 2013 having registered more than 1.7 million new vehicles for the first time since 2002.


As for the month of October, growth was particularly strong as multiple sectors contributed to the increase. Even cars. Automotive News says car sales in Canada are up less than 1% through ten months, but October car volume rose 4.2%.

Car sales in October punched above their year-to-date weight at BMW, Cadillac, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jaguar, Lincoln, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Smart, and Volvo.

Canadian car sales rose by fewer than 3000 units, yet the Honda Civic (up 1811 units), Mazda 3 (up 1313 units) and Toyota Corolla (up 794 units) combined for a 35.4% increase. The Civic was responsible for more than one out of every ten new car sales in Canada in October. Its year-to-date lead over the Hyundai Elantra grew to 6584 units. The Elantra led at 2013’s halfway point by 305 sales.

Passenger cars did not, however, manifest across-the-board gains. Combined, car sales were down 4.8% at GM, Ford Canada, and the Chrysler Group. Total Toyota brand car sales fell 5.2% as sales of the brand’s hybrid passenger cars slid 15.6%. Kia car sales fell 6.4% despite Rio and Soul increases. Audi’s cars were down 9.1%. Scion, which offers no crossovers, was down 24.6%. The Fiat 500 was off by 19.6%, a 93-unit decline, and the Mini Cooper range fell 22.3%.
In the midst of a slight car sales resurgence, SUVs and crossovers were up 11.1% in October. 13 of the top 15 top-selling utility vehicle nameplates – 17 of the top 20, 20 of the top 25, 25 of the top 30 – reported year-over-year improvements last month.

Many of the increases reported by leading utility vehicles were significant. The Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Forester, Mitsubishi RVR, BMW X5, and Mercedes-Benz M-Class all produced gains of at least 30%. Even without its 10.7% jump, the Ford Escape would have outsold the surging Toyota RAV4 by more than 1300 units. But Escape sales did jump 10.7%, and the Escape outsold the second-ranked RAV4 by 1769 units. Ford sold more than three Escapes for every two RAV4s in October.
Pickups continue to be a major force in the Canadian automotive marketplace. Truck sales rose 15.4% in October despite the loss of nameplates which reduced sales of the Avalanche, Escalade EXT, Canyon, Colorado, and Ranger by 85%. Even the Toyota Tundra surged in October, shooting into fifth place in the overall rankings (ahead of the normally fifth-ranked Toyota Tacoma) with a 74% year-over-year increase. Detroit’s four stalwarts – F-Series, Ram, Sierra, Silverado – owned 88.5% of the truck market in October after collectively rising 17.8%.

So far this year, pickups account for 18.2% of the Canadian auto industry’s sales volume. Trucks make up 13.9% of U.S. auto sales.

Three in ten Chrysler sales are Ram-derived. The F-Series is responsible for more than four in ten Ford Canada sales and nearly four in ten GM Canada sales come from pickups.

The impression that Canadians buy more trucks, SUVs, crossovers, and minivans than cars isn’t inaccurate, but it is skewed by the presence of Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. Remove their presence from the equation and cars go from forming just 44.6% of the industry’s October volume to 61.4%.

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Cain’s Segments: Small Premium Utilities – August 2013 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/cains-segments-small-premium-utilities-august-2013/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/cains-segments-small-premium-utilities-august-2013/#comments Tue, 10 Sep 2013 11:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=514545 We’ll confirm it. Again. America is becoming ever more hungry for small premium brand crossovers, and that’s not simply a result of there being more $40,000 German utility vehicles from which to choose. Exclude the BMW X1, which only became available late in the third quarter of 2012, and the small luxury SUV market (as […]

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TTAC_small-premium-SUVs-august-2013-chart

We’ll confirm it. Again. America is becoming ever more hungry for small premium brand crossovers, and that’s not simply a result of there being more $40,000 German utility vehicles from which to choose.

Exclude the BMW X1, which only became available late in the third quarter of 2012, and the small luxury SUV market (as we’ve defined it in the table below) grew 29% in the first eight months of 2013.

Sure, perhaps some of this growth can be attributed to an increased effort to lease vehicles to consumers who might otherwise consider a Ford Escape Titanium. But the growth rate in this category is far in excess of the overall industry’s 9.5% improvement; better than the overall SUV/CUV market’s 13.5% improvement, as well.

As is bound to be the case, improvement can’t be found in all corners of the category. The BMW X3’s 5% year-over-year drop through eight months, however, has occurred with a combined 74% increase in X1/X3 volume. And while Infiniti’s outdated QX50 (formerly EX) is down 47% this year, having fallen 42% last year, the gains of Infiniti’s three-row QX60 (formerly JX) have propelled Infiniti’s four-pronged utility vehicle lineup to a 19% boost in 2013.

Meanwhile, the year-over-year increases reported by the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, Range Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GLK, and Volvo XC60 have outpaced the industry average. Even Land Rover’s LR2 is selling better than it did in 2011 or 2012, although at little more than one-third the rate it did just six years ago.

Not unlike a hyped-up sports car that initially sells very well then gradually reaches a mature, steady monthly output, small luxury crossovers form an immature group. The difference, in this case, relates to the fact that consistent volume, a levelling off, may not occur for some time.

The Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA, and Porsche Macan can attract more buyers than they pull away from the Q5 and GLK and Cayenne. The Lexus LF-NX Concept certainly doesn’t look like something that would attract most conservative RX buyers. And it’s not as though automakers will allow their current models to languish. Even in their current iterations, hoods are opening up to reveal diesel powerplants. Neither have we seen what will be done with second-generation versions of most vehicles in the segment.

So are consumers currently attracted to Q5s, RDXs, X3s, GLKs, and Evoques because they’re fresh and shiny? Of course, but there’s not about to be any lack of freshness or shine. On one hand, sales will not continue to grow at otherworldly rates; not forever. On the other, the BMW 3-Series Sports Wagon isn’t about to make a dent in the small luxury crossover category’s move up the ladder.

The Audi A4 Allroad rose 13% to 456 units in August and 161% to 3665 units year-to-date. The RX and SRX from Lexus and Cadillac, America’s two top-selling premium brand utility vehicles, combined for 18,634 August sales, up from 13,831 in August 2012. Year-to-date, the RX and SRX are up to 101,822 units from 95,566 during the same period in 2012. Base prices for the RX and SRX put them up against the smaller luxury crossovers. The Buick Encore, if you must throw it in the mix, has achieved August/YTD totals of 4296 and 19,724 units.

These nine tall wagons are responsible for 1.3% of America’s new vehicle sales so far this year, up from 1% during the first two-thirds of 2012.

Times have changed. In 2007, when the RDX, X3, and LR2 were laying the foundation, only 0.4% of the market belonged to the category.

—–

Auto
August
2013
August
2012
August
%
Change
8
mos.
2013
8
mos.
2012
8 mos.
%
Change
Acura RDX
4381 2926 + 49.7% 30,517 16,863 + 81.0%
Audi Q5
3845 2007 + 91.6% 25,331 17,641 + 43.6%
BMW X1
2278 576 + 295% 16,504 576 + 2765%
BMW X3
2146 2829 - 24.1% 18,485 19,557 - 5.5%
Infiniti EX/QX50
236 216 + 9.3% 1189 2227 - 46.6%
Land Rover LR2
347 250 + 38.8% 2070 2038 + 1.6%
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
1070 700 + 52.9% 7463 5676 + 31.5%
Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class
2372 2775 - 14.5% 20,898 16,935 + 23.4%
Volvo XC60
1793 1897 - 5.5% 14,086 12,188 + 15.6%
Total
18,468
14,176 + 30.3% 136,543 93,701 + 45.7%

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Cain’s Segments: July 2013 – Commercial Vans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/cains-segments-july-2013-commercial-vans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/cains-segments-july-2013-commercial-vans/#comments Sat, 10 Aug 2013 17:06:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498928 After abnormally high GM commercial van sales results in the United States a year ago, it wasn’t surprising to see dramatic year-over-year sales declines reported by the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana in July 2013. As a result, and in part because of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter’s 13% drop, overall commercial van volume slid 11% in […]

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TTAC_commercial-van-sales-chart-July-2013

After abnormally high GM commercial van sales results in the United States a year ago, it wasn’t surprising to see dramatic year-over-year sales declines reported by the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana in July 2013.

As a result, and in part because of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter’s 13% drop, overall commercial van volume slid 11% in the U.S. last month. Compared with June, van volume fell 27%.

Naturally, commercial van sales are prone to fluctuation. Although a handful of these vehicles are purchased for RV conversions, and a handful more are registered by families who wish to field a full football team, many are bought by businesses who aren’t interested in buying one at a time. Instead, they buy twelve at a time. Or 4000.

North America’s commercial van market is beginning a period of great transition. From the front-wheel-drive Ford Transit Connect’s arrival to Nissan’s decision to compete with the big boys, and then Nissan’s decision to compete with the Transit Connect, times have been changing. And while none of those three vans sell in the kinds of numbers achieved by the Express or Ford’s segment-leading Ford E-Series, the Transit Connect, NV, and NV200 – three vans that weren’t around five years ago – currently combine for a meaningful 18% of the vans sold in America.

Ford, with the leading big van and the leading small van, owns 55% of the market for non-minivan vans. Another 31% goes GM’s way. The Sprinter earned 6% market share in the first seven months of 2013.

Nissan is making headway, although there are slim pickings remaining. From 3.1% of the commercial van market in the first seven months of 2012, the NV’s share rose to 3.9% this year; 4.8% if you include the front-wheel-drive NV200, which only went on sale in late March. NV200 sales have grown each month since.

There’s much more transition to come, however, and Nissan’s commercial vehicle sales reps may not be pleased with the outcome when Chevrolet starts selling the City Express, an NV200 twin. But it won’t be the end of the world for Nissan HQ to sell large numbers of vans to General Motors, traditionally a successful purveyor of commercial products.

Ford will also be updating the Transit Connect and replacing the E-Series with a proper Transit. Chrysler won’t have to rely on the Ram C/V, as the Fiat Ducato will become Ram ProMaster. GM surely won’t let the Express and Savana linger forever.

All this is repeated here again as a means of saying that these numbers won’t look the same a year from now, and they certainly won’t bear any resemblance to 2015’s numbers, either.

—-

Auto
July
2013
July
2012
July
%
Change
7 mos.
2013
7 mos.
2012
YTD
%
Change
Chevrolet Express
5569 9327 - 40.3% 46,171 47,144 - 2.1%
Ford E-Series
9724 8574 + 9.8% 75,687 75,839 - 0.2%
Ford Transit Connect
2885 2627 + 9.8% 23,331 19,581 + 19.2%
GMC Savana
1400 2653 - 47.2% 9610 14,709 - 34.7%
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
1915 2203 - 13.1% 11,398 11,479 - 0.7%
Nissan NV
936 651 + 43.8% 7109 5536 + 28.4%
Nissan NV200
496 1577
Ram Cargo Van
764 555 + 37.7% 5507 3998 + 37.7%
Total
23,689
26,590 - 10.9% 180,390 178,286 + 1.2%

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Cain’s Segments: July 2013 Mid-Size Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/cain-segments-july-2013/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/cain-segments-july-2013/#comments Tue, 06 Aug 2013 13:50:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498437 In July 2013, America’s three favorite midsize cars combined to sell an extra 10,667 copies than they did a year ago. Collectively, the best-selling Toyota Camry, second-ranked Honda Accord, and third-ranked Nissan Altima were up 12.5% in July. Midsize cars, as we understand them here, rose 3.4%. The U.S. auto industry reported an overall volume […]

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TTAC_USA-midsize-car-sales-chart-July-2013-YTD

In July 2013, America’s three favorite midsize cars combined to sell an extra 10,667 copies than they did a year ago.

Collectively, the best-selling Toyota Camry, second-ranked Honda Accord, and third-ranked Nissan Altima were up 12.5% in July. Midsize cars, as we understand them here, rose 3.4%. The U.S. auto industry reported an overall volume increase of 13.9%.

Slightly more than one out of every five Toyota brand automobiles sold in the United States last month were Camrys, in line with its year-to-date value. With a much smaller product lineup, Honda relies more heavily on the Accord: 27.5% of the Honda brand’s volume in the first seven months of 2013 was generated by the Accord. Nearly three out of every ten Nissans sold is an Altima.

Although the propensity of automakers to build their midsize sedans in the U.S. has all but made the notion of “Detroit cars” a moot point, GM, Chrysler, and Ford owned 24.9% of the midsize market in July.

We’ve included the somewhat premium-priced Buick Regal in that equation, not because the Regal is a perfectly direct rival for these cars, but because it’s arguably no more of a direct rival for the BMW 3-Series. Its presence here, not unlike the Volkswagen CC’s inclusion, doesn’t have a significant impact. Whether the pair is compared with volume brands like Toyota, Honda, and Ford or upmarket brands like Lexus, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz, the Regal and CC are exceedingly rare. Sales of the Lexus IS, not by any means a top seller in its category, were three times stronger than Regal sales in July. The Infiniti G, during a month in which its sales were chopped in half, sold more than three times as often as the Volkswagen CC.

Back to the subject of more noteworthy nameplates, the Mazda 6’s 167% year-over-year improvement in July doesn’t yet come close to making the 6 a common sight. Ten new Camrys leave showrooms every time Mazda USA sells a 6. Still, 6 sales over the last three months have risen 125%. On the other hand, as the market shrinks slightly into the summer, so have 6 sales, falling from 3944 in May to 3840 in June and 3447 in July.

Jointly, Hyundai and Kia sold 32,655 Sonatas and Optimas last month. Sales of the can’t-get-any-cheaper Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger totalled 14,253. Subaru sold 10,456 Outbacks to go along with 3142 sales from its donor vehicle, the Legacy sedan. Toyota sold 2886 Venzas, down 28% year-over-year. Honda Crosstour volume slid 23% to 1450. What about unconventionally powered family cars? Honda Insight sales rose by one unit to 420. Less the C, Toyota Prius family sales climbed from 13,578 to 19,497. Nissan Leaf sales nearly quintupled to 1864 units while the Chevrolet Volt fell 3.3% to 1788. Ford C-Max volume hit 2700 units in July. HybridCars.com reports that Toyota sold 4193 Camry Hybrids, Ford sold 2914 Fusion Hybrids, and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid sales jumped up to 2200.

Keep in mind, although the Camry, Accord, and Altima appear dominant – and they are, in a way – the majority of midsize buyers in July bought or leased something else. Indeed, so far this year, the best-selling trio has attracted 44.5% of midsize car customers, not the 75% sensation we get from seeing all Camrys all the time.

—–

Auto
July 2013
July 2012
July % Change
7 mos. 2013
7 mos. 2012
YTD % Change
Buick Regal
1187 1784 - 33.5% 10,007 16,612 - 39.8%
Chevrolet Malibu
12,473 12,345 + 1.0% 123,573 153,782 - 19.6%
Chrysler 200
8122 9287 - 12.5% 88,137 78,389 + 6.1%
Dodge Avenger
6131 5188 + 18.2% 67,149 58,049 + 15.7%
Ford Fusion
20,522 23,326 - 12.0% 181,668 160,175 + 13.4%
Honda Accord
31,507 28,639 + 10.0% 218,367 183,817 + 18.8%
Hyundai Sonata
18,903 20,978 - 9.9% 121,913 138,390 - 11.9%
Kia Optima
13,752 13,317 + 3.3% 97,210 86,475 + 12.4%
Mazda 6
3447 1289 + 167% 25,115 26,658 - 5.8%
Mitsubishi Galant
122 576 - 78.8% 1202 11,202 - 89.3%
Nissan Altima
29,534 26,602 + 11.0% 197,321 183,703 + 7.4%
Subaru Legacy
3142 3321 - 5.4% 26,550 27,593 - 3.8%
Suzuki Kizashi
526 - 100% 1602 3544 - 54.8%
Toyota Camry
34,780 29,913 + 16.3% 242,406 243,816 - 0.6%
Volkswagen Passat
10,051 9007 + 11.6% 66,170 64,072 + 3.3%
Volkswagen CC
1053 2198 - 52.1% 9296 10,955 - 15.1%
Total
194,726
188,296 + 3.4% 1,477,686 1,447,232 + 2.1%

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2011: The Year In Auto Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/2011-the-year-in-auto-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/2011-the-year-in-auto-sales/#comments Fri, 13 Jan 2012 21:13:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=426215 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 […]

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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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Were You Aware?: Half Of All Large Car Sales Go To Fleets http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/were-you-aware-half-of-all-large-car-sales-go-to-fleets/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/were-you-aware-half-of-all-large-car-sales-go-to-fleets/#comments Tue, 15 Nov 2011 20:19:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418317 Since ruling Americas roads in the heyday of the US auto industry, sales of large sedans (as a percentage of the overall market) have been in a decades-long slump. More recently, as SUVs have merged with large cars to form the modern crossover, the decline in large car sales has picked up speed. And there’s […]

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Since ruling Americas roads in the heyday of the US auto industry, sales of large sedans (as a percentage of the overall market) have been in a decades-long slump. More recently, as SUVs have merged with large cars to form the modern crossover, the decline in large car sales has picked up speed. And there’s reason to expect that trend to continue, as a closer look at the data shows that market support for large sedans has eroded farther than even these numbers might suggest. One of TTAC’s well-placed sources reveals that the “large car” segment (admittedly, a notoriously difficult segment to accurately capture) is running at 50% fleet sales, year-to-date through October. That’s right, every second large sedan sold in this country end up as a fleet vehicle, many of them daily rentals.

How bad is that? For comparison, the midsized segment is running at 22%, the hot compact segment is only 16% fleet and most crossovers sell around 14% fleet. In short, as the market either downsizes to one of the ever-larger midsized or compact cars or upsizes to a CUV, large cars are becoming something of a consumer no-go zone. Welcome to the world captured brilliantly in Jack Baruth’s fictional work “The CAFE Continuum.”

And I know what you’re thinking: some of the older, more obviously fleet-oriented offerings are wrecking the curve for the entire segment. Well, yes and no. For example the Chevy Impala, which Bob Lutz brags was voted “best fleet car”  in his new book, was sold at a 73% fleet mix this year. That means that, of the 150k Impalas sold so far this year, only only about 40,500 went to retail customers who were won over by its charms. But it’s not a universal problem for the whole segment. In contrast, Toyota’s Avalon (which sold a much lower 23,507 units this year) had a mere 3% fleet mix. And unsurprisingly, Detroit leads the way: Taurus about met the segment average at 49% fleet, Dodge’s new Charger was 54% and Chrysler’s 300 sold at 25% fleet mix.

These numbers, which TTAC trusts but was unable to independently verify, tell a troubling story. I asked our source if these numbers had to do with the products, or an appeal towards fleet sales inherent to the large-sedan segment. The answer:

You can bet that Ford didn’t plan for its Taurus to be running at 50% fleet at this point.

I assume the same can be said for Dodge’s even-newer Charger. Chrysler has so little new product that it had better have planned to convince more than 25k buyers that the new Charger is worth a buy (by my calculation, only about 24,900 Chargers have been sold retail this year). But again, is the problem something fundamental with these models, or has the market simply turned its back on the big sedan? Our source wouldn’t delve any further into this conundrum with us, but it’s clear that the segment is in trouble. Without some kind of step-up in competition, America’s favorite segment could be doomed to fleet fodder status.

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Ask The Best And Brightest: Can Minivans Make A Comeback? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/12/ask-the-best-and-brightest-can-minivans-make-a-comeback/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/12/ask-the-best-and-brightest-can-minivans-make-a-comeback/#comments Mon, 14 Dec 2009 23:56:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=339154 If human beings were truly rational animals, trends would be easy to predict. Given that we’re fickle, self-aware and subject to the influence of less predictable forces than pure reason, figuring out what is going to appeal to people is never easy. And few automotive examples prove the inconstancy of market trends like the minivan. […]

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Get on the bus!

If human beings were truly rational animals, trends would be easy to predict. Given that we’re fickle, self-aware and subject to the influence of less predictable forces than pure reason, figuring out what is going to appeal to people is never easy. And few automotive examples prove the inconstancy of market trends like the minivan. On paper they just plain make sense, creating a huge amount of flexible interior room out of high-volume sedan platforms, making them relatively cheap, capable and efficient. But if consumer decisions were made based on such rational considerations, turtlenecks would be long overdue for a huge comeback. In short, the “image thing” killed minivans, with more than a little help from the marketing efforts of the very companies that profited off their (relatively) brief time in the sun. And really, the future of the minivan will be determined by the staying power of its modern replacement, the Crossover. Are CUVs an evolutionary step from the SUV dead-end of the 90s back towards minivans and station wagons, or will the needs of multiple-passenger consumers forever be doomed to be served by the in-between-mobiles? My totally unjustified belief in the basic sanity of consumers makes me believe that minivans make too much sense to not make a comeback, and concepts like VW’s Microbus show the way. What say you?

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