The Truth About Cars » timothy cain The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:58:35 +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 » timothy cain 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.

]]> 33
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%
]]> 88
Cain’s Segments: Q1 2014 Full-Size Truck Sales Fri, 04 Apr 2014 15:16:43 +0000 450x244x2014-Chevrolet-Silverado-1500-Exterior-006-450x244.jpg.pagespeed.ic.zAXX8qzO80

Year-over-year comparisons are a completely valid comparison tool, indeed a vital one, when analyzing the sales volume reported by automobile manufacturers. The auto industry is seasonal; cyclical at the best of times. The number of vehicles sold in say, January, bears little resemblance to the number of vehicles sold in May.

Studying the market share changes from one month to the next, rather than in a year-over-year fashion, is also a perfectly useful yardstick, even if certain automakers do uniquely prioritize certain seasons. And so we consider America’s March 2014 pickup truck sales figures, in which GM’s two full-size trucks suffered a market share decline in the full-size truck category from 32.1% in March 2013 to 31.9% in March 2014.

Yet much worse was the drop from February’s 35% (which itself was down from 39.1% in the previous February) to last month’s 31.9%. The market share owned by the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra in January 2014 was, at 33.3%, also superior to March’s tally, and also way down from the previous January’s 38.9%.

News that the Ram P/U – formerly known as the Dodge Ram – outsold the Silverado in March was greeted both by many a headline and a harsh rebuke from General Motors. Regardless of how you view the General Motors truck partnership, as a solitary unit with two faces or as two separate entities, GM’s twins outsold the Ram by 16,578 units in March.

Ram sales shot up 26% to 42,532 units, equal to 22.9% of the full-size truck category. Those gains undoubtedly ate into GM’s total, but the Ram and Toyota Tundra also worked together to steal some of Ford’s market share, as well.

Ford’s slower growth is more understandable and more acceptable given the state of their current truck. It’s about to be replaced. Meanwhile, Ford topped 70,000 F-Series sales for the fourth time in the last eleven months, no mean feat.

With 11,589 sales, Toyota topped the 10K mark for the fourth time in the last eight months. Toyota had done so only twice in the previous 31 months. At the current pace, Toyota could sell more than 130,000 Tundras in America for the first time since 2008. In fact, Toyota hadn’t sold this many Tundras in a single month since August of that year. Clearly Tundra volume remains low in comparison to Detroit’s big trucks, but that doesn’t make it a rarely seen vehicle. The Tundra ranked 41st among all new vehicle nameplates in Q1, up from 48th in the Q1 of 2013.

Purely on volume terms, Toyota’s 25% increase was moderate. 2319 more Tundras were sold in March 2014 than in March 2013; Chevy’s 7% March improvement equalled 2686 extra sales. 2014 marked the fifth consecutive year in which Silverado volume improved in the month of March. The problem for General Motors, from an outsider’s perspective, isn’t the Ram’s ability to grab the number two spot, nor is it the fact that Silverado growth was well below the segment’s average. GM points to transaction prices – and Chrysler’s incentives – as a sign of health, and one wouldn’t dare argue that making more money off more trucks is a bad thing.

Yet a strategy that consistently requires the Silverado and Sierra to eat an increasingly smaller portion of an increasingly larger pie is a scheme that’s not terribly worthy of applause in one of the most hotly-contested, highest-volume vehicle categories in the industry.

3 mos.
3 mos.
Ford F-Series
70,940 67,513 + 5.1% 173,358 168,843 + 5.4%
Ram P/U
42,532 33,831 + 25.7% 96,906 77,594 + 24.9%
Chevrolet Silverado
42,247 39,561 + 6.8% 107,757 116,649 - 7.6%
GMC Sierra
16,863 13,817 + 22.0% 42,213 40,796 + 3.5%
Toyota Tundra
11,589 9270 + 25.0% 27,402 23,580 + 16.2%
Nissan Titan
1314 2084 - 36.9% 3318 5112 - 35.1%
166,076 + 11.7% 450,954 432,574 + 4.2%


3 mos.
3 mos.
Ford F-Series
38.2% 40.7% 38.4% 39.0%
Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra
31.9% 32.1% 33.3% 36.4%
Ram P/U
22.9% 20.4% 21.5% 17.9%
Toyota Tundra
6.2% 5.6% 6.1% 5.5%
Nissan Titan
0.7% 1.3% 0.7% 1.2%
Full-Size Share Of
Total Pickup Truck Market
89.8% 86.1% 88.8% 86.8%
Full-Size Pickup Share
Of Total Industry
12.1% 11.4% 12.0% 11.7%
]]> 90
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%
]]> 31
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%
]]> 39
GM’s Truck Market Share Slides In January Wed, 12 Feb 2014 14:00:09 +0000 450x299x2014-Silverado-02-450x299.jpg.pagespeed.ic.NG9-c_eHse

U.S. sales of full-size trucks slid 4.5% in January 2014 as the two leading manufacturers of pickups reported falling sales of all their big trucks.

Typically the slowest month of the year for new vehicle sales, this past January should be no different, as the U.S. auto industry generated 32,000 fewer sales than it did one year ago. Although minivans, commercial vans, and the vast SUV/crossover segment all expanded, passenger car sales plunged, year-over-year, and truck volume declined, as well.

Despite the Ford F-Series’ slight 1% (305 fewer units) drop in January sales, the market share of America’s best-selling vehicle in its own vehicle category expanded by more than a percentage point compared with January 2013.

FCA’s Ram pickup range improved its January market share by more than four points to the level where one out of every five full-size trucks sold were Rams. Year-over-year, Ram sales jumped 22%.

The only other big truck to report higher totals this year than last was the Toyota Tundra. Toyota has recorded four consecutive months of Tundra increases; only once in 2013 did the Tundra decline. But Tundra volume is well off the pace Toyota set in pre-recession 2007 when nearly 200,000 were sold – Tundra sales jumped 11% to 112,732 in 2013. January market share didn’t rise as much as Ford’s even as Toyota sold 886 extra Tundras.

GM’s losses were the bigger story during a disappointing January for trucks. Silverado sales plunged 18%; Sierra sales fell 13%. In total, GM sold more than 10,000 fewer full-size pickup trucks this January than in January 2013, a 20% drop.

Jointly, the Silverado/Sierra decline to 40,044 January sales resulted in a market share tally of 33.2%, down from 38.3% in January of last year. The GM twins outsold the Ford F-Series by 1450 units in January 2013, the second of three consecutive months in which the pair had outsold the F-Series. They have not done so since.

If we are to assume the two trucks themselves are to blame, rather than some combination of inside and outside forces, we can surely place some responsibility on the conservative nature of the redesign. Perhaps the exterior changes from one generation to the next needed to be as different as the changes made under the skin. It’s true, the serious truck buyer is well aware of the newness of the Silverado and Sierra. But the family truck buyer – a big reason for the mass expansion of the truck market – may not wish to pay more money in order to park a pickup in their driveway that doesn’t look much different from the pickup their neighbors bought two years prior.

Thus, with plenty of trucks on dealer lots and concern about losing market share to Ford even before the F-150 is replaced by the more boldly-designed 2015 model, GM will ramp up incentives with a long-running Presidents Day promotion, according to Automotive News. Clearly, for General Motors to avoid going head-to-head against Ford without F-150-like incentives would have required a more significant leap forward with the 2014 models. There’s a belief that truck buyers will pay more for the better truck, but how much better does that truck need to be?

Cadillac Escalade EXT
25 172 - 85.5% 0.02% 0.1%
Chevrolet Avalanche
31 1939 - 98.4% 0.03% 1.5%
Chevrolet Silverado
28,926 35,445 - 18.4% 24.0% 28.1%
Ford F-Series
46,536 46,841 - 0.7% 38.6% 37.1%
GMC Sierra
11,118 12,846 - 13.5% 9.2% 10.2%
Nissan Titan
887 1394 - 36.4% 0.7% 1.1%
Ram P/U
25,071 20,474 + 22.5% 20.8% 16.2%
Toyota Tundra
7890 7004 + 12.6% 6.5% 5.6%
126,115 - 4.5%
Total (Excluding EXT/Avalanche)
124,004 - 2.9%
]]> 81
Cain’s Segments, January 2014: Subcompacts Mon, 10 Feb 2014 14:00:10 +0000 TTAC_yaris-versa

The Mitsubishi Mirage’s status as the best-selling Mitsubishi passenger car in America in January 2014 wasn’t enough to help the subcompact segment overcome the declines reported by its leaders last month.

Up from nothing a year ago, Mirage sales totalled 1170 units in January 2014, the nameplate’s second-best month since its return in September. Excluding the Mirage from the equation, subcompact sales slid 9% (rather than 7%) in January, right in line with the overall passenger car market’s decline.

It could be argued that the Mirage is more of a competitor for the Chevrolet Spark than the Chevrolet Sonic, sales of which slid 23% to 1848 units in January. We’ve excluded the Spark, Fiat 500, Hyundai Veloster, Mini Cooper, Scion iQ, Scion xD, Smart Fortwo, and Volkswagen Beetle and from this list in an attempt to showcase the most direct mainstream subcompact rivals. Including those cars, sales of 18 small cars were indeed down 9% in January.

Digression complete, the Nissan Versa was again America’s top-selling subcompact car. Simply put, space wins, and the Versa (and Versa Note) provide space for families in an incredibly affordable package. Complaints regarding its CVT or frumpy sedan styling were set aside by a record 117,352 new Versa owners in 2013. 2014 is off to a slower pace.

The next-best-selling Chevrolet Sonic is joined by the Ford Fiesta in claiming 30% of the subcompact market for Detroit. That the Sonic and Fiesta could do so on the basis of offering the lowest price or the highest incentives would be one thing; but that they compete as two of the most dynamically competent subcompacts is a sign that Detroit automakers have a future in the small car business. Sales of both the Sonic and Fiesta were down in January.

The Honda Fit, another friend of drivers, recorded a narrow 34-unit loss, but we can expect Fit sales to fluctuate as the second-generation car departs this year and the third-gen Fit arrives.

Jointly, sales of the Hyundai Accent/Kia Rio fraternal twin duo rose 24% in January 2014 to 7402 units. The pair generated 101,210 sales in 2013, 20% of the category’s volume.

The bottom four – Mazda 2, Mirage, two Toyotas – attracted just 16% of subcompact buyers in January. The same cars, without the Mirage’s help, owned 19% of the market one year ago.

Year-over-year, Mazda 2 volume has decreased in twelve of the last thirteen months. Toyota’s Yaris volume has decreased in ten of the last thirteen months. Yaris sales fell 79% between 2008 and 2013. The Sonic, Fiesta, Accent, Rio, and Versa, all of which sell more often, are available in hatchback and sedan form, unlike the hatchback-only Yaris, 2, and Prius C.

The Prius C was just one part of a Prius family which fell 23% to 12,205 units in January. The Prius C accounted for 20% of total Prius sales last month, up from 17% in January 2013. Although Prius C volume increased 17% in 2013 (4% in a direct year-over-year ten-month period), the year didn’t end well, and Prius C sales are down 7% over the last five months.
At the best of times, in the best of weather, with the highest or the lowest fuel prices, January is traditionally a slow month for the auto industry in the United States. We won’t, therefore, base theories on the decreasing desirability of subcompacts on January results. But, in the back of our minds, we will remember that this same group of cars was up just 1% in October, level in November, and down 4% in December.

January 2014
January 2013
% Change
Chevrolet Sonic
6587 7177 - 8.2%
Ford Fiesta
4162 4285 - 2.9%
Honda Fit
3122 3156 - 1.1%
Hyundai Accent
4240 3495 + 21.3%
Kia Rio
3162 2470 + 28.0%
Mazda 2
907 1543 - 41.2%
Mitsubishi Mirage
Nissan Versa
8524 10,270 - 17.0%
Toyota Prius C
2467 2691 - 8.3%
Toyota Yaris
1005 2897 - 65.3%
37,984 - 6.9%
]]> 23
Cain’s Segments: Minivans Up! Thu, 06 Feb 2014 14:00:02 +0000 TTAC_minivan-chart

The story basically writes itself. America’s minivan segment, which declined faster than the overall industry before becoming mostly stagnant as the U.S. automobile market regained strength, enjoyed a sales boost in January 2014 even as the overall market decreased in size.

Eight minivans combined for a 13% year-over-year sales increase last month as four nameplates – up from just one a year ago and one the year before that – crested the 7000-unit barrier.

Minivan volume increased by 3764 sales in January 2014. Growth which was slowed only by the Mazda 5’s slight 80-unit decrease, the Nissan Quest’s 25% drop, and the Toyota Sienna’s slight 1% decline.

Even the Volkswagen Routan generated more January sales in 2014 than in 2013. Yes, that Routan, the Grand Caravan copy that was cancelled ages ago and oft-ignored before cancellation. In fact, as Volkswagen sales tumbled in January; as every single continuing model other than the Beetle Convertible reported a year-over-year decrease, Routan sales rose to the highest level since last February.

This is utterly inconsequential. The Routan owned just 1% of America’s minivan market in January 2014 (just 0.4% in calendar year 2013). Its Windsor, Ontario-built twins from Chrysler and Dodge, the Town & Country and Grand Caravan, grabbed 43% of January’s minivan buyers, up from 39% a year ago.

Indeed, Chrysler/Dodge minivan market share in January 2013 was particularly low, which, in part, leads us a greater understand of January 2014’s segment-wide improvement. A year before last month’s 13% increase, minivan sales dropped 7% in January 2013, a decrease which assisted in making last month’s increase appear more substantial. Yet, the category’s total last month was also higher than what the same vans managed two years ago in 2011, when 31,685 were sold. Dodge Grand Caravan sales were down 10% from that period, however.

Ignoring the identical twins’ combined total, the Honda Odyssey led all minivans in total sales in January 2014. The Odyssey was the top ranked minivan in 2013, as well, although it trailed the Toyota Sienna by more than 1000 units a year ago.

The top four leave very few crumbs over which the remaining quartet can battle. The Kia Sedona, Mazda 5, Nissan Quest, and yes, the Volkswagen Routan produced one out of every ten January 2014 minivan sales, down from 12% in January 2013.

No matter the vehicle type, January is not a month on which to base trends. It is traditionally the lowest-volume auto sales month of the year. Weather is believed to have been more of a deterrent last month than is typically the case, as well. In 2013, January was responsible for just 5.5% of the minivans sold over the course of twelve months.

Meanwhile, sales of SUVs and crossovers increased approximately 5% in January as sales of passenger cars tumbled 9% and pickup trucks decreased a little less than 5%.

January 2014
January 2013
% Change
Chrysler Town & Country
6525 + 8.1%
Dodge Grand Caravan
4965 + 46.8%
Honda Odyssey
6760 + 16.6%
Kia Sedona
363 + 21.8%
Mazda 5
1880 - 4.3%
Nissan Quest
978 - 24.8%
Toyota Sienna
7781 - 1.1%
Volkswagen Routan
241 + 49.0%
29,493 + 12.8%
]]> 17
September 2013 Recap: Canada’s Best Selling SUVs Wed, 16 Oct 2013 12:30:27 +0000 TTAC_Canada-best-selling-SUVs

September’s record Canadian auto sales were powered by huge gains among many of the country’s most popular nameplates. The record-setting industry performance occurred despite the declining volume reported by the manufacturer which sells the greatest number of vehicles south of the border. Numerous small-scale luxury automakers continue to post vastly improved sales compared with results from 2012.

Automobile manufacturers collectively reported a 4.1% year-over-year improvement in September sales, an increase of nearly 6000 units, an increase of more than 14,000 units compared with September 2011. 42.9% of the new vehicles registered in Canada in September were sold by the Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Group, and General Motors, down slightly from 43.2% in September 2012 as volume at the Detroit Three grew 3.5%. In September, those three manufacturers owned 45.3% of the U.S. market, where General Motors wasn’t outsold by Hyundai-Kia.

GM Canada sales were down 2.6% to 18,270 (up 2.1% to 179,923 through nine months) as the improving Hyundai brand and declining Kia brand combined for a 0.6% improvement to 18,538 September sales. Kia’s consistently falling sales in 2013 dragged the Korean pair down 0.7% to 168,171 units during the first three quarters of 2013. Ford MoCo and Chrysler’s five brands lead the way, both having already topped 200,000 sales, a feat accomplished by both automakers one month earlier this year than in 2012.

Hyundai and Kia, not unlike Canada’s fourth-best-selling manufacturer, Toyota, rely on cars for more than half their volume, and that reliance exists in a market that’s increasingly more interested in trucks, SUVs, and crossovers. Ford and Chrysler generated 48% and 32% of their September volume with a single pickup truck line. (Pickup trucks accounted for 37% of GM Canada sales last month.)

Car sales, up just 0.4% this year according to the Automotive News Data Center, did rise 1.3% in September. But that 831-unit increase is mercilessly contrasted with a light truck market which grew by 5100 sales.

Even so, at the top of the heap, Canada’s best-selling car, the Honda Civic, was up 8% to 6262 sales. The Civic was responsible for 9% of the passenger car market. 14 of Canada’s 20 best-selling cars, including six of the top ten, posted year-over-year increases. Six of Canada’s 20 most popular cars were midsize competitors, up from four a month earlier.

And what about those trucks? The category as a whole was up 11.5% in September. 91% of the trucks sold last month were driven away from Ford, Chrysler, and GM dealers in the form of the F-Series, Ram, GMC Sierra, and the Chevrolet Silverado, the only one of the four to report declining volume. Truck sales are up 8% this year, and sales of the five top sellers – which includes the fifth-ranked Toyota Tacoma – are up 13%.

Ford also owns the title of Canada’s best-selling SUV. The brand’s leading utility vehicle, the Escape, was down 10% in September yet still sold nearly half again more frequently than the second-ranked Toyota RAV4. The Escape is America’s second-best-selling utility vehicle this year, but in its September victory, only sold 5% more often than the second-ranked Honda CR-V. Canadian SUV and crossover sales are growing at a faster rate than trucks, cars, and certainly minivans, which fell 5% in September.

In a rosy market, there are still sad cases. Among brands, September’s sharpest declines were reported by soon-to-be-erased Suzuki, down 56%, as well as Scion, Mazda, Fiat, Jeep, and BMW, all of which slid more than 10% from their September 2012 totals. Chevrolet, Volvo, Mini, Audi, Mitsubishi, and Kia all reported September drops, although Chevrolet, Audi, and Mitsubishi are up on year-to-date terms. Lincoln and Smart are not.

On the flip side, Jaguar sales shot up 152% in September and Cadillac reported a 93% jump. Yet in Canada, these brands don’t sell as well as they do in the U.S. market, which is nine times bigger than the Canadian automobile market this year. Jaguar sells 13 times more cars in the U.S. than they do in Canada. Cadillac sales in the United States are 20 times higher than they are in Canada.

Full Table available here

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Cain’s Segments: September 2013 Large Car Sales Thu, 03 Oct 2013 15:39:20 +0000 TTAC_large-car-sales-chart-September-2013

As America’s new vehicle market posted a 4% sales decline in an abbreviated September 2013 and total passenger car sales slid 7%, sales of large cars at mainstream brands rose 5%.

Growth was powered in large part by the Dodge Charger, which hasn’t sold this well since 2008.

Toyota reported its tenth consecutive significant Avalon sales increase. The Hyundai Azera’s 67% jump equalled 596 extra units. In its sixth month, Kia sold 926 Cadenzas, down 35% from the average it had achieved over the prior three months.

On five separate occasions during the first three quarters of 2012, Hyundai sold more than 3000 Genesis sedans and coupes, but only once this year. Hyundai USA reports sales of the Genesis sedan and coupe as though they’re one car.

The priced-like-a-G37 Nissan Maxima outsold the Toyota Avalon in September, but Nissan hasn’t reported a monthly increase in Maxima volume since October of last year. Only once since October has Buick reported a monthly increase in LaCrosse volume. After rising above 90,000 units in 2005, LaCrosse sales in the U.S. dropped in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. But after a huge increase to 61,178 sales in 2010, LaCrosse volume is steadily declining again, and Buick could struggle to top 50,000 LaCrosse sales in 2013.

1299 of the Ford Taurus’s September total was generated by the Police Interceptor sedan. Sales of the civilian Taurus fell 9% to 4279 units in September. Civilian Taurus sales are up 8% to 54,935 this year.

Ford has sold 8686 Taurus Police Interceptors and 10,087 Explorer Police Interceptors in 2013. Sales of Chevrolet’s Caprice PPV are up 4% to 2966. 514 Caprices were sold in September.

In 2012, with a near doubling in year-over-year volume, Chrysler 300 volume rose to the model’s highest level since 2007, but that level has proven to be unsustainable this year. Still, in September 2013, despite two fewer selling days than September 2012 and no Labour Day weekend output, 300 volume grew by 274 units.

General Motors said that, “fleet sales in September reflect the strategic repositioning of the Impala.” Chasing retail customers has limited the Impala’s monthly U.S. totals, but it hasn’t resulted in the Impala’s removal from the top of the segment’s leaderboard. 3797 fewer Impalas were sold this September than last; 19,146 fewer through the first nine months of 2013. Combined, the 300 and Charger outsold the Impala in September but trail the Chevrolet by 3505 sales year-to-date.

The Impala was America’s 11th-best-selling car in September 2012 but fell to 14th in September 2013. The Charger ranked 18th in car sales last month, ahead of the Mazda 3 and BMW 3-Series; just behind the Chrysler 200 and Nissan Versa.

4.3% of all new vehicles sold in September were large mainstream brand cars, up from 3.9% a year ago. Defining this segment only by the perceived status of badges is deceiving, however. These are very well-equipped cars, typically very powerful, and almost always exceedingly roomy. In most (if not all) cases, they’re viable competitors for luxury-branded sedans, at least those which lack sporting intentions.

On that note, Lexus ES sales fell 26% to 4866 in September but have risen 44% to 52,076 this year, numbers which are Avalon-like. Lincoln MKZ sales rose 12% to 2874 in September and are up 1% – 301 units – to 23,775 through nine months, better than what Hyundai and Kia manag with the Azera and Cadenza siblings.


9 mos.
9 mos.
% Change
Buick LaCrosse
3952 4580 - 13.7% 38,845 45,066 - 13.8%
Buick Lucerne
2 - 100% 9 966 - 99.1%
Chevrolet Impala
11,462 15,259 - 24.9% 121,033 140,179 - 13.7%
Chrysler 300
5036 4762 + 5.8% 44,186 53,630 - 17.6%
Dodge Charger
8713 5863 + 48.6% 73,342 63,485 + 15.5%
Ford Taurus
5578 5555 + 0.4% 63,621 56,848 + 11.9%
Hyundai Azera
1487 891 + 66.9% 9105 5993 + 51.9%
Hyundai Genesis
2926 2669 + 9.6% 25,117 27,016 - 7.0%
Kia Cadenza
926 5758
Nissan Maxima
4717 5718 - 17.5% 36,196 46,121 - 21.5%
Toyota Avalon
4514 1571 + 187% 53,795 21,673 + 148%
46,870 + 5.2% 471,007 460,977 + 2.2%
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Cain’s Segments: Compacts Lifted By Cruze And Dart Tue, 09 Jul 2013 14:50:02 +0000 TTAC_June-2013-compact-car-sales-chart


Compact cars, many of which are now as roomy as older midsize cars, collectively sold at a significantly better rate in the first half of 2013 than in the first half of 2012.

It may have proven to be a bit of a disappointment thus far, but 35,764 of the extra 87,149 compact sales have come from the Dodge Dart. Exclude small Dodges from the equation and compact sales in America are up 4.8% this year. America’s auto industry has produced a 7.5% improvement.

But that’s not a fair comparison. The Dart, America’s 27th-best-selling car, has had an impact on the compact market, however small that impact may have been. In truth, compact car sales are up 8% in 2013 and rose 15.1% in June, specifically.

That June improvement had much more to do with the Chevrolet Cruze’s 73.2% improvement than it did with the Dart’s 6235-unit boost. The Cruze was America’s second-best-selling car in June, trailing only the all-conquering Toyota Camry. Honda also reported its second year-over-year increase in 2013. Subaru Impreza volume grew for the first time since December of last year. After falling 6.3% in the first quarter of 2013, Ford Focus sales rose 11.5% in 2013’s second quarter. June marked the Hyundai Elantra’s twelfth consecutive year-over-year increase. With a 25.5% boost, Hyundai added 4508 sales with the Elantra. A good thing, too, as without it, the rest of the Hyundai brand fell 7.2%.


And while sales of the Toyota Corolla (and its Matrix sibling which Toyota USA affixes to it) fell slightly in June, Corolla volume is up 4.8% in 2013. Its lead over the Honda Civic as America’s top-selling small car stands at a narrow 268-unit margin. Regardless of how Toyota has gone about generating such volume, that’s a lead deserving of praise.


The Corolla is ancient, not as efficient as its rival; not as refined or as powerful or as comfortable, either. Yet its reputation for invincibility garners for Toyota an average of 26,500 buyers per month, an astounding sum for a car that hasn’t been remotely new since before W. Bush’s first midterm election success.

% Change
6 mos.
6 mos.
% Change
Acura ILX
1507 1081 + 39.4% 10,724 1249 + 759%
Buick Verano
4489 4091 + 9.7% 23,433 15,669 + 49.6%
Chevrolet Cruze
32,871 18,983 + 73.2% 133,689 113,884 + 17.4%
Dodge Caliber
995 - 100% 45 8982 - 99.5%
Dodge Dart
6437 202 + 3087% 44,949 203 + 22,042%
Ford Focus
23,144 21,186 + 9.2% 134,785 131,423 + 2.6%
Honda Civic
29,724 27,500 + 8.1% 158,704 162,582 - 2.4%
Hyundai Elantra
22,163 17,655 + 25.5% 126,244 97,769 + 29.1%
Kia Forte
6620 7461 - 11.3% 34,351 40,800 - 15.8%
Kia Soul
11,287 10,199 + 10.7% 63,031 63,635 - 0.9%
Mazda 3
7566 8835 - 14.4% 52,701 59,527 - 11.5%
Mitsubishi Lancer
1422 1529 - 7.0% 10,840 8495 + 27.6%
Nissan Cube
441 711 - 38.0% 3319 4085 - 18.8%
Nissan Sentra
10,199 9211 + 10.7% 66,439 55,984 + 18.7%
Scion xB
1644 1869 - 12.0% 9519 10,206 - 6.7%
Scion xD
780 1017 - 23.3% 4324 5502 - 21.4%
Subaru Impreza
6907 6319 + 9.3% 39,106 46,702 - 16.3%
Suzuki SX4
1161 - 100% 2859 6457 - 55.7%
Toyota Corolla/Matrix
26,458 26,647 - 0.7% 158,972 151,726 + 4.8%
Volkswagen Golf
2602 4092 - 36.4% 16,784 20,882 - 19.6%
Volkswagen Jetta
14,813 13,604 + 8.9% 81,296 83,203 - 2.3%
184,348 + 15.1% 1,176,114 1,088,965 + 8.0%

Notes: Not quite premium but awfully costly for conventional compact buyers, the Acura ILX and Buick Verano own a little less than 3% of the compact category, as the category is defined here. June marked the first time Chevrolet managed to sell more than 26,000 Cruze sedans in a single month. Since rising consistently from December through April, Dart sales have tumbled from 8099 to 7448 to 6437 in June. Ford Focus sales were higher last year than they’d been since 2002 – the Focus is on pace for more than 250,000 U.S. sales this year. Kia hasn’t sold more than 8000 Fortes in a single month since June 2011, but it’s safe to assume the much-improved new car will top that with ease once inventory rises. says Kia dealers currently have more than 8000 MY2013 Souls in stock but not much more than 6000 MY2014 Fortes. Mazda 3 sales were higher last year than they’d ever been, but the pace has proven hard to match as the current 3 reaches the end of its tenure. Only once this year has Mazda recorded a year-over-year increase in 3 sales. Nissan should sell more than 115,000 Sentras this year for the first time since 2006. 24% of of the Subaru Impreza’s total comes from the WRX. Subaru has also sold 25,090 XV Crosstreks this year. If considered a compact car rather than a crossover, the extra XV sales would mean the compact is up 10.3% this year. Volkswagen’s Golf total includes 9062 Golfs powered by five-cylinders and diesels plus 6551 GTIs and 1171 copies of the Golf R. Jetta volume is made up from 70,511 sedans and 10,785 SportWagens, which are actually Golfs.

Independent analyst Timothy Cain is the founder and editor of His look at the important segments are a permanent fixture at TTAC, along with a  look at the market up North.

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Cain’s Segments: Where Did All The German Roadsters Go? Tue, 09 Jul 2013 12:05:45 +0000 TTAC_German-roadster-USA-sales-history-chart

In the first six months of 2013, the volume achieved by America’s auto industry was 5% smaller than it was in the first six months of 2003. This is an important statistic, one which goes a long way in understanding how America’s appetite for the smallest German roadsters (and hardtops, and hardtop roadsters) has dwindled.

In the whole of 2003, the Audi TT, BMW Z4, Mercedes-Benz SLK, and Porsche Boxster accounted for 0.24% of the new vehicle market. So far this year, with assistance from the Porsche Cayman and the not-so-German Jaguar F-Type, this group is responsible for just 0.12% of the new vehicle market.

June 2013
June 2012
June % Change
6 mos. 2013
6 mos. 2012
YTD % Change
Audi TT
173 190 - 8.9% 994 1142 - 13.0%
204 240 - 15.0% 1396 1412 - 1.1%
Jaguar F-Type
417 576
Mercedes-Benz SLK
312 301 + 3.7% 2305 2264 + 1.8%
Porsche Boxster
423 464 - 8.8% 2727 624 + 337%
Porsche Cayman
388 26 + 1392% 1205 401 + 200%
1221 + 57.0% 9203 5843 + 57.5%

This isn’t a judgement on the sports car industry. Porsche, for example, will sell more 911s this year than in 2003. As much as anything, it says something about the BMW Z4’s fall from great heights. 20,182 were sold in 2003, enough to outdo the TT, SLK, and Boxster combined.

Nevertheless, this does all sound too pessimistic, particularly given the warm welcome afforded to the new Jaguar F-Type. With its $69,000 base price, the Jag can’t decide whether it wants to take on the 911 or Boxster. With 417 sales in June, it very nearly outsold the less costly Porsche, and it did manage to sell more frequently than the TT, Z4, SLK, and Cayman.

Don’t interpret this to be a surefire sign of long-term success. Sales in this category swing upward and downward whimsically. For instance, the Boxster’s June decline, though slight, points to the suddenness with which growth can be stymied. On sale in its third-gen iteration for a year now, the Boxster’s streak of twelve consecutive months of year-over-year growth came to a halt in June. The Cayman, finally readily available in second-generation form, must have something to do with that.

42% of the 1917 sales represented here came from the two Porsches. Yet Porsche’s greater success was found with the 911, which outsold the mid-engined twins by seven units last month. And Porsche’s greatest volume was achieved with the Cayenne, which generated 49% of Porsche sales, and did so by finding more than 700 buyers for the Cayenne Diesel and Cayenne GTS.

Back to the subject of the F-Type, it’s important to remember that its success or failure is of much greater consequence at Jaguar than, say, the Z4’s would be at BMW. Indeed, Mercedes-Benz’s reliance on the SLK is virtually nonexistent, and though Audi can present the TT as a style icon, the brand will not rise and fall with its U.S. sales improvement or even the TT’s disappearance.

Only 1% of the BMWs sold in the United States this year have been Z4s; only 1.6% of the Benzes have been SLKs; only 1.3% of the Audis were TTs. Meanwhile, at Jaguar, with only one proper month of selling under its belt, the F-Type is already responsible for 7.4% of the company’s American sales this year.

The F-Type sold very nearly as often as the XJ in June and roundly trounced the XK – by a 3.3-to-1 count – last month. Fully one-quarter of Jaguar’s volume in June came from the F-Type. In June 2012, without the F-Type, Jaguar accounted for just 22% of Jaguar-Land Rover U.S. volume. One year later, with the F-Type, Jaguar attracted 32% of Jaguar-Land Rover clientele.


Independent analyst Timothy Cain is the founder and editor of

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Cain’s Segments: Return Of The Big, Bad, BOF SUVs Mon, 08 Jul 2013 11:00:42 +0000 TTAC_full-size-suv-market-share-chart

June hosted a dramatic decline in the U.S. sales of traditional full-size sport-utility vehicles but also marked the end of a successful first half in which sales of these seven SUVs rose 7.9%.

Through the first six months of 2013, the biggest, baddest, “truck-based” SUVs grew at a pace that exceeded the 7.5% growth rate achieved by the overall new vehicle market. 1.5% of the automobiles sold in America this year have been Armadas, Expeditions, Sequoias, Suburbans, Tahoes, Yukons, and Yukon XLs. As recently as 2010, more than 2% of the market belonged to these seven SUVs. As recently as 2006, they owned more than 3% of the market. And in 2003, little more than a decade ago, these seven SUVs accounted for 45 out of every 1000 new vehicles sold.

June 2013
June 2012
June % Change
6 mos. 2013
6 mos. 2012
YTD % Change
Chevrolet Suburban
3813 5136 - 25.8% 21,663 23,068 - 6.1%
Chevrolet Tahoe
5790 6427 - 9.9% 40,857 33,274 + 22.8%
Ford Expedition
3211 3361 - 4.5% 17,741 18,613 - 4.7%
GMC Yukon
1797 2279 - 21.1% 12,105 12,662 - 4.4%
GMC Yukon XL
1824 2343 - 22.2% 14,704 8975 + 63.8%
Nissan Armada
1137 1763 - 35.5% 7381 9474 - 22.1%
Toyota Sequoia
1145 1093 + 4.8% 6693 6249 + 7.1%
22,402 – 16.4% 121,144 112,315 + 7.9%

Times have changed. That’s not news to casual observers, at least the observers who live outside of Texas or D.C., where individual buyers and motorcade fabricators have helped to keep the big SUV alive.

If you can, forget fleet volume for a moment in order to consider the likelihood that the next full-size SUV you see will be a General Motors product. GM’s June market share in the category fell slightly to 70.7% from 72.2% a year ago and 76.1% in May, when the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon XL both recorded significant upticks, the Yukon XL rising 182% year-over-year. All four GM nameplates recorded year-over-year decreases in June, as did the Ford Expedition and Nissan Armada.

Indeed, the majority of full-size SUV nameplates have recorded year-over-year decreases on year-to-date terms, as well. But the Tahoe’s extra 7583 sales, the Yukon XL’s extra 5729 sales, and the Toyota Sequoia’s slight 444-unit gains have propelled the segment forward.

The suggestion that fleet emphasis will destroy the large truck-based SUV segment ignores three key facts. First, automakers are capable of generating profits in smaller vehicle categories. Second, the whole commercial van category is designed for fleet customers or, at the very least, for clients who don’t use the vehicle as their personal car, and that’s a category that manufacturers are more hotly pursuing of late. Finally, these SUVs take their foundation from high-volume pickup trucks. Well, maybe not the Nissan, but you get the drift.

Including the Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESV, General Motors has sold 98,833 SUVs off the GMT900 pickup truck platform in America in the last six months. If that number isn’t sufficiently meaningful, remember the 330,219 Silverados and Sierras General Motors has also sold.

That said, the chart you see here clearly shows that this is a dying breed, regardless of whether the Secret Service or individual Texans make up the majority of buyers. While America’s best-selling vehicle has improved its share of the overall market from a decade-low of 3.9% (in 2008) to 4.7% in the first half of this year; while America’s best-selling car has steadily recorded market share totals between 2.4% and 3.4% over the last 126 months, these SUVs have lost two-thirds of their market share since 2003.

Buyers of three-row crossovers are far more numerous. By way of GM’s three Lambda-platform utilities, the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, and the Toyota Highlander, six car-like siblings of these seven full-size SUVs have attracted 341,180 in the last six months.

Independent analyst Timothy Cain is the founder and editor of His look at the important segments will be a permanent fixture at TTAC, along with a  look at the market up North.


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Canada In May 2013: Picking Up The Pace Tue, 11 Jun 2013 14:53:18 +0000 Canadian Auto Sales

(Editor’s note: Despite being a close neighbor, ally, and NAFTA  member, Canada usually receives short shrift when it comes to the counting of cars. TTAC is a prime offender. We cover sales in Europe, Japan, China, and of course America – but Canada? Our resident car counter Cain will now cover the Canadian market on a monthly basis. Any volunteers for Mexico?)

For the second time in what was predicted to be yet another year of growth for the Canadian auto industry, volume grew significantly in May 2013. January volume was down 2%. By the end of February, the market was off 2012’s pace by 3%. March’s decline wasn’t as bad, but through the first quarter, sales were still down 2%. After April’s 9% increase, auto sales in May reached their highest level in six years.


Ford, Canada’s leading manufacturer, sold more vehicles in May than in any month since 1997. Buoyed by record Ford F-Series sales, Ford Canada outsold Chrysler’s five brands by more than 3000 units.

Another truck sales record was set by the Ram Pickup, the second best-selling vehicle line in Canada. Just under three out of every ten Chrysler Group sales came from the Ram during Chrysler’s best sales month since 1971.

In all, 16 different brands, including soon-to-be-defunct Suzuki, posted year-over-year sales declines in May. The worst of May’s decreases were recorded by Smart, Lincoln, Mini, Volvo, Suzuki, and BMW, all of which have also sold fewer vehicles in the first five months of 2013 than during the same period a year earlier.

20 brands reported year-over-year sales increases. Boosted by the FR-S, which was responsible for 41% of Scion volume, Toyota’s sub-brand boasted of a 63% jump in Canadian sales in May, the best improvement of any brand. Cadillac, Jaguar, Porsche, Subaru, Acura, Honda, and Ram all reported gains better than 20%.

As the Canadian auto market grew 5.4% in May, passenger car sales made gains of just 2%. Car volume is down 1% through five months. Pickup truck sales grew 9% as 13 nameplates accounted for 17% of the industry’s volume. A year ago, 15 truck nameplates accounted for 16% of the market.

14% of the vehicles sold in the United States in May were pickup trucks. And while Ford, Chevrolet, GMC, and Ram attracted 83% of truck buyers in the U.S., that figure rose to 92% in Canada last month. May’s U.S. new vehicle market was nearly eight times the size of Canada’s, but America’s truck market was just six times the size of the Canadian truck market.


Excluding the Sprinter van, Mercedes-Benz was outsold by BMW for luxury brand leadership. The six-unit margin was quite clearly slim. So far this year, Mercedes-Benz is just 149 units ahead of BMW. Although they go without it in the U.S., Mercedes-Benz markets the B-Class in Canada. With 1255 sales through five months, the B-Class is responsible for a larger portion of Mercedes-Benz Canada’s volume than the E-Class and CLS-Class combined. The B250’s base price is $7400 lower than the base price of Benz’s C250.

While America’s five best-selling cars in May were midsize sedans, the best-selling midsize car in Canada ranked eighth among cars, as is normally the case. May was the fourth time in 2013 that the Hyundai Elantra topped the leaderboard as Canada’s best-selling car. Its year-to-date lead over the Honda Civic now stands at 332 units. The only brand which has sold more cars than Hyundai this year has been Toyota, and Toyota’s car lead is only 804-units strong. Combined, Hyundai and Kia’s cars have outsold the cars of Toyota, Lexus, and Scion by 13,472 units through five months.

Despite the Elantra’s leadership, Hyundai-Kia’s market share has fallen from 12.8% in the first five months of 2013 to 12.1% this year. Ford MoCo, Chrysler Canada, and General Motors have combined to grow their share of the Canadian market from 44.8% last year to 45.9% in 2013. As a trio, the automakers formerly known as the Big Three have sold 15,000 more vehicles in 2013 than they did in the first five months of 2012, helped in large part by 11,000 extra pickup truck sales.

Miss the full table for Canada? Here it is?

Independent analyst Timothy Cain is the founder and editor of His look at the important segments will be a permanent fixture at TTAC, along with a  look at the market up North.

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Cain’s Segments: Muscle Cars Weak, Challenger Dodges The Trend Mon, 10 Jun 2013 13:52:41 +0000 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That sound you’ve been hearing for nearly two decades is the weeping and gnashing of teeth roused by the Chevrolet Beretta’s demise. Oh, Ford Probe, we hardly knew ye. Whither the Dodge Daytona? Let’s look at the continuing decline of an empire, formerly ruled by the American Muscle Car.

V8 Daytona - Picture courtesy,jpg

At Chevrolet, SS is not the oft-used badge that AMG is at Mercedes-Benz. Ford’s ST and SVT branding aren’t used to form an overwhelming BMW M-like presence. You can buy big V8-engined Chryslers, but many of Chrysler’s higher-volume products – 200, Avenger, Dart, Journey, Wrangler – go without sporting iterations. Detroit’s three automakers don’t even sell coupe versions of their mainstream sedans these days.

1990 Beretta Pace Car replica - Picture courtesy

There is plenty of sporting heritage present in GM, Ford, and Chrysler showrooms, of course. Iconic nameplates sell at a level normally associated with moderately successful midsize cars. And even in 2013, a year in which muscle car sales have fallen, the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang are America’s 29th and 30th-best-selling passenger cars, ahead of the Ford Taurus, Subaru Impreza, and Buick LaCrosse.


Although we’re also showing results for two higher-end cars, two veritable sports cars, a more accurate reflection of the muscle car marketplace is made more apparent when you leave out the Corvette and Viper. Sales of America’s muscle car trio are down 4.6% through five months. May sales of the Camaro, Challenger, and Mustang fell 8.3% in the United States.


Those declines haven’t occurred because of the lowest-volume member of the group. Dodge Challenger volume is up 28% this year, rising 15% in May. Its market share in the three-car category grew to 24.9% in May, up from 19.8% a year ago.

That market share was obviously stolen from the Camaro and Mustang, whether there are any prospective Challenger buyers who would have actually chosen the Chevrolet or Ford. It’s bit of a Sox or Cubs; Manchester United or Manchester City world.

Of the 22,263 American muscle cars sold in May, 35.6% were Camaros, down from 37.2% in May 2012. The Mustang’s share slid from 43% in May 2012 to 39.5% in May 2013. Year-to-date, the Camaro and Mustang have lost nearly four and three percentage points worth of market share, respectively.

In a market which enjoyed an 8% year-over-year increase in May, the fact that the Camaro and Mustang could be struggling to match last year’s pace shouldn’t come as a surprise. Whether you’re selling a German roadster, a driftable Japanese sports car, or an outrageously powerful Detroit pony car, the number of customers is likely to shrink as the launch date becomes a distant memory.

Dodge Challenger sales figures must then be the exception that proves the rule.

May 2013
May 2012
May % Change
5 mos. 2013
5 mos. 2012
YTD % Change
Chevrolet Camaro
7929 9023 - 12.1% 35,076 40,574 - 13.6%
Chevrolet Corvette
905 1219 - 25.8% 4820 5547 - 13.1%
Dodge Challenger
5537 4816 + 15.0% 24,881 19,442 + 28.0%
Ford Mustang
8797 10,427 - 15.6% 33,868 38,361 - 11.7%
SRT Viper
65 129 20 + 545%
25,485 - 8.8% 98,774 103,944 - 5.0%

Independent analyst Timothy Cain is the founder and editor of His look at the important segments will be a permanent fixture at TTAC, along with a  look at the market up North.  



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Cain’s Segments: Trucks Roll Over Subcompacts Thu, 06 Jun 2013 11:36:10 +0000

The eleven vehicles most obviously classified as subcompacts accounted for 3.8% of the American automobile industry’s May 2013 sales volume, down from 3.9% a year ago. Overall volume increased, but not at the rate of the overall market, and certainly not at the rate achieved by their opposite, pickup trucks. Let’s have a little look at the small cars.

Through the first five months of 2013, subcompacts are responsible for four out of every 100 new vehicle sales. That’s down from the 4.3% achieved by the same eleven vehicles in the same period of 2012.

Although it could be intelligently argued that the Hyundai Veloster (down 22% to 2826 in May) and Volkswagen Beetle (up 24% to 3718) could be listed here, as well as city cars like the Chevrolet Spark (2581 May sales), Smart Fortwo (up 16% to 818), and Scion iQ (down 41% to 526), the slightly narrower borderlines we’ve established for subcompacts in this post should do a better job of manifesting conventional subcompact purchases and leases. The Fiat 500, Mini Cooper, Toyota Prius C, and leftover Chevrolet Aveos are the most unconventional cars capable of throwing a wrench into the normality of the proceedings.

May 2013
May 2012
May % Change
5 mos. 2013
5 mos. 2012
YTD % Change
Chevrolet Aveo
1 5 - 80.0% 2 53 - 96.2%
Chevrolet Sonic
9523 7205 + 32.2% 37,783 35,455 + 6.6%
Fiat 500
4051 4003 + 1.2% 17,562 16,702 + 5.1%
Ford Fiesta
6693 6080 + 10.1% 28,801 26,737 + 7.7%
Honda Fit
4667 3879 + 20.3% 20,486 19,706 + 4.0%
Hyundai Accent
5578 6166 - 9.5% 24,222 30,810 - 21.4%
Kia Rio
5142 4019 + 27.9% 19,491 18,728 + 4.1%
Mazda 2
791 901 - 12.2% 4851 9213 - 47.3%
Mini Cooper *
4033 4377 - 7.9% 16,907 18,623 - 9.2%
Nissan Versa
8614 8643 - 0.3% 55,056 52,173 + 5.5%
Toyota Prius C
3782 3693 + 2.4% 17,133 12,594 + 36.0%
Toyota Yaris
1778 3521 - 49.5% 11,179 17,964 - 37.8%
52,492 + 4.1% 253,473 258,758 - 2.0%

On that note, consider the falling sales in BMW’s Mini showrooms. Sales here include the original Cooper Hardtop as well as the Clubman, Convertible, Coupe, and Roadster. More than two-thirds of Mini’s non-Countryman/non-Paceman total is made up by the one car which spawned Mini’s return. Only 5527 of the Coopers sold this year have been Clubmans, Convertibles, Coupes, and Roadsters. Of these five Cooper sub-models, only the Roadster has posted year-over-year gains in 2013. By itself, the “regular” Mini Cooper’s 2521 May sales equal a 5.9% drop from May 2012’s output.

The Fiat 500, on the other hand, has yet to post a year-over-year U.S. sales decline in 15 tries, although growth has predictably slowed.

Back to the subject of conventional subcompacts, the Chevrolet Sonic’s May victory stands in contrast to the Nissan Versa’s usual leadership. Indeed, the Versa is 17,273 sales ahead of the Sonic through five months after a 30K+ unit victory in 2012. The Versa is not all-conquering. Don’t fall into the trap of confusing sales leadership with outright market domination. 78% of America’s 253,473 subcompact customers haven’t registered a new Versa this year. Jointly, the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio own 17% of the category.

The very suggestion that the buyer of a well-optioned JCW Mini Cooper S would otherwise consider a Nissan Versa is comical, but we’re always left with these sorts of issues when rehashing sales data. (BMW releases 3-Series sales figures as a group, which presents us with the opportunity to compare a measure of hidden M3 volume, whether we like it or not, with sales of the Lexus IS250.) Besides, it is interesting to note that, despite the price differentials, buyers turn to the Mini and Honda Fit in similar numbers, although Chevrolet did sell twice as many Sonics as BMW sold Minis in May. Granted, unlike the potential Fit buyer, a prospective Mini customer isn’t also eyeing the Civic on the other side of the showroom.

Regardless of the validity of comparisons, the numbers achieved by a large group of small cars certainly proves that interest in inexpensive small cars continues to pale in comparison with moderately more expensive compacts and midsize cars. Together, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord have found 326,939 buyers in the United States this year, outselling these subcompacts by 73,466 units. The Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic have outsold these subcompacts by 8022 units.

Sure, what with plunging Mazda 2 volume and disappearing Toyota Yaris sales and challenging times for the Hyundai Accent, subcompact sales haven’t been healthy this year. But those same two pairs were handily outselling these subcompacts at this time last year, too.

What’s the point? If subcompacts aren’t as profitable and don’t sell as often, why bother? Automakers feel that they’re hedging their bets against a possible turning of the tide, like when fast-rising fuel prices led to the Honda Civic becoming America’s overall best-selling vehicle in May 2008, outselling even Ford’s F-Series. More important, automakers sell subcompacts as a means of targeting first-time buyers, hoping that a future increase in wealth will inspire a Sonic owner to become a Cruze owner, who will then step into a Malibu before ending up in a CTS, or more likely, a Silverado.

Independent analyst Timothy Cain is the founder and editor of His look at the important segments will be a permanent fixture at TTAC, along with a  look at the market up North.  

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Cain’s Segments:Truck, Truck, Hooray! Tue, 04 Jun 2013 16:40:37 +0000

U.S. sales of pickup trucks rose 19% in May 2013 despite the disappearance of 6175 Ford Rangers, Dodge Dakotas, Suzuki Equators, Chevrolet Colorados, and GMC Canyons.

So strong were sales of the remaining trucks that these deficits weren’t simply accounted for, they were overcome to the tune of 32,144 extra sales. Overall, the auto industry reported 108,594 more sales this May than last, according to Automotive News. That works out to an 8% improvement. More than a hundred passenger car nameplates combined to generate about 36,000 more sales in May 2013 than in May 2012.

May 2013
May 2012
May % Change
5 mos. 2013
5 mos. 2012
YTD % Change
Ford F-Series
71,604 54,836 + 30.6% 299,477 246,116 + 21.7%
Chevrolet Silverado
43,283 34,555 + 25.3% 199,327 160,942 + 23.9%
Ram Pickup
31,672 26,040 + 21.6% 140,675 114,630 + 22.7%
GMC Sierra
16,061 13,196 + 21.7% 71,065 60,466 + 17.5%
Toyota Tacoma
14,727 12,269 + 20.0% 67,165 55,289 + 21.5%
Toyota Tundra
9950 8765 + 13.5% 41,806 36,418 + 14.8%
Nissan Frontier
6570 5480 + 19.9% 23,903 23,734 + 0.7%
Chevrolet Avalanche
1980 2113 - 6.3% 10,166 9283 + 9.5%
Honda Ridgeline
1626 1199 + 35.6% 7448 6084 + 22.4%
Nissan Titan
1402 2166 - 35.3% 7552 8347 - 9.5%
Chevrolet Colorado
244 3778 - 93.5% 2879 17,333 - 83.4%
Cadillac Escalade EXT
200 137 + 46.0% 973 672 + 44.8%
GMC Canyon
88 910 - 90.3% 812 4761 - 82.9%
Suzuki Equator
186 - 100% 448 753 - 40.5%
Ford Ranger
1607 - 100% 17,526 - 100%
Dodge Dakota
26 - 100% 441 - 100%
167,263 + 19.2% 873,696 762,795 + 14.5%

As always, the Ford F-Series led the way in the pickup truck market. The big change in May related to its ability to crest the 70,000-unit barrier for the first time since March 2007. Ford’s 31% F-Series improvement was the biggest year-over-year increase during the F-Series’ 22-month streak of increases.


The F-Series outsold the GM twins, Chevrolet’s Silverado and GMC’s Sierra, by 12,260 units, up from a 7085-unit gap a year ago. Strictly on volume terms, May 2013 wasn’t a bad month for the GM trucks. Joint Silverado/Sierra volume jumped 24%. Together they added 11,593 sales to the General Motors mix – GM was up 3%, or 7638 units.

Three out of every ten Ford brand sales in May occurred because of the F-Series. During a month in which Ford utility vehicle sales rose 17%, and the Escape reached an all-time high in U.S. volume, the F-Series outsold the five Ford utilities by nearly 4000 units.

Chrysler’s Ram truck has posted year-over-year gains in 37 consecutive months. Its market share in the category, 15.9%, grew from 15.6% in May 2012. Through the first five months of 2013, Ram P/U market share in the whole 14-truck category has risen to 16.1% from 15% in the equivalent period of 2012.
These four full-size trucks, together with the Toyota Tundra, Nissan Titan, Chevrolet Avalanche, and Cadillac Escalade EXT, were responsible for 88% of all truck sales in May 2013. Of the remaining 23,255 sales, 63% went the way of Toyota’s Tacoma.

As a group, trucks accounted for 13.8% of the U.S. auto industry’s 1.44 million new vehicle sales in May, up sharply from 12.5% in May 2012. The non-truck market produced gains in May, but those gains measured 6.5%, rather than than the truck-inclusive 8.1%.

The truck category’s ability to continue to grow at this pace would seem to depend somewhat on GM’s ability to continue selling such a large number of trucks once discounts are, presumably, not so readily available on the next-gen trucks later this year. On the other hand, the current growth rate at Ford and Ram, though undoubtedly aided by incentives, is taking place in the light of newness, not under the shadow of run-out specials.

Independent analyst Timothy Cain is the founder and editor of His look at the important segments will be a permanent fixture at TTAC, along with a  look at the market up North.  

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2012 Was Kind To Minivans, 2013 Not So Much Tue, 05 Mar 2013 16:10:18 +0000
On a constant basis, emails arrive in my inbox with complaints about the way segments are broken down at GoodCarBadCar. And rightly so. All vehicles are not as closely aligned with a competitor as, say, the Toyota Camry is with the Honda Accord. We all see the potential for cross-shopping differently, so I’m not offended when an aggressive reader calls me an idiot because I displayed sales figures for the Audi A7 alongside sales figures for cars like the A6, 5-Series, CLS-Class, and Infiniti M rather than the Porsche 911, as per his request.

I often mention the fact that a friend of mine couldn’t decide between a Mazda 3 and an F-150, so he bought a used Ranger. No one would argue that the Mazda and F-150 are in the same class, but such are the whims of an individual buyer. Or how about another reader who wanted to replace their 3-Series with a Fiat 500?

There is, however, perhaps no segment for which borderlines can so easily be drawn as the minivan category. The most unique vehicle in the class more perfectly defines the term “minivan” than any other: Mazda’s 5, with its sliding doors and three rows of seating, is truly mini.

As a result of the segment’s easily-defined end points, its total sales figures are equally simple to calculate. There’s no debating which vehicles apply: Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona, Mazda 5, Nissan Quest, Toyota Sienna, Volkswagen Routan.

Sales of those eight vans are down 7.7% through the first two months of 2013. On the surface, 2012 had been a decent year for minivans, as total segment volume increased 12.9% in an overall market which produced a 13.4% improvement.  Five of the six vehicles which were continuing in production generated year-over-year gains. Four of those five posted above-market-average increases.

Overall, minivans were responsible for 3.8% of the new vehicle market’s total volume. Minivans accounted for 5.2% of the overall market in 2007, the final year before the overall market tanked. There were, of course, a larger number of nameplates on sale five years ago. Remember the Mercury Monterey? More than a million minivans (including 64,281 Chevrolet Astros and GMC Safaris) were sold in 2002, when the category equalled 6.6% of the overall market.

It’s long since been established that minivans aren’t the force they once were. Yet the growth recorded by some members of the fraternity in 2012 – Grand Caravan up 28%, Town & Country and Odyssey both up 18% – led some to believe a resurgence, however slight, could be on forming.

Now, we’re only examining two months of winter data. Anything can happen over the course of 59 days. GM’s pickup twins can outsell the F-Series by severely undercutting Ford in price. Prius sales can fall. The Volkswagen Beetle can outsell the Fiat 500, which can outsell the whole non-Countryman Mini Cooper range. Incentives, or a lack of incentives, can skew results beyond recognition. Production, supply, parts shortages, marketing campaigns can all play a helpful or damaging role. And minivan sales can slide 7.7%.

Even when we exclude the departing Volkswagen Routan and on-hiatus Kia Sedona, America’s minivan market still slid 3.4% in the first two months of this year. Sound minor? Keep in mind, the overall market grew 8.4% during that period.

It may not all be gloom and doom. February, during which minivans were responsible for 3.4% of all new vehicle sales, wasn’t as bad as January, when minivans accounted for just 2.8% of the market. Toyota Sienna sales are rising, so much so that it’s the top seller this year. Mazda’s 5, the enthusiast’s favourite, recorded its best U.S. February sales month in the model’s history.

To suggest that 2013 may not be the year of the minivan isn’t exactly the spotting of a trend. The continued rise of vehicles like the Honda CR-V and the rebirth of the Ford Explorer have pushed minivans to the sidelines, and this isn’t news. But if, maybe even when, you hear about crumbling Dodge Grand Caravan volume and the curtailing of Honda Odyssey sales growth, you’ll know that the winter of 2013, which was so kind to the Nissan Pathfinder and Dodge Journey and Acura RDX, was a harsh winter indeed for minivans in America.

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As Prius Sales Rise, So Do Sales Of The Prius Fri, 15 Feb 2013 16:07:43 +0000

Oddly enough, the presence of the roomy Prius V and less costly Prius C have done little to harm the popularity of Toyota’s primary hybrid, the Prius. More accurately, since Toyota introduced the V, C, and Plug-In versions, sales of the core model have done nothing but rise.

Two questions arise. First, to what extent have sales of the Prius risen? Second, what happened that made it possible for Prius sales to have grown as competition became more fierce?

Briefly put, even when excluding its recent additions, the Prius is routinely one of America’s 20 best-selling passenger cars. Sales of the Liftback, which is what Toyota calls the Prius that we know best, rose 15.2% to 147,507 in 2012. Add to that another 12,750 sales of the Prius Plug-In, a car which uses the Liftback’s body.

Toyota USA did manage to sell more Prii in 2007 and 2008 than in 2012, but after three consecutive years under or around 140K units, last year’s Prius climb is meaningful. Moreover, the 15.2% year-over-year growth exceeds the overall market’s 13.4% increase. The Prius Liftback outsold the Chrysler 200, Mazda 3, Subaru Outback, Volkswagen Passat, Kia Soul, Nissan Sentra, and BMW 3-Series last year. (More recently, the Prius quartet outsold the whole Buick division; Cadillac, Audi, and Acura, too, and ranked as America’s 15th-best-selling vehicle line in January.)

We’re long past wondering how Toyota sells tens of thousands of Prii each year. That’s been going on for nearly a decade. Switching from a small sedan to a roomy hatchback played a large role in the transition from niche hybrid to mainstream player. Maintaining affordability helps, too, regardless of how many members of the enthusiast press loathe the car’s sterilized dynamics.

U.S. Prius volume first topped 100,000 units in 2005. But back then, the Prius accounted for 6% of Toyota brand sales. In 2012, the Prius Liftback was worth 8.4% of Toyota brand sales, equal to the Prius’s value to Toyota in the model’s highest-volume year, 2008.

One could have imagined, however, that in 2012, Toyota would have sold more Prii overall, but only because of the addition of the Prius V, Prius C, and Prius Plug-In. And yes, Prius family sales rose 73.4%, an increase of more than 100,000 units compared with 2011, when the family consisted of the Liftback and less than half a year of effort from the Prius V.

In ten months, the Prius C contributed more than 35,000 units. The Prius V added nearly 41,000 more. In theory, the Liftback’s 19,443-unit increase came about not in spite of the C, V, and Plug-In, but because of their debuts. Rather than cannibalizing the conventional Prius, as one might have expected when a more versatile model and a cheaper hatchback were added to the fleet, the Prius Liftback has benefited. Even in Canada, where the Prius V outsells the Prius Liftback, sales of the original have grown quickly, although the Prius family does not have the impact in Canada that it does in the U.S.

Perhaps it’s the marketing dollars spent informing consumers about the new C and V – messaging which, by proxy, marketed the original Prius, too. In addition to the marketing, there’s no doubt that an increased level of competition does wonders for established players, if’n it don’t kill’em.

Just as individual fast food outlets can thrive when positioned next door to one another in a shopping mall’s food court, newfangled automobiles can, periodically, fare better when others roam in the vicinity. The BMW 6-Series, Mercedes-Benz SL, and Porsche 911 all posted above-average increases in 2012. No one model advanced at the expense of the other two. The same thing occurred with the Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Mercedes-Benz GLK, three German rivals which together grew at an above-average rate.

As for the Prius, not only do the Prius C, slightly more popular Prius V, and Prius Plug-In shine a light on the Prius patriarch, the increased hybrid awareness brought on by gas-electric derivatives of mainstream cars do the same. It seems perfectly reasonable to conclude that the attention we pour out on the Leaf, Volt, Fusion Hybrid, and even the Tesla Model S causes consumers to take a second look at an old darling of the green car fanbase. The result? This car which seemed so alien in 1999 is now as normal and expected as most midsize sedans.

Naturally, there’s a flip side to the coin. Honda Insight sales fell 62% to 5846 units in the U.S. last year.

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Sales Snapshot: Mazda CX-5 Fri, 01 Feb 2013 18:40:13 +0000

Since we’ve been discussing Mazda the past few days, Timothy Cain, TTAC’s favorite indepndent sales analyst, has taken a look at how well the much-loved Mazda CX-5 is doing. 

From Mazda’s point of view, the CX-5 has likely been a roaring success. But Mazda’s point of view doesn’t require success to be measured against other popular vehicles. Other than the 3, Mazda simply does not sell a high-volume product. Even the 3, which accounted for 45% of Mazda sales in the U.S. in 2012, sells once for every two-and-a-half Civics.

To understand the CX-5′s success, you have to understand that Mazda, as a whole, sold fewer vehicles in 2012 than Honda sold Civics. 40,863 fewer, in fact.

So when we say the CX-5 is a roaring success, that’s because it’s not forgettable like the old Escape’s Tribute twin, poorly marketed like the surprisingly fun 5 mini-minivan, or awkwardly sized and priced like the CX-7. Compared with its classmates – Escape, CR-V, Rogue, Forester, for example – the CX-5 has been mostly ignored since it went on sale last February. The CX-5 outsold the Jeep Compass last year, and the Volkswagen Tiguan, and Mitsubishi’s small crossover duo. But even the GMC Terrain sold more than twice as often as the CX-5.

Measuring success on Mazda’s in-house success-ometer, the CX-5 is popular enough to be considered a vital part of the family. With only ten full months on the market, the CX-5 outsold all Mazdas save for the 3, and did so by a hefty margin, beating the soon-to-be-replaced 6 by 9563 units.

The CX-5 accounted for nearly 16% of Mazda USA volume in 2012. Good, right? Unfortunately, “good” at Mazda equals “alright” everywhere else. The CX-5 was America’s 88th-best-selling nameplate last year, behind the Toyota 4Runner, Subaru Legacy, BMW X5, and Fiat 500, to name a few.

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The Other March 2012 Sales Numbers Thu, 05 Apr 2012 18:34:09 +0000

(We’re big fans of Timothy Cain here at TTAC, and now the independent sales analyst par excellence is on board with us. Welcome!)

It’s one thing to point out that Fiat 500 sales jumped 642% in March in an attempt to display knowledge. It’s another thing to recognize, with great wisdom and awareness, that such a year-over-year comparison is all but invalid given the fact that Fiat only began selling the 500 in March of last year.

Surely a business growth consultant would advise against an automotive sales statistician from acknowledging the fact that statistics are deceitful. But they are, not unlike unknown Triple A call-ups who manage to shine in the absence of a star first baseman but fade in late August. Statistics create expectations, lead you on, and then obliterate initial findings upon deeper analysis.

One way of avoiding the pain is to avoid history lessons, but by doing so, statistics simply become numbers. Another option requires throwing caution to the wind by contrasting sales figures willy-nilly. Example: “Toyota sold 2223 CT hybrids in March but only 891 Prius Plug-Ins.”

Or, you can simply get your fingernails dirty by digging around for some truth, or at the very least, truthiness.

There’s more to the March 2012 sales report than GM saying, “Chevrolet and GMC Drive GM’s March Sales Up 12 Percent”, “CR-V Sets All-Time Monthly Record”, “Kia Motors America Announced All-Time Sales Record For March”, or “Ford Motor Company Posts Strongest U.S. March Sales In Five Years”. This isn’t a call for automakers to release negative PR headlines. Nevertheless, a cursory glance at the promo material is as unrevealing in the automotive sales world as it is in politics, Syrian conflicts, and the aftermath of Texas tornadoes.

The headlines restrict you from hearing that Buick and Cadillac were down 16% and 13%, respectively. The headlines don’t mention that the CR-V was booming while Honda’s traditional number one seller, the Accord, dropped 18% and ranked eighth in car volume.

Kia sold enough Optimas to make it the 23rd-best-selling vehicle in America in March, but last March’s top-selling Kia and 2011’s 24th-best-selling vehicle, the Sorento, became the third-best-selling Kia as sales dropped 7%.

Nearly a quarter of the extra Fords sold in March were F-Series pickups, but the Fiesta was down 34%. Overall Ford sales, up 5% in March, increased at a far slower pace than the overall market. And wasn’t this reliance on trucks instead of small cars considered a bad strategy when gas prices in Chicago weren’t $4.20/gallon?

Lightly-veiled information doesn’t have to shade negative storylines, of course. Not since December 2010 had Lexus sold more than 500 LX SUVs, but 666 were sold in March. (Doesn’t the number 666 turn it back into a negative storyline?)

Mercedes-Benz SLK sales climbed 179% to 567 in March, nine better than what Suzuki managed with its midsize Kizashi sedan. A 2-seat German roadster out-selling a Japanese midsize sedan means something, though it may speak more to Suzuki’s failures than the SLK’s successes.

It accounted for just 1.3% of all Chevrolet sales and 1% of all GM sales, but March was the Chevrolet Volt’s best month yet, 50% better than next-best December 2011. And Chevrolet could also teach a lesson on fleet success, as Equinox resale value is protected by the fleet-oriented Captiva Sport. The Captiva Sport sold in greater numbers than the Volkswagen Tiguan in March, though quite clearly to a different type of buyer.

The Infiniti JX’s first month on sale was marred by a disappointing month elsewhere in the Infiniti range. After sales rose 1% in February, every Infiniti model reported declining sales in March.

The truck-based jumbo SUV category – Armada, Expedition, Sequoia, Suburban, Tahoe, Yukon, Yukon XL – was down 11% in March even as the trucks from which they originate combined for an 11% increase. Besides which, more than 5000 extra copies of the third-best-selling Ram pickup were sold this March.

At the lower-priced end of the market, Nissan sold more Jukes than at any other point in its 18-month history, and this after four consecutive months of year-over-year drops.

One would say Mini’s improving numbers were skewed by the addition of the Coupe and Roadster, but Mini’s numbers didn’t improve in March. Sales of the regular Cooper and Cooper S fell 7%, the Convertible slid 8%, the Clubman plunged 36%, and Countryman sales were down 9% . Mini sold 336 Coupes and 144 Roadsters, not nearly enough to cover the gaps left by the core models.

Back at Fiat, 500 sales were strong, right? Better than ever. But it’s no wonder Fiat is keen to bring a couple other Fiats to Canada and perhaps not to the U.S. In this best-ever month for the 500, sales were only three times stronger than in Canada where the market is 1/9th the size.

Finally, a thought for wagon aficionados who want more import estates but blind their eyes to the fact that their E39 540i is the only one they’ve ever seen. The Acura TSX Wagon accounted for just 9.5% of all TSX sales in March and just 3.1% of all Acura sales. It was off last year’s pace with a 13% decline. TSX Wagon sales are down 7% this year even as sales of the TSX sedan are up 23%.

Sorry, but the numbers, though sometimes deceitful, don’t outright lie. And truths like this prevent North Americans from seeing the Audi A6 Avant, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class wagon, and even the Volvo V70.

Independent analyst Timothy Cain is the founder and editor of



Independent analyst Timothy Cain is the founder and editor of

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