By on May 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

By on May 17, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Camaro SS - Image: white

General Motors reported 8,737 Chevrolet Camaro sales in the United States in April 2017, a 17-percent year-over-year increase for GM’s third-best-selling car last month.

For the sixth-generation Camaro, a car that had a decidedly unimpressive launch phase last year after routinely outselling the Ford Mustang for half a decade, April 2017’s improvement led to the best month yet. Not since the oft-discounted fifth-generation Camaro was nearing the end of its line in May 2015 has Camaro volume been so strong.

As for the headline-creating bits, yes, the Chevrolet Camaro beat the Ford Mustang in April 2017 U.S. sales. Camaro wins. Camaro is the victor. To the Camaro go the spoils.

GM must take time to enjoy its Camaro’s victories. Once routine, they’re hardly common now. (Read More…)

By on May 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

By on May 12, 2017

2014 Nissan Quest - Image: Nissan“The Nissan Quest has been discontinued for the U.S. marketplace.”
– Nissan Sr. Manager, Product Communications, Dan Passe

TTAC has been tracking the Nissan Quest’s failure in the U.S. marketplace for some time. Just ahead of Christmas last year, when it appeared as though the Quest was surely dead in the water, Nissan confirmed that there would in fact be a 2017 Quest.

But when tipped off by an industry insider last February, we noticed that Nissan was reporting higher-than-normal Quest sales despite lacking any meaningful inventory. That’s right — the 2017 Nissan Quest was essentially a fleet-only vehicle.

Most of us stopped tracking the story. After all, it’s a minivan, and a long-ignored minivan, in a market where buyers are currently turning away from minivan in droves. TTAC’s Corey Lewis didn’t quit, however. Like a dog with a bone, Corey discovered that the Quest was missing from NissanUSA.com. Under the Minivans & Vans section, there’s no minivan. We asked Nissan, not for the first time, whether the Quest is dead.

The Nissan Quest is dead. Gone. Expired. Terminated. (Read More…)

By on May 12, 2017

2018 Honda Odyssey - Image: Honda

U.S. minivan volume has decreased in nine consecutive months as the American minivan category lost 70,000 sales since August 2016, year-over-year.

As a result of the steady decline in a minivan segment that essentially features only five vans, 2017 is set to be the lowest-volume year for the category since 2009. At the rate achieved through the first one-third of 2017, Americans will purchase and lease only 452,000 minivans in 2017, just 2.6 percent of the overall market and only slightly more minivans than Americans purchased and leased when the overall industry collapsed to the lowest level in 27 years.

Or perhaps not. Fresh product is the carnauba wax bath balm for the soccer mom segment’s tired flesh. And a new 2018 Honda Odyssey is due at dealers in the coming weeks. (We’ll have a review of it next week.)

Is a new Odyssey the answer for America’s minivan woes?

Honda believes so. (Read More…)

By on May 12, 2017

2017 Subaru Outback - Image: Subaru

Although Subaru is selling more new vehicles than ever before, particularly in North America, the automaker’s run of record profits came to end in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017. Subaru made money, no doubt, but Subaru’s operating profit was down 27 percent compared with the prior year.

Subaru’s revenue grew 3 percent while global volume rose 11 percent to more than 1 million vehicles, according to Automotive News. That’s the kind of information that matters to investors.

As for consumers, it’s the information from Subaru CEO Yasuyuki Yoshinaga that matters most. Saying the U.S. market has peaked, Yasuyuki Yoshinaga claims, “The market environment has increasingly become tougher.” In a tougher market, Subaru’s largest market, an automaker must either give way or make way.

Subaru’s decision? “We will carefully examine the situation and will take the necessary steps to maintain our sales, including incentives,” Yoshinaga says.

You heard right. Subaru, notorious for limited supply and limited scope for deal-making, might just offer you a bit of a discount on your next Outback or Forester. (Read More…)

By on May 11, 2017

2016 Chevrolet Impala Midnight Edition - Image: Chevrolet

We knew General Motors’ strategy for the tenth-generation Chevrolet Impala would be different when the big sedan was launched in 2013. No longer intended to be the fleet queen and a hugely discounted showroom sedan, the tenth-gen Impala moved upmarket.

Consequently, sales decreased, and did so in dramatic fashion. The Impala’s U.S. volume in 2014 was down by more than half compared with 2007 output. Sales continued to fall, with the Impala’s 2016 calendar year result of 97,006 U.S. sales representing the sixth consecutive year of decline.

The Impala’s numbers are getting lower. Much lower. After averaging more than 8,000 monthly Impala sales in 2016 and nearly 10,000 per month as recently as 2015, Impala volume has cratered in early 2017. Only 3,213 Impalas were sold in the United States in April 2017, down 73 percent compared with the Impala’s April average over the last five years.

But don’t assume the scarcity of Impala sales will translate to an abundance of deals at your local Chevrolet dealer. Impalas are thin on the ground, and GM isn’t playing games with incentives. (Read More…)

By on May 8, 2017

2017 Kia Niro blue rear - Image: Kia

It’s a hybrid. It’s attractive. It’s affordable. It’s the Kia Niro. Launched at the beginning of 2017, the Kia Niro is already proving to be a surprisingly successful hit for Kia Motors America.

As competitors quickly fade into the background, Niro volume is rising steadily each month, with the Kia attracting buyers for a wide variety of reasons, not just fuel efficiency.

In fact, the Kia Niro isn’t that fuel efficient compared with other dedicated hybrids on the market today.

But the Kia Niro is a crossover. (Allegedly.) And Niro’s amalgam of characteristics — hybrid, design, affordability, crossover image — has returned a degree of sales success simply not enjoyed by most dedicated greenmobiles. (Read More…)

By on May 5, 2017

2017 Porsche Panamera Volcano Grey - Image: Porsche

The first second-generation Porsche Panamera I ever spotted was missing its front end. It was still distinctly more attractive than the first-generation Porsche Panamera ever was.

My house is near the CN Autoport in Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia. Dozens of stevedores drive mostly European-built new vehicles off Wallenius Wilhelmsen ships to parking lots near a main road, incidentally known as Main Road. Typically, if I time my drives past just right, I see long lines of new cars, such as the British-built Honda Civic Hatchback or the Volvo V90, weeks before a single one arrives at your local dealer.

Ever so slightly closer to my home than the Autoport itself is a smaller building where the damaged vehicles go. Today, there’s a Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, sans rear bumper, parked outside. A few months ago, mere seconds before feasting my eyes upon a line of second-gen Porsche Panameras, I saw the aforementioned damaged Panamera. “Maaaaaan, that car is pretty.”

And then I remembered the old Panamera, vomiting a bit in my throat at the thought. And then I saw Porsche’s April 2017 U.S. sales figures. Scroll down, scroll down, there it is: Panamera. 1,098 sales.

Double its typical monthly output. 26-percent better than its previous best. Triple April 2016’s volume.

And proof people prefer pretty. (Read More…)

By on May 4, 2017

2017 Nissan Titan Crew Cab - Image: Nissan

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

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

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

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

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

By on May 3, 2017

2017 Volkswagen PAssat R-Line – Image: VWWhy did America’s passenger car market tumble 11 percent in April 2017?

Midsize cars deserve much of the blame.

Why is America’s passenger car market down 12 percent through the first four months of 2017?

Midsize cars deserve most of the blame. (Read More…)

By on May 2, 2017

2017 Jeep Compass - Image: FCA

U.S. auto sales declined nearly 5 percent in April 2017, the fourth consecutive month where U.S. auto sales failed to live up to 2016’s prodigious pace.

Auto sales are now down by more than 2 percent through the first one-third of 2017, a year-over-year decline of roughly 130,000 sales caused in no small part by a bevy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ brands. Chrysler’s 27-percent year-over-year downturn is the worst decline of any brand. Fiat and Jeep — yes, Jeep — have each posted double-digit percentage losses. Dodge is down, too.

But it’s not just FCA. Through the end of April, 18 different auto brands have lost ground, from Lexus and Acura through to Cadillac and BMW, with Buick, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Kia, and Toyota in their midst.  (Read More…)

By on April 24, 2017

2017 Cadillac CT6 Plug-In Culver City - Image: Cadillac“Levels that were once seen as excessive are now sustainable.”
—Uwe Ellinghaus, Chief Marketing Officer, Cadillac

Cadillac expects to see auto sales in the United States in calendar year 2017 fall just below 2016’s best-ever results, which GM’s premium brand considers a positive sign for the U.S. auto industry and Cadillac.

While the decline reported America’s auto industry in March 2017 drew headlines because 2017’s first-quarter encompassed three consecutive months of year-over-year decline, Cadillac’s chief marketing officer, Uwe Ellinghaus, views the results through another lens.

“What they call a cooling off I say is the best thing that has ever happened,” Ellinghaus told Automotive News. “We don’t see that the party is over. It’s continuing.”

Cadillac? Party? Huh? (Read More…)

By on April 21, 2017

2018 Lexus NX front – Image: Lexus

Pretty? No.

Popular? Most definitely. In fact, the Lexus NX is twice as popular as Lexus anticipated.

The Lexus NX, a crossover you must never confuse with the Nissan NX, is marketed in the United States both in NX200t and NX300h variants. At the New York International Auto Show three years ago, Lexus revealed the brand hoped to sell around 26,000 NXs per year; roughly 2,200 per month. At that point, in the lead-up to the NX’s 2014 Q4 launch, there were two schools of thought. One, the NX was so ghastly to behold Lexus surely wouldn’t sell 2,200 per month. Or, because Lexus is such a luxury crossover powerhouse, even the NX — with a face even a mother couldn’t love — will be more popular than Lexus anticipated.

Dealers believed Lexus’ forecast was on the low side.

But could anyone have expected the Lexus NX would be more than twice as popular as originally forecasted; that the Lexus NX would be America’s fifth-best-selling luxury utility vehicle; that the NX would account for one-in-five Lexus sales in America? (Read More…)

By on April 10, 2017

2017 Mazda 3 5-door – Image: Mazda

Mazda hasn’t always proven capable of winning hearts and minds in the U.S. marketplace. But in buff book comparison tests, Mazda possesses a recipe for success.

Possessed.

Nine months ago, for instance, a 2016 Mazda 3 i Grand Touring spanked the Nissan Sentra and scored substantial victories over the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze LT and 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited in a five-car Car And Driver comparison test. Only the 2016 Honda Civic EX came close. Car And Driver was quite right in pointing out the Mazda 3 overachieved “in a world where excellence isn’t always rewarded with sales.” TTAC’s east coast reviewers came to the same conclusion four months ago.

Indeed, U.S. sales of the Mazda 3 fell to a 10-year low in 2016. Now, with sales in 2017 on track to fall to a 13-year low, the Mazda 3 has lost a comparison test.

And not just to one car, but two. (Read More…)

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