By The Numbers: Hope Springs Eternal; April Sales Prove Elusive

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams

This month, a new approach. I’ve picked examples from the Big 2.5 and Toyota in four categories: passenger car, full-sized pickup truck, truck-based SUV and small SUV/CUV. I've also chosen one brand-new model from each of the 2.5. If this approach finds favor, we’ll follow these 19 vehicles through the calendar year, comparing their U.S. sales each month with sales from 2005 and 2006. I've also shown major rebates ($5K and over) and the "employee pricing" incentives from 2005. Once we’ve looked at how well these key vehicles are selling, we’ll look at overall sales to see how the individual models’ sales track with the overall sales trends from their makers. Capisco? Here we go!

[Note: Clicking on the links below will bring up a graph showing sales for that vehicle for the past two years and 2007 YTD. Use your browser's "back" button to return to the article. The graphs show sales for each month. Green links with double underlines are not linked to the graphs.]

Passenger Cars

Here are the charts for last year's best selling passenger cars from their respective manufacturers: Impala (GM), Fusion (Ford), Chrysler 300 (Chrysler Group) and last but not least by a long run, Camry (Toyota Motor Sales USA).

Passenger cars overall didn’t fare very well in April. The Fusion showed growth, but at a distinctly slower pace than it enjoyed during the first quarter of the year. The Impala, 300 and Camry– all of which had been showing sales increases for the first three months of the year– took a dive. Camry was the most surprising; April sales dipped below those of the previous two years.

Pickup Trucks

The choices here are pretty straightforward: Ford F-Series , Dodge Ram , and Toyota Tundra. GM offers its full size truck under both the Chevrolet and GMC brand names. I'm tracking the Silverado , as it’s the better-selling of the two GMT900-based pickups.

So far this year, the Ram is currently following the same sales trend (and almost same numbers) as last year. It's an interesting development for a design that’s the oldest in its class.

Ford's F-Series is also showing the same sales trend as in previous years– but at an alarmingly lower level.

The Silverado bears watching. For the second consecutive month, sales were below previous years. This despite the fact that it’s a new design; sales should be trending higher. Chevy just announced new incentives to see if they can pull sales up. If not, failure to elevate could portend some scary problems for GM.

Truck-Based SUVs

These are the traditional SUVs we all know and… uh… know them. They’re represented here by the Tahoe , Explorer , Durango and 4Runner.

The new[ish] Chevrolet Tahoe is the only SUV showing an overall sales increase over last year. However, its sales are still well below ‘06, and there was a major sales drop from March to April this year. Since the Tahoe tends to show the same drop over the last three years, there may not be a cause for alarm– except in light of the overall numbers.

This year's sales-to-date for the Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango and Toyota 4Runner are all below those for the previous years. With gas prices climbing, logic suggests sales have not yet hit rock bottom.

Small SUV/CUV's

In 2005, these models were all considered SUVs. Two years later, they’re CUVs (Crossover Utility Vehicles). Go figure. The models shown here– Equinox , Escape , Pacifica , and RAV-4 — were each manufacturer's 2006 top selling whatever-they-call-them-this-week.

All but the Pacifica show a drop from March to April. Although sales of the newly-designed Toyota RAV-4 took a sharp fall in April, they're still above the previous years’ totals.

Ford has just introduced the refreshed 2008 Escape, so sales there may grow a bit over the next few months.

Chevy's Equinox stumbles and tumbles with practically no updates since it was introduced. With newer competition from Ford and Toyota, its sales will probably continue to decline.

New Models

You never know how the market will react to a newly-introduced vehicle. Each manufacturer is trying a new model that’s somewhat of a departure from their usual offerings.

GM now offers the Lambda-platform CUVs, represented here by the GMC Acadia. These CUVs are shouldering a lot of responsibility. They must replace GM's TWAT award winning minivans, take up the slack for some of the Trailblazer-based SUVs, and provide an alternative to The General's slow-selling large SUVs.

Ford introduced the Edge amid a lot of fanfare, touting it as Ford’s [latest] “make or break” vehicle. Chrysler is also taking a chance with the Jeep Compass — the first Jeep product in a long time that isn’t “Trail Rated." We’ll keep an eye on them to see how well the market accepts each.

Total Sales

All four automakers lost sales last month. Only Chrysler ended this April in better shape than last year; GM , Ford, and Toyota all ended the month lower than a year ago. It’s a bit early to tell if April's downturn represents a broader pattern, but we’ll keep tracking it and let you know what we find.

Frank Williams
Frank Williams

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  • 50merc 50merc on May 11, 2007

    Frank, thanks for this fine article. Seems like everyone has an idea for revised or new charts. Personally, I'd be interested in tracking unit sales increases/decreases by percentages (so all have the same yardstick). And market share percentage trends. And gross profit by brand and model (though the manufacturers probably would never release that data). But let's not expect Frank to crunch numbers 24 hours a day! The crucial facts, I think, are that the 2.5's market share is eroding, and that gross profit per vehicle is trending downward. Industry-wide sales have been robust in recent years; a recession could be fatal for a cyclical business with high fixed costs (e.g., retiree benefits) and low or negative profit margins. And to starlightmica and all dataphiles out there: if you ever have a chance to attend an Edward Tufte lecture, don't miss it. He's opinionated (he dislikes pie charts, and detests PowerPoint shows) but he's the Leonardo daVinci of his field. His books are mind-opening works of art.

  • Dro653 Dro653 on Jun 29, 2007

    economic blindness- can anyone honestly say, that our current US economy, isnt affected buy americans buying foriegn products? arent we putting ourselves out of jobs, arent we forcing our american companies to close down or move out? arent we making/creating our own unemployment? we should just get it over with, and hand ALL foriegn countries our not so precious money- this country is turning into a 'consumer only' country, hungry for non-american products- anything is better then amercian made? --sorry for the vent and nieviness-- we are our own worst enemy

  • Kosmo Love it. Can I get one with something other than Subaru's flat four?
  • M B When the NorthStar happened, it was a part of GM's "rebuilding" of the Cadillac brand. Money to finance it was shuffled from Oldsmobile, which resulted in Olds having to only facelift its products, which BEGAN its slide down the mountain. Olds stagnated in product and appearances.First time I looked at the GM Parts illustration of a NorthStar V-8, I was impressed AND immediately saw the many things that were expensive, costly to produce, and could have been done less expensively. I saw it as an expensive disaster getting ready to happen. Way too much over-kill for the typical Cadillac owner of the time.Even so, there were a few areas where cost-cutting seemed to exist. The production gasket/seal between the main bearing plate and the block was not substantial enough to prevent seeps. At the time, about $1500.00 to fix.In many ways, the NS engine was designed to make far more power than it did. I ran across an article on a man who was building kits to put the NS in Chevy S-10 pickups. With his home-built 4bbl intake and a 600cfm Holley 4bbl, suddenly . . . 400 horsepower resulted. Seems the low hood line resulted in manifolding compromises which decreased the production power levels.GM was seeking to out-do its foreign competitors with the NS design and execution. In many ways they did, just that FEW people noticed.
  • Redapple2 Do Hybrids and be done with it.
  • Redapple2 Panamera = road porn.
  • Akear What an absurd strategy. They are basically giving up after all these years. When a company drinks the EV hemlock failure is just around the corner.
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