The Source Of August 2014's U.S. Auto Sales Growth

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

Forecasts didn’t call for rain on August 2014’s auto sales parade, but there was definitely a general feeling of overcast heading into Wednesday as automakers prepared to release their monthly and year-to-date sales results.

The rate of growth in the U.S. auto industry since the recession ended has been striking, but the chances of that growth lasting forever – particularly when a month like August is compared with a very strong month like August 2013 – seemed slim.

Yet auto sales increased by 5.5% to more than 1.58 million in August 2014, an improvement of more than 80,000 units.

The forecasts weren’t all wrong. High-volume brands like Chevrolet, Dodge, and Volkswagen all reported losses, a 13% decline in Volkswagen’s case, the 17th consecutive month in which Volkswagen brand sales have decreased in the United States.

Jaguar volume fell 31%. Infiniti volume fell 23%. Fiat was down 20%. Scion sales likewise slid 20%. Cadillac volume was off August 2013’s pace by 18%. Sales at BMW’s Mini brand were down 17%. Buick and Volvo both lost 10%; Acura and Land Rover fell 9%. Lincoln was just south of level.

The bright spots, however, were particularly bright. Jeep, Ram, Subaru, Nissan, and Toyota were the biggest brands to post significant increases. Maserati, Porsche, Smart, Mitsubishi, and Audi were among the lower-volume auto brands to post meaningful improvements: 278%, 36%, 34%, 28%, and 22%, respectively.

Mazda, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, GMC, and Lexus all grew by at least 10%. Toyota brand sales were up 7%. Hyundai grew 6%. (Kia, Chrysler, Honda, Bentley, and Ford improvements were all below the market’s 5.5% growth rate.)

Back to those five large and fast-growing brands, Jeep reported its best-ever sales month for the new Cherokee, America’s eighth-ranked SUV/crossover in August. Ram’s market share in the full-size truck category grew by more than four percentage points. Subaru sold more than 50,000 vehicles for the first time in a single month, and Nissan reported a car sales improvement of 18% in a car market that improved by just 2%. Toyota shot the RAV4 up to top spot among utility vehicles with record sales in a second consecutive month.

As for the fast-growing lower-volume brands, Maserati outsold Jaguar, albeit by just 49 units. Even with the Macan excluded, Porsche sales jumped 7.3%. Mercedes-Benz reported more than 1000 Smart Fortwo sales for the third time in five months, having not done so previously since September 2012.

Mitsubishi is not back to being a brand that can sell more than 300,000 cars annually in the United States, but sales have increased in six consecutive months and in ten of the last eleven months.

Audi reported its highest-ever monthly sales in the U.S. in August, generating 41% of the brand’s sales with Q models and the A4 Allroad, including the first 243 Q3 sales.

Timothy Cain
Timothy Cain

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  • El duce El duce on Sep 05, 2014

    You misread the mitsubishi comment. They sold 300k cars a year back in the early 2000s. They might sell 60 or 70k total this year.

  • Tecant Tecant on Sep 05, 2014

    Regarding increased sales for FCA: I'm not surprised to see sales up at Chrysler, Dodge, Ram and Jeep, however, the sales increases did not include the Fiat brand itself. The one Fiat dealership in Milwaukee (Bergstrom Fiat of Milwaukee) has closed. Bergstrom is a large, successful dealership group in Wisconsin selling many different brands. They once had three Fiat dealerships, now just one. The Fiat building in Milwaukee now houses a Mazda dealership.

    • Marcelo de Vasconcellos Marcelo de Vasconcellos on Sep 05, 2014

      Not really that surprising. Milwaukee is a small market and I doubt 500 sales there are enough to warrant whole dealership. Fiat is a niche brand in the US (for now) and should stay healthy in very large cities for now. Like mini here in my country Brazil. They sell about 200 or less a month in the whole country. Half of that is in São Paulo (at least, for mini should be more). I'm not in São Paulo. Go by the store everyday, always overflowing with brandnew cars. If they sell 30 a month that's a lot. How do they survive? Well the owner also hs Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Land Rover and BMW stores in this city, who knows what else in other cities. Maybe your group was not enough to support a stand alone store, or Fiat stopped giving them incentives to do so.

  • Grant P Farrell Oh no the dealership kept the car for hours on two occasions before giving me a loaner for two months while they supposedly replaced the ECU. I hate cords so I've only connected it wirelessly. Next I'm gonna try using the usb-c in the center console and leaving the phone plugged in in there, not as convenient but it might lower my blood pressure.
  • Jeff Tiny electrical parts are ruining today's cars! What can they ...
  • CEastwood From zero there is nowhere to go but up . BYD isn't sold in the U.S. and most Teslas are ugly azz 90s looking plain jane drone mobiles . I've only seen one Rivian on the road and it 's not looking good for them . I live out in the sticks of NW NJ and EVs just aren't practical here , but the local drag strip thrives in the warmer months with most cars making the trip from New York .
  • Lorenzo Aw, that's just the base price. Toyota dealers aren't in the same class as BMW/Porsche upsellers, and the Toyota base is more complete, but nobody will be driving that model off the lot at that price.
  • Mike The cost if our busing program is 6.2 million for our average size district in NJ. It was 3.5 last year.