General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles All Suffer Big U.S. Sales Drops in July

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

As U.S. auto sales are forecasted to fall between 5 and 6 percent in July 2017, the reports released this morning by the traditional Detroit Three — General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles — appear to be worse than average.

Due to decreased year-over-year volume at each of its four brands, including a harsh 30-percent decrease at Buick, General Motors plunged 15 percent to 226,107 sales. That loss equalled 41,151 fewer sales for America’s largest automobile seller. At Ford Motor Company, total sales fell 7 percent despite rising F-Series sales. Car volume tumbled 19 percent at Ford and Lincoln, and SUV/crossover sales were up only slightly. At FCA, meanwhile, a 10-percent overall decline was caused by decreased volume at Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, and Fiat.

Fortunately, there remain reasons for optimism.

At each automaker, much of the decline was caused by huge reductions in fleet sales. At FCA, a 35-percent reduction in less profitable fleet sales — sales that are often not of long-term benefit to FCA — resulted in 90 percent of FCA volume coming on the retail side of the ledger. The Jeep Compass, the most recent major FCA launch, produced its best July ever with 7,528 sales. Ram P/U sales were essentially flat despite company-wide declines. And despite mountains of negative press ensuing from breakdowns and software maladies, July’s 1,104 sales represented the best month yet for the Alfa Romeo Giulia.

At Ford, retail demand dipped only slightly, falling 1 percent to 159,492 units. It was a huge 26-percent fleet sales decrease that produced much of the Blue Oval’s 7.4-percent decline. Ford says the average transaction price on its F-Series trucks jumped $2,500 compared with a year ago to $45,000 per truck, and Super Duty ATPs rose by roughly $4,600 to $55,000 per truck. Although Lincoln’s utility vehicles reported across-the-board decreases, Ford brand SUVs/crossovers were up 3 percent. The Escape, Edge, and Explorer jumped 8 percent to 60,401 sales. F-Series volume rose 6 percent to 69,467 units.

General Motors relied on profitable crossovers and pickup trucks for four-fifths of the company’s July 2017 U.S. volume. Utilities formed 85 percent of Buick’s sales. GM says incentive spending in July was lower than the 2016 average while the company’s average transaction prices stood at $36,000, up about $1,000 compared with July 2016.

According to Kurt McNeil, GM’s vice president of sales operations, “We have strategically decided to reduce car production rather than increase incentive spending or dump vehicles into daily rental fleets, like some of our competitors.” GM’s sales to daily rental fleets were down 81 percent in July, forming 1 percent of the company’s volume, GM says.

If there are positive signs, why did Detroit sales tank?

Because of cars.

At General Motors, car sales fell 28 percent, year-over-year, a loss of nearly 18,000 sales. At Ford Motor Company, car volume fell by nearly a fifth, a loss of 11,595 sales caused in large part by the Fusion’s 42-percent slide to sub-14K levels. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ car sales fell 18 percent to only 19,409 units at Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, and Alfa Romeo. That’s only 12 percent of the company’s total July U.S. volume.

[Image: GM, FCA, Ford]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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  • TomHend TomHend on Aug 01, 2017

    I wish President Trump would stop praising the stock market every time it makes a new high, the stock market does not reflect or discount anything, it is as reliable as a meth-head.

  • Kamiller42 Kamiller42 on Aug 01, 2017

    When sales dip like this, does that mean it's a good time to buy? Or does it mean makers increase prices to beef up margins? Or is it better to buy when sales are hot?

    • See 2 previous
    • Brn Brn on Aug 02, 2017

      @kamiller42 Can you be my stock broker? My "buy high" and "sell low" strategy doesn't seem to be working.

  • VoGhost Fantastic work by Honda design. When I first saw the pictures, I thought "Is that a second gen Acura NSX?"
  • V16 2025 VW GLI...or 2025 Honda Civic SI? Same target audience, similar price points. Both are rays of sun in the gray world of SUV'S.
  • FreedMike Said this before and I'll say it again: I'm not that exercised about this whole "pay for a subscription" thing, as long as the deal's reasonable. And here's how you make it reasonable: offer it a monthly charge. Let's say that adaptive headlights are a $500 option on this vehicle, and the subscription is $15 a month, or $540 over a three year lease. So you try the feature for a month, and if you like it, you keep it; if you don't, then you discontinue it, like a Netflix subscription. In any case, you didn't get charged $500 up front the feature. That's not a bad deal.In my case, let's say VW offers an over the air chip reflash that gives me another 25 hp. The total price of the upgrade is $1,000 (which is what a reflash would cost you in the aftermarket). If they offered me a one time monthly subscription for $50 to try it out, I'd take it. In other words, maybe the news isn't all bad.
  • 2ACL A good car, but - at least in this configuration -not one that should command a premium. Its qualities just aren't as enduring as those of Honda's contemporary sports cars. For better or worse, this is a formula they remain able to replicate.
  • Jalop1991 I just read that Tesla's profits are WAY down "as the electric vehicle company has faced both more EV competition from established automakers and a slowing of overall EV sales growth." This Cadillac wouldn't help Tesla at all, but the slowing market of EV sales overall means this should be a halo/boutique car. Regardless, yes, they should make it.