Detroit's Passenger Car Sales Are Falling Way Faster Than the Overall U.S. Auto Industry's

detroits passenger car sales are falling way faster than the overall u s auto

Across the U.S. auto industry, there are a number of auto brands that are actually selling more passenger cars in 2017 than in 2016: Jaguar, Lincoln, Infiniti, Subaru, Volkswagen.

Some specific models, many with all-wheel-drive availability like the Audi A5, Subaru Impreza, and Volkswagen Golf, are enjoying far greater sales success this year than last.

But you know the story. Generally speaking, Americans are buying far fewer cars now than they used to. From more than 50 percent just five years ago, passenger car market share is down to 37 percent. Nowhere is this more obvious than at traditional domestic manufacturers, the Detroit Three.

While the U.S. auto industry has reported a drop of 3 percent compared with 2016’s record sales pace, passenger car sales have fallen four times faster than that. But the domestic drop is far more severe than the decline faced by import marques.

Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, and Lincoln combined to lose 19 percent of their car sales volume so far this year. All other brands were down “just” 9 percent. As a result, these traditional Detroit brands saw their share of the U.S. passenger car market fall from 36 percent in 2016’s first eight months to 25 percent in the first eight months of 2017, a massive decline over the span of just one year.

After discovering that foreign automakers will likely build more vehicles than the Detroit Three in America this year, we wanted to take a look at the root cause of the downturn at General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

It’s certainly not pickup trucks.

It’s cars.

GM, Ford, and FCA are ending shifts at car plants, laying off workers, and discontinuing models all because America’s consumers are turning away from Detroit-branded cars far faster than they’re turning away from cars in general. The brands are attempting to gradually wean themselves off fleet-reliance, as well.

There are a handful of notable exceptions to the general theme of decline, but in many of those cases, there’s a simple explanation. Chevrolet Cruze sales, for instance, are up 9 percent this year. But that’s only after an awful 2016 — compared with 2015, Cruze volume is down 18 percent this year. The Cadillac CT6’s 77-percent jump is simply a quirk of a 2016 calendar that didn’t provide any meaningful CT6 totals until May. Over the last four months, CT6 sales are up 1 percent. Big increases from the Chevrolet SS and Dodge Viper come as dealers clear out remaining models.

For the most part, Detroit’s cars are fading. And fast.

RankCar2017 8 Months2016 8 Months%

Fusion138,489189,892-27.1% Cruze133,966122,7969.1% Malibu117,173148,868-21.3% Focus112,076128,889-13.0% Charger58,14862,214-6.5% Mustang56,34980,829-30.3% Challenger47,49645,4434.5% Camaro46,29747,958-3.5% Impala43,79667,119-34.7% 30035,43638,581-8.2% Fiesta32,40934,577-6.3% Taurus29,47230,869-4.5% Sonic22,69137,258-39.1% MKZ18,90120,415-7.4% Corvette17,38519,890-12.6% 20016,56245,774-63.8% LaCrosse14,53417,920-18.9% Volt13,89514,295-2.8% C-Max12,34813,721-10.0% Spark11,82725,458-53.5% Bolt11,670—— XTS9,62312,977-25.8% Dart9,38534,670-72.9% ATS8,99814,360-37.3% Regal8,28813,765-39.8% Continental8,020—— CT67,1434,04876.5% CTS7,04510,645-33.8% Cascada4,2415,326-20.4% Verano3,95121,439-81.6% SS2,8102,14830.8% Viper51740926.4% Caprice PPV393552-28.8% MKS1534,083-96.3% GT42—— ELR17517-96.7% Avenger1142-73.8%General Motors485,743587,339-17.3% Ford Motor Company408,259503,275-18.9% Chrysler/Dodge167,555227,133-26.2% Total1,061,5571,317,747-19.4%

[Images: Ford, General Motors]

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

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14 of 91 comments
  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Oct 01, 2017

    Americans disrespect own national anthem and flag. How do you expect them to even consider American cars? America = bad is a new normal for the long time already.

    • See 9 previous
    • BobNelson BobNelson on Oct 03, 2017

      Inside Looking Out, "Your comments prove my point that anti-americanism is a new normal in US." Not exactly. The new normal is, in reality, "Intentionally offensive one-line zingers replace intelligent conversation." You seem to be defining "anti-Americanism" as disagreement with you. That's kinda egotist, ya know...

  • John R John R on Oct 02, 2017

    I guess the good news is that the Chevy SS has become that much more attainable.

  • 285exp I am quite sure that it is a complete coincidence that they have announced a $7k price increase the same week that the current administration has passed legislation extending the $7k tax credit that was set to expire. Yep, not at all related.
  • Syke Is it possible to switch the pure EV drive on and off? Given the wonderful throttle response of an EV, I could see the desirability of this for a serious off-roader. Run straight ICE to get to your off-roading site, switch over the EV drive during the off-road section, then back to ICE for the road trip back home.
  • ToolGuy Historical Perspective Moment:• First-gen Bronco debuted in MY1966• OJ Simpson Bronco chase was in 1994• 1966 to 1994 = 28 years• 1994 to now = 28 yearsFeel old yet?
  • Ronnie Schreiber From where is all that electricity needed to power an EV transportation system going to come? Ironically, the only EV evangelist that I know of who even mentions the fragile nature of our electrical grid is Elon Musk. None of the politicians pushing EVs go anywhere near it, well, unless they are advocating for unreliable renewables like wind and solar.
  • FreedMike I just don’t see the market here - I think about 1.2% of Jeep drivers are going to be sold on the fuel cost savings here. And the fuel cost savings are pretty minimal, per the EPA: fuel costs for this vehicle are $2200 and $2750 for the equivalent base turbo-four model. I don’t get it.