Detroit's October 2017 Sales: Ford Soars, Fiat Chrysler Hits the Brakes

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

If the Detroit Three want to keep wind in their sales sails, it sure won’t happen on the strength of traditional passenger cars.

Several brands from Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles posted U.S. sales declines in October 2017, all thanks to the slipping popularity of regular cars. In many cases, the continued strength of the crossover/SUV/truck market wasn’t enough to tip the scales back in the automakers’ favor.

Let’s start off at the top, because that’s where Ford Motor Company sits. The company’s Blue Oval brand recorded an October U.S. sales increase of 6.6 percent, year-over-year, though the same can’t be said for the Lincoln brand — the premium division’s sales sunk 1.8 percent compared to the same month last year. (Year-to-date sales are reversed, with Ford down 2.2 percent compared to 2016 and Lincoln still beating last year’s tally by 2.4 percent.)

So, where is the volume coming from?

Do you even have to guess? Overall FoMoCo car volume sunk 2.4 percent in October compared to a year prior, but SUV sales rose 5.3 percent. With a refreshed Ford F-150 and revamped Super Duty out for 2018, Ford truck sales shot up 11.4 percent.

Breaking it down even further, the pattern remains crystal clear. Fusion sales are down 6.2 percent, year-over-year, with sales over the first 10 months of 2017 dipping 22.6 percent from last year. The Taurus sank 5.4 percent in October. One bright spot is the Focus, which recorded a 7.8 percent increase. Still, this year’s Focus sales remain 10.4 percent lower than last year’s.

Lincoln saw its MKZ and Continental sedans record year-over-year drops 10.9 and 18.5 percent, respectively, in October. Meanwhile, Navigator sales rose 9.7 percent, the compact MKC crossover rose 10.3 percent, and the midsize MKX improved by 17.8 percent.

Over in Auburn Hills, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles saw overall sales sink by 13 percent. The mighty Jeep and Ram brands both lost 3 percent of their U.S. volume last month, compared to October 2016, while Chrysler dropped 22 percent. Fiat fell 33 percent. Dodge recorded a 41-percent drop in year-over-year sales. Only Alfa Romeo, something of a fledgling brand, saw its sales rise following the introduction of the Giulia sedan and Stelvio SUV. With 1,205 vehicles sold in October, Alfa’s tally represented a 5,139 percent year-over-year increase.

Across the board, the only FCA models to see year-over-year sales increases in October were the Jeep Compass, Cherokee, and Renegade (up 81, 19, and 9 percent, respectively), the Dodge Charger and Durango (up 19 and 11 percent, respectively), the Ram pickup line (up 1 percent), the Fiat 500L (up 34 percent to a whopping 159 units), and the Alfa 4C (up 96 percent to 45 units). Of these vehicles, however, only the Renegade and Ram pickup closed out October with more year-to-date sales than in 2016, and only by a small margin.

At General Motors, the passenger car slump weighed heavily. With all GM divisions combining for a 2.2 percent year-over-year sales decrease, last month saw GMC become the only brand to increase its tally compared to October 2016. The truck-and-SUV-only division posted a sales increase of 4.6 percent, spurred by a 25.5-percent uptick in Sierra sales. Acadia sales rose modestly (5.2 percent), while Canyon sales rose 2.7 percent. This compensated for year-over-year losses with the Terrain, Yukon, and Yukon XL.

So far, GMC sales in 2017 are up 3.7 percent.

The same picture is not as rosy over at Chevrolet, which posted a 3.8-percent year-over-year dip. Despite sales increases of the Equinox crossover (up 28.5 percent) and the Silverado pickup line (up 6.8 percent), it wasn’t enough to keep the brand in the sales black. Sonic sales sank 66.4 percent, year-over-year, and Cruze sales plummeted 35 percent. The Malibu ended the month down 9.3 percent. In fact, and this goes against the industry’s grain, the only Chevrolet car to post a year-over-year sales gain in October was the full-size Impala, which rose 24.1 percent.

Over at Buick, sales sank 4.5 percent, year-over-year, in the month of October. While the imported-from-China Envision seems to have lost traction, slipping 2.3 percent, the redesigned Enclave and subcompact Encore crossovers soared by 30.4 and 25.2 percent, respectively. On the other side of the popularity coin, the LaCrosse sedan and soon-to-be-replaced Regal sank 43.7 and 40.5 percent, respectively. Sales of Buick brand vehicles are down 5.7 percent over the first 10 months of 2017.

Cadillac’s October volume almost equalled last October’s showing, falling short by 0.1 percent. While the popular XT5 crossover picked up steam (rising 19.5 percent, year-over-year), rear-drive sedan sales plummeted even further. The ATS dropped 41.7 percent, the CT6 flagship fell 39.5 percent, and the midsize CTS posted volume lower by 23.9 percent. Each model sold less than a thousand units in October.

However, as bad as those sedans performed, one four-door passenger car came reasonable close to outselling all three combined. The venerable front-drive XTS, recently spared from execution and refreshed for the 2018 model year, saw sales rise by 49.6 percent. Perhaps livery companies are stocking up?

It should be noted that October 2017 featured one less selling day than October 2016, which helps skew sales figures downward (though by how much, we don’t know).

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, General Motors]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Eyeofthetiger Eyeofthetiger on Nov 01, 2017

    I bought a new Ford Fiesta last month. I do what I can to help.

  • Raph Raph on Nov 02, 2017

    I wonder how the refresh is going to work for Mustang? Sales IIRC were trending down heading into MY18 and not to many people are digging the updated look but Mustang has a potent performer on its hands with the new power plant and A10 trans. Late Model Restoration got their hands on a GT with the regular performance pack and the automatic transmission. They scaled the car and it was a tick under 3900 pounds yet they ran a 12 flat at almost 117 mph in so-so weather (this fall at a good track like Bud's Creek they should be into the 11's). Pretty impressive for a car that is easily 150 pounds heavier than its chief competitor and only has 5 extra horsepower on paper. I priced a base GT out at the Ford website using the X-plan (easy enough to acquire since you just join a club like MCA pay 50 bucks and get about a 2k savings) with the automatic and it came in at 35k. Not bad for a car that is fairly well equipped even in rental spec form offering the same sort of performance that cost 45-50k less than a decade ago if you wanted something fast with a blue oval. GM is supposedly planning a similar rental spec V8 Camaro. It'll be interesting to see how that pans out and how Mustang sales go as it heads toward the supposed new chassis in 2020.

  • Varezhka I have still yet to see a Malibu on the road that didn't have a rental sticker. So yeah, GM probably lost money on every one they sold but kept it to boost their CAFE numbers.I'm personally happy that I no longer have to dread being "upgraded" to a Maxima or a Malibu anymore. And thankfully Altima is also on its way out.
  • Tassos Under incompetent, affirmative action hire Mary Barra, GM has been shooting itself in the foot on a daily basis.Whether the Malibu cancellation has been one of these shootings is NOT obvious at all.GM should be run as a PROFITABLE BUSINESS and NOT as an outfit that satisfies everybody and his mother in law's pet preferences.IF the Malibu was UNPROFITABLE, it SHOULD be canceled.More generally, if its SEGMENT is Unprofitable, and HALF the makers cancel their midsize sedans, not only will it lead to the SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST ones, but the survivors will obviously be more profitable if the LOSERS were kept being produced and the SMALL PIE of midsize sedans would yield slim pickings for every participant.SO NO, I APPROVE of the demise of the unprofitable Malibu, and hope Nissan does the same to the Altima, Hyundai with the SOnata, Mazda with the Mazda 6, and as many others as it takes to make the REMAINING players, like the Excellent, sporty Accord and the Bulletproof Reliable, cheap to maintain CAMRY, more profitable and affordable.
  • GregLocock Car companies can only really sell cars that people who are new car buyers will pay a profitable price for. As it turns out fewer and fewer new car buyers want sedans. Large sedans can be nice to drive, certainly, but the number of new car buyers (the only ones that matter in this discussion) are prepared to sacrifice steering and handling for more obvious things like passenger and cargo space, or even some attempt at off roading. We know US new car buyers don't really care about handling because they fell for FWD in large cars.
  • Slavuta Why is everybody sweating? Like sedans? - go buy one. Better - 2. Let CRV/RAV rust on the dealer lot. I have 3 sedans on the driveway. My neighbor - 2. Neighbors on each of our other side - 8 SUVs.
  • Theflyersfan With sedans, especially, I wonder how many of those sales are to rental fleets. With the exception of the Civic and Accord, there are still rows of sedans mixed in with the RAV4s at every airport rental lot. I doubt the breakdown in sales is publicly published, so who knows... GM isn't out of the sedan business - Cadillac exists and I can't believe I'm typing this but they are actually decent - and I think they are making a huge mistake, especially if there's an extended oil price hike (cough...Iran...cough) and people want smaller and hybrids. But if one is only tied to the quarterly shareholder reports and not trends and the big picture, bad decisions like this get made.