U.S. Auto Sales in 2017 - Year's End Delivers Letdowns As Market Shrinks

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

Automakers released 2017 year-end numbers today and, despite lower or near flat year-over-year volume for most, the performance beat the expectations of most analysts.

Still, American new vehicle sales slipped a hair under 5 percent in December, dropping by 1.75 percent to a total of 17.245 million for all of 2017. This brings the parade of annual growth to a screeching halt, as the industry has posted year-over-year gains ever since the dark days of 2009.

The top selling individual nameplate in the industry for 2017 was the Blue Oval, selling 2,464,041 machines in a performance that largely mirrored last year’s results. Toyota and Chevrolet also cracked the two million mark and, in a surprising revelation, Subaru sold more cars than Kia in 2017.

As a corporation spanning four brands, GM topped three million units, moving a total of 3,002,237 vehicles off showroom floors in 2017. That’s off 1.3 percent, year-over-year. Cadillac was off by a remarkable 28.6 percent in the final month of last year, dragging the entire nameplate down by a total of 8 percent compared to the entirety of 2016. Buick was largely flat, while GMC saw a gain of 2.5 percent.

FCA sales free-fell by over 8 percent, year-over-year, thanks to a mass exodus of customers from the Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, and Jeep brands, which all saw double-digit declines. Ram ended the year up 2 percent, and Alfa added 12,031 cars to the bottom line.

The two largest Japanese brands were also largely flat in 2017 compared to the previous year, with Honda showing a 0.2 percent increase over all (+0.7 percent Honda, -4.2 percent Acura) and Toyota edging down a mere 0.6 percent, largely thanks to a near 8 percent dip at Lexus. Gains at the Toyota brand itself were offset by the axing of the Scion brand.

Month-over-month comparisons are always tricky as a single good month in a calendar year can skew percentages quite wildly. December 2016 was notably strong, for example. Year-to-date comparisons provide a much more realistic picture of the state of the industry.

Challenges lie ahead for the auto industry, with rising interest rates and other tests on the horizon. There is a decent chance that incentives will rise next year on some high-margin vehicles as manufacturers stretch themselves to closely match 2017’s performance.

Hedging its bets, GM said in a release it expects the industry to sell fewer than 17 million vehicles in 2018, lower than what will likely be the final total for 2017 and more than half a million units off the heady days of 2016.

No surprise to anyone reading this website, American car buyers have shown a clear preference for crossovers, pickups, and SUVs. Some in the industry, such as FCA boss Sergio Marchionne, have said the shift may be permanent.

We’ll update the charts listed above as the remaining manufacturers release numbers.

[Source: Automotive News] [Image: Honda]

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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  • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Jan 04, 2018

    VW is throwing cash at their customers. My sister-in-law bought a Forester this summer but kept her old Tiguan for her college age daughter to drive. About a month ago the old (186,000 miles) Tiguan snaps its timing chain - pistons hit valves... University VW in Albuquerque quotes her 7,000 for an engine replacement. She inquires about replacing the Tiguan with another Tiguan, and they give her $1000 for her old Tiguan and throw $4000 on the hood of the new Tiguan. High rebates will keep some customers. Just ask "Old GM."

    • See 4 previous
    • Slavuta Slavuta on Jan 04, 2018

      @pheanix Dude, with post that long... Guess what, I own 2 Mazda3 now and love them, and I don't like the new one. So I bought Mazda6. It has CD and really is a good car, especially if you consider Impreza. I paid funny money for it and I often don't understand, how people purchase cars? For example, one of my '3 I bought used. Someone paid $2K more for it in 2010 than I paid for my '6. They also paid $4 more than I paid same year for exactly same trim. And I am not talking about loaded cars here.

  • Mzr Mzr on Jan 04, 2018

    Kia absolutely deserves to keep falling in sales until they're an afterthought. I'm counting the days until I can watch my Sedona get crushed at a junkyard, there is no way I'm inflicting this rolling pile on another human being.

    • See 1 previous
    • Mzr Mzr on Jan 04, 2018

      @pheanix Yes, I know that feeling. The interior really is poor, hard plastics that are already showing more wear than my 1996 Mazda MPV, it also handles worse than the two MPVs I've had. Squeaks and rattles abound. Really poor paint. Unfortunately minivan choices are slim, and at the time the Sedona (I have a 2016) was the best choice. the Odyssey was out due to having a timing belt, I do all the work on my vehicles and given the choice I'd rather not mess with one. I've been in two Siennas, and they rode very poorly and one only had 20,000 miles. In fact, they were a lot like the Caravan in that respect. The Caravan was like a 3/4 ton truck, bucking like it had leaf springs.. It was the first year of the Pacifica, no thank you. The crowning jewel is Kia itself, my Sedona failed to start four times all before hitting 1000 miles. It also had a front-end shimmy at 65MPH. The selling dealer just ran an charging system diagnostic and called it good. I took it to another dealer and they verified the shimmy, but did nothing about it. The times I've complained to Kia went nowhere, I did get a $50 gift card from them. That wouldn't even pay for the gas I've used going back and forth trying to get this heap fixed.

  • Alan Like all testing and analysis work you need a good set of requirements. If you don't you'll find or end up with gaps.
  • Alan In aviation there is more vigourous testing, well, until Boeing changed things.
  • Alan This outcome was certain.The US, Australia and Canada need to approach this differently. A policy towards plug in hybrids should of been a first step. As in CAFE gradually tighten FE from there.There's no reason why you can't have a 2 litre F-150 with electric motors putting out 400-500hp. A 2 litre turbo is good for 200hp more than enough to move a pickup.Also increase fuel tax/excise every year to fill the void in loss of revenue.
  • Doug brockman hardly. Their goals remain to punish us by mandating unsafe unreliable unaffordable battery powered cars
  • Lorenzo It looks like the curves are out and the boxy look is back. There's an upright windscreen, a decided lack of view obstructing swoop in the rear side panels, and you can even see out of the back window. Is Lexus borrowing from the G-Class Mercedes, or the Range Rover?