By on February 2, 2018

2018 Ford F-150 - Image: Ford

After the industry’s first annual sales decline of the post-recession era in 2017, the small uptick in year-over-year U.S. auto sales in January 2018 shouldn’t be seen as a trend, analysts warn. This year will apparently bring more worry for automakers as buyers plan fewer trips to the dealership.

For the domestic brands, January brought a mixed sales bag. Two members of the Detroit Three posted significant sales declines, while the third squeaking by on the strength of light truck sales. Clearly, having a lineup full of pickups, SUVs, and crossovers helps a company’s bottom line, but it’s no guarantee of ever-higher volume in today’s market.

All-new 2018 Jeep® Wrangler Sahara

Superficially, the biggest loser last month was Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which posted a 13 percent year-over-year U.S. sales drop.

Digging a little deeper, we can see a key reason for the loss of volume: fleet sales. In keeping with its bid for a sturdier financial foundation, FCA’s fleet volume fell 50.5 percent in January — a loss of 21,642 low-profit units. By shedding these sales, the company’s fleet mix declined from 28.2 percent of all vehicles sold to 16 percent.

Among the automaker’s many divisions, only Jeep and Alfa Romeo posted a year-over-year sales gain last month. Jeep climbed 2 percent thanks to growth in Compass, Wrangler and Cherokee volume. Meanwhile, Alfa, now with three models in its fold, saw sales grow by 1,426 percent. (This still only amounts to 1,648 vehicles sold.)

Meanwhile, the two-model Chrysler brand fell 21 percent, year over year, joined by losses at Dodge (down 31 percent), Ram (down 16 percent), and Fiat (down 43 percent.)

2016 Ford Explorer

Ford Motor Company didn’t see a stellar month, but its losses pale in comparison to those at the Lincoln brand. Overall, the automaker saw a 6.6 percent year-over-year sales decline in January, divvied up between Ford (down 5.6 percent) and Lincoln (down 27 percent).

Due mainly to order timing, fleet sales fell 12 percent. That leaves the Blue Oval’s fleet mix at 28.5 percent of overall volume. Sales of all passenger cars, save for the defunct 2017 Fiesta, fell in January, most significantly among traditional sedans. In fact, the only models to see year-over-year increases were the E-Series van and the F-150, the latter of which posted its best January since 2004, with YoY sales up 1.6 percent.

If you’re tallying this up in your mind, yes, the Escape, Edge, Flex, Explorer, and Expedition all posted volume losses compared to last January. Last month was the first time Ford recorded any EcoSport sales, with 500 on the ledger.

The only Lincoln vehicle to not see a steep sales decrease was the redesigned Navigator, with year-over-year volume up 98 percent.

Moving over to the Renaissance Center, it was General Motors’ month to lord over its two rivals. The automaker posted a 1.3 percent year-over-year sales increase in the U.S., spurred on by healthy light truck sales. Fleet volume also increased, with its share of the overall mix rising 2.9 percent to 23.8 percent of all vehicles sold.

What divisions stood out? Chevrolet and Buick, which posted YoY sales increases of 5 and 4 percent, respectively. As buyers await an all-new model, Buick Regal sales fell 40.3 percent, offset by a clearly fleet-fueled 130 percent increase in LaCrosse volume. Enclave sales remained flat, though 13.7 percent more buyers took home an Envision in January.

Growth in Chevrolet volume can be traced back to increased demand for the Trax, Equinox, Tahoe, Traverse, Colorado, and Silverado. Passenger car sales were a repeat of those from other automakers. Trajectory: down, with the sole exception of the all-electric Bolt (up 1.3 percent from last January, when the model was only available in limited markets). Compared to December, Bolt sales fell by nearly half. Blame buyers with one eye on the environment and the other on their taxes.

Increases in sales of the Escalade, XT5, and ATS couldn’t keep Cadillac’s head above water, with that division’s January sales down 3.9 percent, year over year. At GMC, an 11.4 percent sales decline speaks to fewer buyers for the Sierra, Yukon, Yukon XL, and Acadia. The midsize Canyon pickup saw a 5.4 percent YoY increase, and the new-for-2018 Terrain rose 14.2 percent.

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

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

33 Comments on “Detroit Three January 2018 Auto Sales: Trucks Can’t Carry It All...”

  • avatar

    When the new Wrangler finally hits dealers that should really help Jeep.

    Why is RAM down so much? People waiting for the new model?

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, probably people waiting for the new truck. Dodge needs to rethink not putting the 5.7 in Charger and Challenger AWD models, the Pentastar just doesn’t cut it with those behemoths.

      • 0 avatar

        Even just a Charger R/T with AWD or HEMI 300 AWD would get me to rethink my list of potential next purchases.

      • 0 avatar

        P Dan:

        I think you are nuts.

        A new 300 (stable mate car) with the V 6 flies. With a bigger 5.7 V-8, even more so – one would extrapolate.

      • 0 avatar

        I recently rented a Charger with the V6 and it had a lot of power, and even driving it hard, I was getting 25 mpg. It was fun to drive.

      • 0 avatar

        The Charger and Challender are behemoths? My, how cars have shrunk. Some of us are old enough to remember when cars that “big” were called mid-sized.

        They’re both 198″ long with 120″ wheelbase and 75″ wide. The 1970 Dodge Coronet, the platform for the first Chargers and Challengers, was 209″ long with a 117″ wheelbase and 76″ wide. That was mid-sized. Even the 1970 Dodge Dart was 196″ long, nearly as long as this year’s Chrysler 300.

        The full size Dodge Monaco was 219″ long, 80″ wide and had a 122″ wheelbase. The only similarity with the midsize models was that you could get the 440 cid engine in both.

        No wonder sedans aren’t selling – they’re not big enough!

        • 0 avatar

          They’re behemoths when you consider curb weight. My Charger R/T AWD is 4,400 lbs., my 1970 Plymouth GTX was under 3,600 lbs. My Charger is closer in weight to my ‘72 Mark IV than it is my GTX.

    • 0 avatar

      It may be the stench of death wafting through the dealers’ lots and showrooms. FiatslerRamJeep is dead-brand rolling, by many indicators; and no one wants to outlay $50 grand or so on a soon-to-be orphan.

      There are still plenty of owners out there who remembered Lido’s final move in the dance to woo American Motors away from Papa Renault. It was to take all the NOS parts inventory for Matadors, Pacers, Hornets, Gremlins, yes, even Concord-based Eagles…haul it all down to the landfill. Or, more probably, a secluded point on Lake Michigan.

      So…as with so many previous automotive failures and toxic reorganizations…buyers are reluctant.

      • 0 avatar


        FCA isn’t about to die. They’re in better financial shape than Ford at the very least.

        • 0 avatar

          Chrysler has been “about to die” since about 1977 as far as I can recall. More of the same here.

          • 0 avatar

            Exactly. I don’t know about FCA but the minute I’m forced to seek (or beg for) a financial/business partner, or file for government help/protection, I know I need to seriously consider closing down all operations, liquidate and or walk away (long) before things get ugly. But I also know that for corporations, it’s not so simple where they can just move on to squeezing mop at McDonalds.

          • 0 avatar

            Since then, it was taken over by Ford ex-pats; and New Chrysler was really Old Ford.

            After which it was cored out by the AMC pirates. To the company’s advantage, but still.

            Then, gang-raped by Daimler.

            Then, bankrupted by a politically-connected venture-capital salvage company.

            Then, given to a slick-talker at Fiat for essentially nothing.

            And now, Sergio Sweaterman is basically going door-to-door, begging to be taken over.

            That there are no takers, is telling.

      • 0 avatar

        “by many indicators”

        Which indicators? Sometimes Sergio talks like they are nearly on death’s door but their profitability is dramatically improving and their industrial debt is steadily going down.

        It would be nice if their CEO would STFU and they don’t have a big international presence, but like Thatkat09 wrote, you could argue they are in better current financial shape than Ford.

  • avatar

    The exceptionally cold winter usually doesn’t help sales, nobody wants to go car shopping in sub zero temps. Gas prices have actually ticking up steadily. I wonder at what point that psychological threshold is crossed. Do people reconsider a truck they don’t need at $3/per gallon? $4/per gallon. I feel like we are getting awfully close to $3 in my area.

  • avatar

    We’re selling Navigators hand over fist here at my work, the biggest issue we’re having is just getting them! Continentals, on the other hand, we just can’t seem to give away.

    • 0 avatar

      But, but, but the Continental was Lincoln’s savior (right after the 2009 MKTaurus, the MKEdge, The MKFles, the MKFusion, etc)

      • 0 avatar

        I have not seen a single continental on the roads around my area. The only people I have heard saying it looks good are FoMoCo fanatics who are too poor to buy one.

        • 0 avatar

          I’ve seen a handful. The last one had a placard for the local nursing home on the passenger door. Courtesy car I suppose. Well your rent is $5,000 Mrs. Glick, but once every six weeks well take you in our Conti to mall walk.

    • 0 avatar

      Too bad. Continental is a nice looking car.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve not seen any Continentals here in the heart of Ethanol (excuse me, Corn) Country and I am surprised. The wealthy Ford-loving farmers drove a ton of Town Cars and big Marqui’s for years as a sign of minimally conspicuous wealth. Since the demise of Mercury and the disappearance of the Town Car the replacements have been other products. None of them “furrin\'” cars but a swing (very, very small) toward big SUV’s such as Expeditions and Navigators for the Ford folks but not nearly as many as their former purchases. Very few MK-whatevers of any stripe for the hard core. I do see a shift toward GM (the local Chrysler dealer closed some years ago pre-Fiat). More Denali’s are seen with the number of Caddy’s remaining more or less stable with a sprinkling of Esclades, Escalades being associated with the “hood” which is (gasp) a very short 30 miles away! The number of Buick’s (other than Enclaves) has definitely declined since 2010 with the redesign; these were THE staple for the wives of these upper income agrarian households from around 1993 when I moved here. The Enclave, though, has become the SUV and vehicle of choice for the frugal well-off agricultural spouse. It is indeed strange to see the folks who swear by Ford as the ultimate truck mostly abandon the passenger/SUV line of Ford products for GM. My thought is that if you can’t sell a Continental (“‘merican, fer sure”) to a wealthy farmer out in the middle of nowhere as a vehicle that us lesser folk won’t double-take to watch drive by (a local requirement to be sure), you’re done.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT


    There won’t be any $50,000 orphans. The latest rumor in Hyundai is in talks to acquire at least RAM/Jeep.

    These two brands are very enticing for someone to pickup.

    Of course-if your talking about buying a new Chrysler 300-then I would agree with you.

    • 0 avatar


      • 0 avatar

        …until it doesn’t.

        Manfred von Richthoven shot down 80 Allied aircraft in WWI…and then one day his number was up.

        In a world of CAFE, Federalized, self-driving podcars, there isn’t any real room or need for Jeep. Off-road thrills, if our keepers allow them, are better achieved with a four-wheeler or side-by-side. Out here in Montucky, they even look the other way if you drive one on the street in bad weather.

        As the financial stars realign, and they will…expect the buying public to dramatically shift tastes. This Insolent Chariot phenomenon, with overpaid government workers and union slugs spending mucho dinero for a four-door, eight-foot-high, four-foot box, diesel Bro-Dozer with modified pipes and a switch to Roll Coal…that is a temporary fad. I expect soon they’ll be harder to give away than a full-size Detroit sedan now.

        Time will tell, of course. I’d have liked Jeep, the real Jeep, that Willys created, Kaiser and AMC maintained and independent Chrysler preserved…I’d have liked it to last; but that’s not to be. Tinfoil four-door wagons with J E E P on them, are still Fiat designs made in FCA plants.

        • 0 avatar

          Jeep will survive. The Chinese are eager to buy the Jeep brand. Just not the rest of Fiatsler.

          If they (the Chinese) do get their hands on the Jeep brand, it will be bigger than Volvo! And much more expensive.

          The Grand Cherokee and Wrangler are legendary.

          The other members of the Jeep family not so much and would most likely be killed off.

          • 0 avatar

            Would you buy a Chinese Jeep?

            I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t even buy an Italian Jeep.

            You assume the market wouldn’t shift; that today’s demands are permanent.

            That’s not so, either. At one time, Jeep was a SMALL subsidiary of the smallest American car company. So small that, while there was a small-but-steady demand for Jeeps, the company still had to sell itself to the French to continue to stay open. Jeep as a standalone company was impossible.

            And would again be impossible once this cheap, easy credit era is over.

            Right now, the sixtysomething buyers of Jeeps are buying IMAGE. As the AMC and Chrysler years slip over memory’s horizon, as a generation born after DaimlerChrysler becomes the prime carbuying demographic…those memories will count for little.

            I remember, as a little kid, how the VW Type 1 was cheap, durable, affordable, and purchased by practical people. Is ANY of that true of the VAG product line, today?

          • 0 avatar

            My Jeep-buying days are over. We had a great experience with a 2012 Grand Cherokee Overland Summit, which we passed down to our grand daughter. She also inherited her dad’s 2012 JGC SRT8 for her new husband to drive.

            Both continue to function without problems as daily drivers today, in Arizona.

            If the Chinese buy the Jeep brand, which I think they will at some point (like they did Volvo), it will become part of a larger operation — not as a stand-alone brand, although the Jeep name will carry on as part of a larger conglomerate like it does now as a part of Fiatsler.

            A lot will be changing in the financial arena of the future, including financing and venture capitalism, with the current administration policies taking a hold.

            And even though profit-taking will always take place when the markets are riding high, there will be more announcements and revelations coming out, like the release of the Nunes-memo that spiked Friday’s market plunge. Those will leave their marks.

            MOST Americans will still require cars and trucks in the future, and EVs are only relevant for a very, very small percentage of the driving population.

            So there will continue to be financing, just not as cheap as it is today.

            But hey, the Trump tax cuts have cause wages to rise and bonuses to be distributed.

            So life goes on. More people working. More people buying.

            I’d say the next 3 years look very optimistic for Joe Sixpack and Sally Homemaker.

        • 0 avatar

          Jeep will Survive, but it has a reputation for killing its parent: Willys, Kaiser, AMC, Chrysler Corp. It’s in the process of killing off FCA, which now can’t survive without it. When the US government stole it from American Bantam, the curse of Jeep began.

    • 0 avatar

      Jeep will survive. Probably Ram too. Both as Hyundai models. FCA will then euthanize Dodge and Chrysler and take Fiat, Alfa Romeo etc back to Europe.

      None of this will happen tomorrow or even next year but it’s coming.

  • avatar

    Why did Ford’s SUVs decline while GMs increase. The market is more CUV heavy now than last January so there should have been flat to growing CUV sales even in a flat market. Bad results for Ford in those segments.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • dal20402: The comments here read like a bunch of retired mid-level managers hitting the Jack very hard indeed. But...
  • downunder: Wow, please don’t hold back. Stop mincing your words and say it out loud. What is really on your...
  • slavuta: You know! – this is not an issue. Who wasn’t a member of that? I can proudly say that I held...
  • MitchConner: Could care less what the Chinese do with their dirty money. Screw them. My take is on Ford. Mulally was...
  • Ol Shel: Pay close attention to the mentally ill billionaire. Do as he pleases.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber