February 2018 U.S. Auto Sales: Tough Break for Two of the Detroit Three

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

With only 24 selling days in which to make a buck in February, the nation’s automakers found themselves staring down the tunnel of a short month. In many parts of the country, the weather at this time of year doesn’t help matters, either.

Most major OEMs saw fewer machines wend their way off dealer lots, with a few notable exceptions.

Let’s first look at the bright spots. Mazda, the sporty lone wolf of today’s car racket, witnessed their best month since 1994, when showrooms were filled with 323s, 626s, and the scattered (fabulous) 929. An increase of 12.7 percent compared to the same month one year ago is good news for fans of the zoom-zoom brand; year-to-date numbers are up by roughly the same amount as well. Mazda credits their CX line of crossovers with this success. It should: the CX-5 is up 64 percent to 26,679 units so far this year. The cars? Down a quarter.

Credit where it’s due – Mitsubishi also saw double digit increases last month, with both the Outlander and Outlander Sport selling at significantly increased paces so far in 2018. Fred Diaz will find the car portion of the company to be in poorer shape, as the Mirage sold at less than half (1,323) the rate it did this time last year.

Toyota also recorded gains, a not-insignificant 4.5 percent increase to 182,195 vehicles delivered in the month of February. This is the largest of any company in America save for Ford and GM. Toyota’s car business was largely flat but its light-truck division roared ahead like gangbusters, with the Tacoma and Tundra up 18 and 10 percent respectively. In fact, the Tacoma is up more than 25 percent so far this year. Its SUVs and crossovers are similarly strong. Someone in America also bought the final new Scion tC. *sheds single tear*

On the negative side of the ledger, Honda suffered a drop in its numbers, led by the (gasp!) Accord and CR-V. Shocking, as the new Accord is an alarmingly good car. The sedan is off about 13 percent so far this year and the CR-V is faring no better. Combined, both models have bled over 16,000 units in 2018. If not for the Pilot, which has single-handedly picked up about half that volume, the Big H would be in even more dire straits.

In Michigan, light trucks (but not necessarily pickups) saved the Detroit Three from experiencing more red than a ketchup convention. The General saw year-over-year declines of about 7 percent, a figure that includes fleet sales. Deliveries to retail customers were down 10.5 percent. The lone bright spot at Ren Cen was Cadillac, where every vehicle save the CTS recorded a gain. The crest-and-wreath was up 14 percent in February and over 5 percent in the first two months of this year. Average transaction prices of an Escalade are now an eye-watering $82,700.

At Ford, total sales were also down about 7 percent, just like its crosstown rival. Comparing apples to apples, the Blue Oval’s retail deliveries were down by 8.5 percent to 123,073 units. Ford says their average transaction price has jumped to $36,200, about $4,000 more than the industry average. Breaking the Glass House down into segments, both cars and SUVs were off by about 12 percent last month while pickups were up 1.2 percent. A total of 68,243 F-Series trucks left dealer lots in February. Assuming a 12-hour workday for each of the month’s 24 selling days, that works out to an F-Series being sold roughly once every fifteen seconds.

Fiat Chrysler was virtually flat in February compared to the same timeframe 12 months ago, but is down by 7 percent in the first two months of 2018. Jeep, perhaps unsurprisingly, saved the day at FCA, jumping a full 12 percent on the strength of Compass and Wrangler sales. Both of those machines have been recently refurbished. Ram sold 15 percent fewer pickups last month as truck fans held onto their wallets until the new 2019s hit dealer lots.

I was going to refer to Alfa’s contributions to FCA’s bottom line as “miniscule” but, thanks to the new Stelvio selling 695 units, that marque moved more metal in February than Fiat (1,568 vehicles vs 1,241 respectively).

We’re still waiting on a few stragglers to post their results and will update this post accordingly.

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

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.

More by Matthew Guy

Join the conversation
2 of 43 comments
  • Add Lightness Add Lightness on Mar 02, 2018

    When a see a new BLACK Suburban or Suburban variant, I can only think of 1 word - Hearse

  • SuperCarEnthusiast SuperCarEnthusiast on Mar 03, 2018

    The Accord 2.0T is amazing driving car. On the road it handles very well and takes any bumps smoothly and the ride quality is very good. The interior is modern, luxurious and roomy with nice technology for the $36K. I did find that the shape of the Accord should be a liftback like that of the Stringer or A5 Sportback which would provide a lot more utility. I will buy it if it goes on "special" like a rebate of some sort in the near future? Great car IMO!

  • JOHN One is for sale on an ebay car donation site.https://www.ebay.com/itm/305579991767?itmmeta=01HYHVJ49MCC6HEWQY5AX9MX85&hash=item4725fca2d7:g:k9cAAOSw5V5mThFw
  • Scott So they are losing hundreds of millions of dollars and they are promising us a “Cheaper EV”? I wonder how that will look and feel? They killed the Fiesta because they claimed that they couldn’t make a profit on them and when I bought the first one in late 2010 they couldn’t deliver the accessories I wanted for it! Then I bought a 2016 Fiesta ST and again couldn’t get the accessories for it I wanted. They claimed that the components were going to be available, eventually. So they lost on that one as well! I don’t care about what they say anymore. I’ve moved on to another brand.
  • Michael S6 CX 70 or 90 will not be on my buying list. Drove a rental base CX 90 and it was noisy and the engine noise was not pleasant. Ride was rough for a family SUV. Mazda has to understand that what is good for Miata isn't what we expect in semi luxury SUV. My wife's 2012 Buick Enclave has much better Ride and noise level albeit at worse gas millage. Had difficulty pairing my phone with Apple CarPlay
  • Michael S6 What is the metric conversion between one million barrels and the number of votes he expects to buy.
  • NJRide This could give Infiniti dealers an extra product maybe make it a sub brand