June 2018 U.S. Auto Sales: Y'all Like Trucks - A Lot

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

A sea of green greets execs at major automakers this morning, providing a feeling of relief not unlike that of a weary travelling viewing the flight board at JFK where all flights read “On Time.” Come to think of it, that example is surely one of fiction. Anyway…

Unsurprisingly, light trucks and SUVs are the main reason for industry gains, driven by insatiable consumer thirst for tall wagons and vehicles with a pickup bed. This is a familiar refrain in an industry that is up nearly two percent so far this year.

This month, GM has deemed us slovenly journalists worthy of a peek at its numbers, releasing data for both Q2 and year-to-date. This still leaves us to speculate on monthly volume, but it’s far better than the radio silence we’ve endured since earlier this year. Reflecting the industry direction, every single pickup and SUV nameplate showed double-digit gains at both Chevrolet and its corporate twin, GMC. The whole company saw an average transaction price of $35,500. Strong stuff.

You’ll notice an asterisk next to GM’s numbers in the table below. This is an attempt to provide apples-to-apples comparison data for the B&B. The General provided data for the whole of Q2 only, not monthly numbers as expected. We divided the quarterly result for the entire company by three (the number of months in the quarter) to give an approximation of its volume for a single month. It is an imperfect solution but, to take liberties with an old saying, close is good enough in sales numbers and hand grenades. Full Q2 numbers are given for each brand.

Jeep is still keeping the lights on at FCA, posting a roughly 20 percent gain both last month and so far this year. It has moved nearly a half-million units in 2018, a figure far eclipsing its stablemates of Ram, Chrysler, Fiat, and Alfa combined. For all the flack being tossed at Dodge as purveyor of out-of-date cars, the brand has found over 250,000 buyers year-to-date. They even managed to sell a single Avenger. I don’t know where they found that one (*exhausted Dealer Principal looks behind a filing cabinet* “Hey, guys; look what’s back here!”).

The new Ram 1500 pickup will surely be held aloft as a shining example of a bungled product launch for years to come, as the nameplate sunk about 7 percent in the first half of this year. That’s not supposed to happen, especially when the brand’s flagship vehicle was just restyled into the zenith of plushness. The new 1500 is a stellar truck but is only now starting to trickle into dealerships with a single engine choice. When the company starts delivering the new truck with V6 and eTorque engines – plus more bodystyles – we will see it reflected in the numbers.

Further putting an exclamation point on the America Loves Trucks statement is Toyota, whose entire line was up 3.6 percent last month and 3.0 percent this year. These numbers were made possible by the strength of its truck division, a unit which increase its sales by over 10 percent while its car division saw sales sink by about 7 percent. In 2018, Toyota 86 and Prius numbers have fallen off a cliff, while the Corolla sedan line has nosedived by 9.5 percent during the first six months of 2018. The new C-HR is more than happy to take up the slack, apparently, along with sharp increases of RAV and Highlander sales. Tacoma pickups are up a stunning 22.9 percent this year to 116,266 units sold, a number that handily eclipses any car at Ford.

Speaking of the Blue Oval, its F-Series continues to stop its competition like beetles under its feet, finding 451,138 new owners through to the end of June. That works out to 2,492 pickups every day so far in 2018, or over 100 every hour. Seemingly bent on proving its decision to bin cars from showrooms to be the right one, every car nameplate (save the Fiesta and GT) is down this year, most by double-digits.

According to talking-head analysts, light trucks accounted for more than two-thirds of American deliveries in the first three weeks of June. That’s the highest number ever recorded that month. Interest rates are also said to be climbing, with the APR on newly financed machines averaging 5.82 percent in June, compared to 4.96 percent last year and 4.10 percent in 2013. This, combined with an average transaction price marching steadily upwards, explains the proliferation of loan terms that now stretch far into the future.

We’ll leave comment on that alarming trend for another post.

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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  • Thejohnnycanuck Thejohnnycanuck on Jul 03, 2018

    I hate that GM reports quarterly now. GCBC hasn't updated the individual model stats yet but I'm guessing we'll just get 3 months of sales lumped into June's column.

  • Superdessucke Superdessucke on Jul 04, 2018

    This is a passing fad. Once it ends, the US automakers are going to be reeling. I only hope that Trump, or whoever is in office when the house of cards collapses, doesn't bail them out like Obummer did last time the economy tanked and the US automakers were flat-footed without products to deal with it.

    • See 2 previous
    • Bd2 Bd2 on Jul 09, 2018

      @DenverMike Not that the domestics weren't run rather poorly for decades, it is debatable if they all would have gone bankrupt if the auto market hadn't tanked due to the sub-prime/financial derivatives mess. And even if they had gone bankrupt, the other 2 (like for Ford), would have been able to turn to the credit market for financing of their post-bankruptcy turnaround instead of having to resort to the "bank of the last resort" (due to the credit markets having been frozen). As for the last part, such things aren't so simple. Ford wouldn't have necessarily picked up a majority of GM's customers and it takes a decent amount of time for parts suppliers to switch production (for not only a different model, but a different manufacturer). Plus, it's not like Ford would have been able to pick up all or even the majority of suppliers that supplied GM and Chrysler - as Ford wouldn't have been able to expand production before those suppliers went under (not that Ford had to $$ to do so). And as previously stated, Ford, itself, was perilously close to running out of $$ (would have done so, but for the C4C program). Ironically, GM was in better shape financially than either Ford or Chrysler at the time, in part due to its significant presence in China (which has since grown). W/o the Great Recession, GM probably could have limped along until the rise and domination of SUVs, CUVs and pick-ups (which has since bolstered GM's bottom line, along w/ that for Ford and FCA). All those workers for GM, Chrysler, suppliers and other businesses dependent on them being thrown out of work would have turned the Great Recession into another Depression. Bailing out GM, Chrysler and their suppliers (and to a lesser extent Ford) actually cost the taxpayers less than the alternative.

  • J I haven't owned a sedan since like 2011 had a ford fusion and impala then I discovered hatchbacks beats an SUV but the amount of stuff I can do with my little hatchbacks leaves sedan owners and even some SUV and truck owners surprised
  • Dougjp It seems like I'm in a minority by rejecting CUV/SUVs and wanting "cars" instead. Its because, comparing apples to apples (same specs), I don't want (a) worse performance, (b) worse handling, (c) worse fuel economy, (d) worse road & wind noise and (e) higher cost. I'm quite willing to PAY for shipping that costs way less than 1% of the difference between the cost of a car and a comparable CUV/SUV, to buy a bulky piece of furniture from a store that doesn't provide free shipping. Which I would seldom buy anyway. The problem is, people don't think logically, and would rather default to herd mentality. Its the same as why people buy "off road vehicles", complete with ugly add on patch body work to "look the part", then they never go off road.
  • FreedMike How about one for a brown diesel wagon?
  • Lou_BC “Can the sedan be saved?" Big V8's gave Dodge products some extra life. Kinda like a pacemaker/defibrillator in a lifetime pack/day smoker.................... People want easy access/egress, good visibility, dad/mom bod room, and a bit of cargo space.
  • Conslaw I rented an Altima for a 2,000 mile drive in 2019. It was a fantastic vehicle for that purpose. It had all the features we could want, was quiet, comfortable, peppy, and delivered 37-40 MPG, including stretches with 80 mph speed limits. I'd like to see any CUV do that.