By on January 8, 2019

When you’re already big, it’s hard to notice much of a change in any direction. This goes as much for the human body as it does for auto sales. So it’s no surprise to see that, of the roughly 17.3 million vehicles sold in the U.S. last year, the amount claimed by the Detroit Three didn’t budge all that much from the previous year.

Combined, the three domestic giants took a 44.4 percent slice of the U.S. auto pie, which actually represents a 0.1 percent increase from a year earlier. Combine Tesla’s volume into the American fold, and the stars and stripes collected 45.1 percent of U.S. buyers, or 0.6 percent less than in 2013.

In 2018, General Motors and Ford both ceded ground to a rising Fiat Chrysler, proving that the real action occurs at a lower data level. So, which automakers earned a larger helping of your collective buying love last year?

Again, FCA is a winner here, boasting an improved market share of 12.9 percent — up nearly a full point from a year earlier thanks to an 8.5 percent sales increase. Five years earlier, FCA’s share was 11.6 percent. All credit, of course, goes to the Jeep and Ram brands. In that half decade, GM’s take of the U.S. car-buying public shrank from 18 percent to 17.1 percent. Ford’s take declined from 16.1 percent to 14.4 percent.

In the same five-year period, Japan’s take of the American market rose one percentage point, from 37.4 percent to 38.4 percent. Korean automakers made up 7.4 percent of 2018’s sales volume, down from 8.1 percent in 2013, while Europe collected 9.1 percent of U.S. buyers. That’s up a tick from 2013’s 8.8 percent.

FCA aside, market share winners in 2018 include Tesla, which scored the largest year-over-year volume increase (in terms of percentages) thanks to greatly increased output of its Model 3 sedan. Tesla claimed 0.7 percent of the market in 2018, and 1.2 percent of December auto sales. It’s really starting to make a dent.

2018 Subaru Outback grey - Image: Subaru

Outside our borders, there’s little good news at the larger Japanese manufacturers. It wasn’t the best sales year for Toyota, Honda, and Nissan, but Mazda and Subaru both gained in terms of volume and market share. With an annual sales increase of 5 percent, Subaru’s take of the U.S. market rose to 3.9 percent. Mazda, with a crossover-fueled 3.7 percent sales increase, held steady at a rounded-off 1.7 percent share.

Even little Mitsubishi, freshly back from its near-death experience, earned itself additional love in 2018, with sales up 13.9 percent. While 0.7 percent of the market doesn’t sound like much, it’s better than the 0.4 percent share seen in 2013.

Another comeback kid, this one hailing from northern Europe (under the supervision of China) was Volvo Cars. Volvo sales rose 20.6 percent in 2018, pushing the Swede’s market share to 0.6 percent (up from 0.4 percent five years earlier).

2017 Land Rover Discovery - Image: Land Rover

Joining Volvo in the celebration was a very British (and India-supervised) Land Rover, which only has its troubled sibling Jaguar to worry about. While sales of the lower-volume cat brand fell 23 percent in 2018, Land Rover sales, energized by a relatively fresh stable of SUVs, including the new Range Rover Velar, rose 23.3 percent last year. Land Rover’s take of the American market sits at half a percent.

As for the Germans, Mercedes-Benz and Audi sank as BMW and Volkswagen rose. M-B sales fell 4.9 percent last year, the most of all automakers hailing from that country. Audi sales trailed 2017’s tally by 1.4 percent, while a resurgent Volkswagen rose 4.2 percent. Porsche also posted a sales gain of 3.2 percent in 2018. The market share for Mercedes-Benz, VW, BMW, Audi, And Porsche stands at 2.1, 2.0, 1.8, 1.3, and 0.3 percent, respectively.

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Subaru, Jaguar Land Rover]

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16 Comments on “Market Share Madness: Which Brands Earned a Larger Slice in 2018?...”

  • avatar

    This article would have been a great opportunity for an infographic. Then again none of the changes are that big.

  • avatar

    I like to see good cars win and bad ones lose. So, with that in mind i ll say:

    GM- good to see the decline. Ugly product (silverado), new cars with same poor designs faults that are EXAGGERATED design updates (Camaro). Terribly advertising and marketing. Treat their suppliers and Salaried like sheet. The worst. Brutal Price beat downs, steal designs, loyalty and history mean ZERO to purchasing.

    Subaru- good for you. I used to supply the Indiana plant. Great folks to work with. Let you have your profit, loyal, dont crack you balz. Great product with unmatched quality, resale and crash worthiness. Their part variation study results impress even Toyota.

    Hyundai/Kai- Bad cars. Fail some more please. They have Honda like prices. Yugo like resale. They age real poorly. Like someone said here on TTAC last week. A 5 year old one looks like it’s 10 years old. Add in bad driving dynamics and odd cabin layout.

    FCA- Good for you. Sergio looks like a genius. Great products. 300, Challenger, RAM JEEP. GO GO! WIN WIN !! They Treat their suppliers well too.

    Nissan- Meh. Ok products but the guy who cuts you off or cant park within the lines always seems to be in a Nissan.

    Ford- Used to like them. But, the number of recalls is not good. Alarming actually.

    Toyota / Honda – Good Stuff. Cant fault them a bit.

    • 0 avatar

      I must driving different H/K vehicles then you because I think they are best average car going today. I’d take one over Honda’s current offerings and I once owned two Civics and a Prelude. Honda’s are mess of odd buttons on the inside and over-styling on the outside. Toyota is doing its best to catch up to Honda in both of these departments.

      Telsa having as much market share as Volvo is downright amazing. While Volvo was never a volume brand Telsa is slowly (very slowly due to production hell) becoming almost mainstream. It sounds crazy but these two completely different animals should merge. I wonder how much of their demographics overlap?

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @JMII: Agreed about H/K cars (I’m on my 6th: 4 for us, 2 for sons). My one Honda was terrible.

        As for Tesla, my crystal ball tells me they will never merge with an ICE maker. Their market share at the end of 2019 will surprise a lot of people. They will pass Buick and Audi, and possibly Lexus, BMW, and M-B.

        • 0 avatar

          Imagine the shock on my face. Tesla has big problems with the basic function of selling cars. Their CPO program is a complete nightmare and a demonstration of the value of the traditional dealership model. So going forward it’s a mixed bag. Yes they are producing more cars but they are having an increasingly hard time completing transactions.

      • 0 avatar

        Agree (that redapple’s take is off-base).

        Some of those things may have been applicable 20-25 yrs ago, but some were never the case.

        1. Hyundai still undercuts Honda on pricing (altho, not as much as they did in the past).

        2. If anything, Hyundai has been praised widely by the auto press for its ergonomic-friendly layout and ease of use of its infotainment system.

        Honda and Toyota, in particular, have been criticized for their less than friendly user-interface.

        3. Based on reviews over the past 5-7 years, Hyundai has been widely lauded for the fit and finish in their vehicles; can’t say the same for Toyota over that period.

        4. Admittedly, Hyundais weren’t the most fun to drive vehicles; being more appliances – but that’s the same thing that can be said of Toyotas and Nissans.

        But over the years, Hyundai has been improving in this regard and most Hyundai models are ranked higher than their Toyota or Nissan counterparts (by C/D) and Hyundai, overall, gets a higher road test score (by CR) than Toyota or Nissan.

        In overseas reviews, the i30N has beaten the likes of the GTI and CTR when it came to ride/handling balance, as has the Tucson over the venerable CX-5.

        5. Know a # of people who own 8-10 year old Hyundais (or Kias) and they have held up very well (granted, this is anecdotal, but Hyundai wouldn’t have as high of owner/brand loyalty if too many buyers were dissatisfied w/ their purchase.

        6. The drop in marketshare from 2013 has everything to do w/ being too reliant on car sales.

        Last year was the 1st time H/K hit the mark of light truck making up 50% of total sales (used to be as low as 25%).

        That sounds pretty decent, except the industry avg. is close to 70%.

        But compared to 2017, H/K increase marketshare as they sold more light trucks and they each have several more light truck models on the way.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree on H/K. The only complaint I had with my 2013 Elantra was a lack of steering feel. But I truly believe most drivers like light-feeling steering. We are the few that care about sport-car like steering. It was comfortable, had high value with the options, and controls were all logical. I have passed it on to my daughter, it is now five years old with ZERO problems. I can honestly see me buying another of their products and driving it for ten years.

    • 0 avatar

      I have mixed feelings about H/K. My Optima is a quick, comfy and so far reliable daily driver. Interior layout is good, outside of the lack of rear seat headroom. But I don’t trust H/K anymore after that huge engine recall. I’m not convinced that they have figured things out.

      I think Honda’s current crop of cars are good. The interior layouts are basically the industry standard. I’d like to get one for my next car.

  • avatar

    I swear that Longhorn RAM is the exact truck i would have if in that market.

  • avatar

    I never thought electric cars would work, but I am wrong. Given how hard it is to build a car with the incredible regulations to meet, and the incredible demands of customers, they’ve done a remarkable job. Their smartest move was making it a luxury product, rather than trying to build a commuter car. One more technology revolution in batteries, and electrics may become half the market sooner than we think. Then the issues will be the supply of rare-earth metals and generating capacity.

  • avatar


    We ll have to agree to disagree.

    And if you are saying H/K are better than a Honda, I:
    I: just dont know what to say.

  • avatar

    Don’t understand all the bad H/K comments. I’ve owned 2 and they have been great vehicles. Reliable, ride well, quiet, no squeaks/rattles and have experienced no excessive wear after many miles. I’m currently driving a Kia rental with 47K on the odometer (let me remind you these are rental miles) and it drives and looks like new.

    I’ve owned several Honda’s and they are reliable vehicles with great engines, but no SOUND INSULATION! I had to stop and get out of the vehicle every 10 miles so I could hear myself think.

  • avatar

    “Detroit Three” is an obsolete term. Fiat owns Chrysler, sells a lot of imported product. The Japanese make a lot of product here, so aren’t they as domestic as Fiat?

  • avatar

    Jaguar is a fascinating lesson in how “just build more crossovers” is not the cure for a brand that is already sick. The F-Pace seemed to lease well, but it had that “flavor of the month” feel that the Maserati Ghibli had — a flash in the pan of buzz, but then people got over it and moved on to the next, and those who did lease one are not likely to stay loyal to the brand next time ’round.

    The E-Pace is both ugly and goofy from the front end. I have only seen one here in Los Angeles (meanwhile I see tons of F-Paces, and to provide an example that is closer to the E-Pace’s launch date, I have already seen 5+ Caddy XT4s around here). The I-Pace is cool but too niche to make a dent in overall numbers. I would not be surprised if Jaguar as a brand went away within the next decade.

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