By on March 4, 2019

Subaru Ascent

Most people don’t care to venture out into the frigid weather unless it is absolutely necessary, instead reserving time for indoor activities such as enjoying the heated delights of the nearest wood-burning stove. Given the sales results shown here for February, it would indeed seem that car buying doesn’t rank too high on the Top 40 of most Americans when the weather is foul.

Overall, sales were off nearly three percent compared to this time last year, fuelling speculation by talking heads that 2019 will be the first calendar year in ages that the industry fails to collectively move more than 17 million units.

February is historically a slow month no matter if one is hawking bowties or blue ovals. Most brands saw higher volume than during the depths of January but were down when compared to last February’s activity. In particular, the Detroit Three was a sea of red, with Fiat Chrysler and Ford Motor Company down 2.3 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively. It’s anybody’s guess how General Motors did, since they no longer deem us worthy of monthly sales numbers, but the general consensus is that they were off by about five points.

Japan-based brands fared no better, with the likes of Toyota and Honda shedding volume to the tune of 5.2 percent and 0.4 percent, in that order. Strangely, the latter would have been off much more if not for a spike in sales at Acura, which moved an additional 1,244 rigs last month. Mazda and Nissan also found themselves in the doldrums, plunging by about 7 percent and 12 percent each. Such a percentage counts for a much larger volume drop at Nissan, of course.

So where are the bright spots? Well, we can turn to Subaru, a brand which is enjoying demand by being in the right place at the right time with a portfolio stuffed full of well-executed crossover machines. The new Ascent is doing well, fuelling the Fuji Fire to the tune of 6,160 fresh sales, as is the redesigned Forester, which is up 12.8 percent as a nameplate. The brand as a whole boasts a streak of 87 consecutive months of year-over-year growth. That’s a lot of Exploding Galaxies on the road. They sold 242 BRZs, if you’re wondering. You probably aren’t.

Kia and Hyundai also did good business last month. The Big H saw plenty of volume out of its funky new Kona, a model which sold 5,686 examples in February. This puts it only a few units behind the long-running Sonata and more than makes up for the drops in Accent and Elantra. Santa Fe and Tucson volume were up, as well.

There were 24 selling days last month, equal to the number in February 2018, although dealer principals across the nation probably wish they could have conjured up a few more. Note well: Edmunds reports that the average annual finance rate on new vehicles last month was a gob-smacking 6.26 percent, up from 5.19 one year ago and 4.56 five years prior. Take from that what you will.

[Image: © 2018 Matthew Guy]

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53 Comments on “February Sales Freeze: Most Brands Out in the Cold Last Month...”


  • avatar
    jatz

    Most everybody in these parts spends some portion of Jan/Feb as an antibiotic-saturated snot faucet concerned more about their snow blower than their cars.

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    Subaru still increasing sales. Nice

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    Subaru still increasing sales. Nice

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    What’s the story behind the huge increase at Jaguar? And does anyone else find it funny that FCA sells more Maseratis than supposedly mass-market Fiat?!

    • 0 avatar
      SlowMyke

      By a 50% margin, no less. I think i like the idea behind fiat. But the execution is just so atrociously bad that they may as well just kill it at this point. Give Dodge the abarths and let the rest go – Jeep renders the 500/L/X redundant with the renegade.

      Also, smart is down to double digits. Why even bother, Mercedes? I mean, they probably make more off a single g wagon sale than they did on all 68 of those smarts combined.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        I suspect that the Smarts are for Car2Go, the ‘mobility’ company that still rents cars in seven US cities. I think Daimler still owns a big piece of it.

        • 0 avatar
          Whatnext

          Car2go is merging with BMW’s DriveNow car share service and the Smarts are going (probably because all-electric won’t work as a car share).

          https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/share-now-car2go-cars-to-go-away-fleet-to-rebrand-after-bmw-merger

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            I found an interesting article on the closure of Car2Go San Diego. They stuck with the electric Smarts for almost four years before giving up and replacing them with gas powered Smarts. Car sharing still didn’t work, even without the handicap of using EVs.

            https://www.autoblog.com/2016/11/21/car2go-san-diego-shut-down/

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        Drove past the local Mercedes dealer in Southern Maine the other day and they are advertising a $99/month $0 down lease on 2018 Smart models. Even at $99 it’s still too much IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      Tstag

      So I did a little digging. At Jaguar the XE and F Pace have been on a sales charge which I find surprising but the bulk of sales growth came from those models. I’m very surprised at the XE…

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    Reading this website, I’d have never thought Acura still outsells Lincoln, Genesis and Infiniti. One might also get the impression that Tesla had overtaken Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Guess not.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    hey let’s toss a job well done to Mitsubishi , no seems to like them but they are moving in the right direction. Outselling Audi, who knew and if you want to go the other way they outsold Chrysler as well. Just think if they listen to the B&B they would have closed up shop and went home.

    • 0 avatar
      syncro87

      There are a couple of ways to look at this one. I’ll give the surly glass half empty perspective.

      Outselling Audi. Ok, fair enough on one hand…but on the other hand, two completely different market segments, and Mitsu is in the volume segment of the two. A little bit like saying wow, Fiat outsold Rolls Royce! Extreme example, but you get my point.

      Outselling Chrysler. Again, ok, fair enough. But Chrysler is basically a dead apple left to rot on a tree at this point…not sure outselling them is very significant given the utter lack of effort on the part of FCA to make Chrysler a viable entity.

      Moving in the right direction. Yeah, I guess you could say that. When you look at last year vs this year, they are indeed moving in the right direction. Viewed through another lens, they were selling nearly 350,000 cars a year in the USA in 2002. They are now back to approximately the level of US sales they had in 1987. Nineteen. Eighty. Seven.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Mitsubishi certainly has cornered a piece of the market. Now, whether it’s a piece anyone wants is another question.

  • avatar
    Damian P.

    Fiat is now being outsold by Maserati and Alfa Romeo. Ouch.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Alfa Romeo sales started to fatigue from initial Giulia excitement. Looks like discounts now available.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Well, how many Fiat models are available in the US? Fiat is becoming a Brazilian car company, with models that would sell here for the right price, but there are no Fiat factories here. There’s not enough margin to pay for shipping from Brazil, much less eastern Europe.

      You can blame the late Sergio for building and selling Fiat models in Europe without updates until they were obsolete, then killing them with no replacement. He did the same thing with Dodge and Chrysler, even though he could have found a bigger margin with a re-imagined Cordoba or Fifth Avenue.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    It is really hard to find well-made car these days. Mazda sales drop is so timely. Come-on, Mazda, bring on some intensives. I am listening…

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Jeep is interesting thing. I see dealers here still stacking 20 2018 Wranglers each. What are they waiting for? Take them apart, ship to Russia. Make $$$.

    • 0 avatar
      jatz

      You made me look: closest dealer to me has 35 unsold 2018 Wranglers, 11 Renegades.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        A fun game to play is to go to a site like AutoTrader, set a search radius and find the oldest NEW cars you can find listed.

        One website was reporting that FCA sold 3 NEW Darts last month. The reborn Dart has been out of production since 2016.

        For a few months in 2018 I would check every few weeks to see how many NEW Chrysler 200s were still on dealer lots.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          I’ve done that in the past so i just did a 100mi on cars.com they show 4 new Darts. They do list different VINs.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            I actually thought the Dart GT with 6 speed manual would have been an entertaining little car.

            Dart was one of those compacts that could be had in everything from super fuel economy model to sport model to luxury model. (Kind of like the original come to think of it.)

    • 0 avatar
      syncro87

      Yeah, I was thinking something along your lines the other day. Jeep seems to really stack dealers deep in Renegades, resulting in pretty ridiculous discounts (at least advertised discounts) on them. I don’t know what hoops you have to jump through to get the prices I see thrown out there, but Jeep does really seem to bury their dealers in Renegade inventory, even at the end of the model year.

  • avatar
    syncro87

    Fiat. Yikes.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Keep up the downward trend and maybe they’ll really be panicking come June when I’m shopping!

    ;-)

    I’ve been looking at a few dealer websites and a few websites that aggregate manufacturer offers/rebates. Lots of money being poured on the hood for several brands/models.

    • 0 avatar
      syncro87

      Out of curiosity, any particular brands/models that you think are particularly good deals right now, given said money being poured on the hood?

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Honestly I like the Regal Sportback and TourX (I know there’s a lot of hate here) and my local dealer is advertising a 2019 TourX Essence with a $39,630 MSRP for $33,289. He’s advertising a 2018 TourX Preferred for $31,198.

        2019 Terrain SLE AWD 2.0T with towing package and Driver Confidence I for $29,543 (roughly $5K off).

        $8K off of a 2019 Lacrosse Avenir

        $5K-6K off of AWD V6 Acadias (also with towing package).

        GMC and Buick are offering 0% for 72 months on many models.

        Ford is advertising $5K off of Flex models.

        Sadly I can’t find many Ford dealers carrying any Fusion above SEL trim. A whole bunch of slow little 1.5 turbos.

        Not many incentives on Impala (other than 0% for 72 months) despite being a slow seller.

        Malibu has $1500 cash on the hood and I can find 2018s still on the lot near me.

        Looks like RAM is still throwing more cash on the hood of the RAM and RAM Classic than the competition. I think FCA wants that sales crown very badly.

        With the exception of RAM, you can see I like the unloved.

        • 0 avatar
          syncro87

          Thanks for all that info.

          I also like the Sportback and TourX. I really like the former, with the sedan look but hatchback lid. Reminds me of the Saab 900s on the roads in my youth, a bit.

          My folks asked me for a car recommendation a little while ago, and I actually told them to check out a Sportback, which is a bit out of their normal wheelhouse, but they did. They were really impressed. They have fairly limited garage space, so they will probably go with something smaller, but they commented several times to me how good the SB was.

          This makes me think that if Buick could find a way to get the Toyota and Honda buyers (my folks) into the dealerships to actually demo their cars, they’d sell more. I think a fair number of people just write them off based on old impressions and don’t even give them a chance.

          I’m with you on liking the unloved. I drive a 2nd gen Scion xB, which gets a lot of hate but I think is underappreciated for what it is. One of my current favorite vehicles is the Ram Promaster City, which nobody cares about or likes, but I’d love to have. Super practical but small for the city.

          The problem with the Pro City is that, due to various reasons, it is overpriced for what it is. All the incentives are geared toward small business, and none for a private individual. Depreciation is brutal, so you have to buy one with all the spiffs up front, which you can’t get as a layperson. That, and the supply of variants used with a rear seat like I’d want is just about nonexistent.

          One of my favorite past owned cars was a VW Quantum syncro station wagon. The Quantum was totally unloved by even the VW heads, but it was a cool car with two manually lockable differentials.

          Anyway, I feel you on the unloved car thing. My wife drives a current gen Prius. If there was even an unloved car, that would be one.

          • 0 avatar

            I actually was impressed with new Regals at SF auto show – they has the presence of American car of the past and having hatchback is so sweet. This alone would make me to seriously consider one even though I never was a fan of Opel. But I still consider Fusion as as better car, more fun to drive. Then again I always was a fan of European Scorpio and Mondeo.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    Wow what happened at Jaguar Land Rover. I’m guessing thenIPacenis delivering for Jaguar but Land Rover?

  • avatar
    sooperedd

    It looks like it’s not a stretch FCA might pass Toyota in sales, possibly this year. Wow.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Infiniti outsold the Chrysler line by less than 300 units. That is really scary when one considers the fact that Infiniti is actually trying to sell cars and SUV’s while Chrysler offers one option, which is on the same platform it debuted on in 2005.

  • avatar
    vehic1

    Oh lordy – yet another serenade for Subaru, with that “sexy” SUV photo accompanying it. Even though Kia gained by 2734 units in Feb., to Subaru’s 1832 – Subaru rates the first and longest paragraph about its wonders – trotting out the incredible streak of sales gains (no matter how small they were, in some of those months). Love – it’s what makes a Subaru article, apparently.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      In other news…Subaru outsold Kia, Volkswagen, and Hyundai once again as has happened for the last several months. The heroic strides of Kia and its partner Hyundai once again fell short of Subaru’s market share. Volkswagen and its storied Teutonic engineering fade again this month. Sadly, regardless of newly offered turbo charging on two vehicles in its portfolio, Mazda, far down the volume ladder, continues its slide toward insignificance.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Once the Palisade hits the lots in numbers, Hyundai should be able to overtake Subaru.

        W/ the Telluride, Kia should be on par or at least close to Subie, but VW is too far behind.


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