U.S. Auto Sales, Q1 2019: Plenty of Red, Plus a Few Bright Spots

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
u s auto sales q1 2019 plenty of red plus a few bright spots

Talking heads have been warning for days that the auto industry should prepare itself for a rougher than usual ride in 2019, speculating that sales for the first quarter would be softer than what we’ve seen in past years.

This proved to be true, as players such as the Detroit Three, Nissan, Toyota, and Mazda all conspired to drag the industry down by just over three percent compared to this time last year. Fortunes were better at places like Kia, Hyundai, and Honda, each of whom recorded jumps in volume – two of them quite healthy.

A caveat, before diving into the numbers. You’ll recall that General Motors decided to stop releasing sales numbers on a monthly basis some time ago, shifting instead to a quarterly report. Ford followed suit and, in an infuriating turn, is not announcing its numbers until their Thursday earnings call. The stats here from the Blue Oval are sourced from Automotive News, who do not list the numbers as estimates.

Proving that it is tough to maintain a torrid sales streak, the almighty Jeep brand posted a double-digit dip in March, dropping 11.2 percent to 87,328 units. This number is nothing to sneeze at, and the brand isn’t in trouble by any stretch, but it does put an exclamation point on the stellar results it posted each month in 2018. Demand for the then-new JL Wrangler likely had a great deal to do with this. Ram continues to drive through walls, up 15.5 percent; producing both the new and old pickup side-by-side is paying dividends.

As a brand, Toyota was off by 3.5 percent, where a 1.5 percent rise in light truck volume was scuppered by a 14.2 percent drop in car sales.

“Light trucks and SUVs continue to lead the way for our industry, and Toyota’s Tacoma and RAV4 first-quarter sales results are a reflection of the strong consumer appeal of these vehicles,” said Jack Hollis, group vice president and general manager, Toyota division. In a poke at Ford, he went on to say “While some of our competitors are abandoning sedans, we remain optimistic about the future of the segment.”

I do love a good bit of OEM smacktalk. By the way, the old-as-rocks Tacoma continues to sell like proverbial hotcakes, posting its best-ever March and marking 17 consecutive months of year-over-year gains.

Nissan also posted a loss, with volumes of nameplates like the Titan and Rogue drying up to the tune of double digit drops. The former is likely due to decreased demand, now that some truck buyers who wanted the newly-redesigned Titan have gotten one, while the latter could be a victim of Nissan’s renewed effort to kick the fleet habit.

Meanwhile, Mitsubishi (yes, Mitsubishi) posted its best month since the halcyon days of The Fast and the Furious and underglow body kits. VW can boast of its 14 percent gain, achieved not just on the back of increased crossover/SUV sales but also on an eight percent jump in car volume as the snazzy new Jetta recorded an excellent month.

Pundits speculate that 2019 will see the industry drop below 17 million units for the first time since 2014. They’re probably not wrong. Average transaction price in March hovered around $36,700, which is a number driven by high-zoot pickups, unsurprisingly. The average rate on a new vehicle note was (gulp) 6.36 percent because, according to Edmunds, only four percent of deals last month had zero percent interest rates. Yikes.

Check back for further analysis later in the week.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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  • Tassos SNAAB shot itself in the foot when it BASTARDIZED its unique brand by BADGE ENGINEERING its vehicles with GOD DAMNED GM, OPEL, CHEVY, LANCIA and who knows what other automotive RIFF RAFF. I know of no Saab Enthusiast (they do exist) who felt sorry when the stupid maker went BANKRUPT.
  • 28-Cars-Later Example is located in Coldwater Michigan, so..." needs work -- including new brakes."Brakes, brake lines, probably fuel lines. Probably should hit the master cylinder too unless there are seal only kits for it."It has an automatic transmission."Likely needs a new one of those as well."an exhaust leak"Add an exhaust to the list."an inaccurate speedo."Wow and TMU to boot!These days five to six bills isn't too horrible but this example could turn into a headache really quick due to parts availability. The right buyer for this is a small time tradesman, the HVAC guy who was just leaving my house is rolling a late P80 Volvo 850 sedan in manual which he treats like a truck. Said he'd love a wagon if he ever came across one... if you're local to Coldwater Michigan this is a nice work beater. Annual inspection/registration tax probably costs nearly as much as the car.
  • 2ACL Amazing price, but that's (IMO) a reflection of the interest in an old 2.0T repmobile made interesting only by being a wagon. The Epsilon 9-3 was a sanitized take on the Saab formula. That's not to say it lacks interesting variants, but this isn't one of them. If it had a stick, maybe. But this generation's automatics are sealed and known to become temperamental if not serviced. If the owner can't provide proof of regular servicing, run.
  • Tassos The 3 lt turbodiesel should be FAR, FAR more efficient than the 6.2. ANything that walks would be more efficient than the 6.2. Are you kidding me?The 3 lt turbodiesel in my 4,000 lb+, 208 HP, 400+ LBFT E320 Bluetecs is more efficient than even the 2.2 lt ICE with its meager 125 HP in my 1990, only 2,822 lbs, Accord Coupe 5 speed LX. 100%. I have the full detailed records to prove it beyond any doubt. I consistently get over 35 MPG HWY, which I never got with the Accord (usuallt 32-33 tops)The big question is, will GM ask $5k more for the diesel than for the gas version, as usual? Mercedes only asked $1k m ore for the diesel, $51k vs $50k for the gas back then, which you would recover in just ONE YEAR of average miles driven.
  • Cprescott Lucid has the right idea about building cars - I agree that these have a presence to them and certainly make all Teslas look like cheap golf carts with doors in comparison. I hope Lucid survives because they actually build luxurious products and not pretenders like Tesla.