August 2019 U.S. Auto Sales: An Incomplete Puzzle

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
august 2019 u s auto sales an incomplete puzzle

Reporting on American auto sales without including the Detroit Three is like talking about great racing drivers without mentioning the names Schumacher, Petty, or Senna. Nevertheless, here we are. Thanks to Detroit’s decision to release sales data only on a quarterly basis, a big chunk of the picture is missing. Even the big guns at Automotive News have given up trying to estimate Detroit numbers in an effort to fill in the blanks.

Everyone else is still playing fair ball, though, so let’s examine how the rest of America’s automakers fared last month.

The market is largely flat, year to date, helping to bolster the assertion that 2019 could be the first year in ages that’ll tally less than 17 million units. Still, forecasts are rosier than they were one month ago, thanks to healthy month-over-month gains by the two biggest Japanese nameplates.

Toyota’s sales rose by about 12 percent compared to the same month one year ago. That increase, along with robust performance at Lexus, put the Akio’s House back on roughly even footing with this time in 2018. The news was even better at Honda, where August deliveries actually set a monthly record. It’s unsurprising to learn light truck volume was up at both brands but very surprising to see demand for cars up 20 and 8.4 percent at Honda and Toyota, respectively. Fulfilling rental fleet orders? A sudden realization by the American public that cars are just fine for family duties? We hope it’s the latter.

Brands with roots in Korea also saw jumps in volume. Hyundai is reaping the benefits of the crossover seeds they’ve sown, seeing their sales chalk up a 13th straight month of year-over-year gains. Crossovers at the Big H set a monthly record, with the Kona posting big gains and the new Palisade exceeding company expectations.

There will surely be a huge company party at Subaru, where August 2019 marked the best-ever sales month in company history. At 70,039 units last month, the Exploding Galaxy outsold brands like Hyundai, VW, and Kia. It was nearly triple the volume of Mazda, fer chrissakes. Remember when Subaru was a fringe player? Pepperidge Farm remembers.

With all that success, why is the industry roughly flat? For answers, look to the likes of Nissan and Mazda, both of which have shed volume compared to this time last year. With big players like Honda and Toyota on even keel with 2018, it doesn’t take much downward movement to erase the gains of other companies.

As for the Detroit Three, their silence forces us to guess their accomplishments. So we’ll say ten. There. They sold ten. Here’s hoping sensible heads prevail and all hands return to a monthly report in the new year but, realistically, it’s more likely everyone else will move to quarterly, too.

[Image: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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5 of 21 comments
  • Bullnuke Bullnuke on Sep 05, 2019

    Mazda's circle continues to tighten as it moves closer to the drain of the US Market.

    • See 2 previous
    • Bd2 Bd2 on Sep 06, 2019

      @dal20402 It's the same strategy that VW abandoned for the US market. VW sales have grown since they have gone to their "big and cheap" strategy.

  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Sep 05, 2019

    IIRC Tesla started the quarterly reporting trend, and it took about a minute for the other US mfrs to follow. They're all trying to create stability, rather than see their fortunes artificially rise and fall after articles like this one appear in the first week of every month. We're soaked with so much data today; it's refreshing to see these mfrs dial it back a little. It doesn't change the annual or quarterly figures at all.

  • FreedMike Looks sharp. But did they fix the hilariously bad torque steer on the N-Line model? The one I drove brought back memories of the Omni GLH Turbo.
  • Kendahl I might believe that, on a back road in a rural county, one might run into a cop who doesn't know the law he is paid to enforce. However, I-75 is the main route for snowbirds, of whom a sizeable fraction are Canadian, commuting to and from Florida. It was the cop's responsibility to know that Florida honors foreign licenses. Nield should have hired a lawyer to rub that in.
  • Arthur Dailey So they cut the roof off the hatch area of a Dodge Journey?
  • Desertwanderer Across Australia, from Sydney to Perth, via the Nullarbor Highway. Desolate, very impressed to pass a bicycle tourist somewhere in the middle, I think he'd have a story to tell. Oh, and the Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, NS, in my S4.
  • Cprescott Please stop production of all Camry's - they are hideous and vomit inducing ugly.