Eight Consecutive Months of Volkswagen Sales Improvement Ends in July 2017 - Crossover Volume Still Very Low
After steady declines even prior to the diesel emissions scandal of nearly two years ago, Volkswagen of America took another serious hit in 2016 — the best year on record for the auto industry. Compared with 2012, Volkswagen volume sank by 85,000 sales last year.
But by the end of 2016, Volkswagen’s U.S. sales volume was beginning to rise again. True, that rise was in comparison with a true low — Volkswagen sales in the final one-sixth of 2016 were up 22 percent year-over-year but were 17-percent lower than in the same period of 2012 — but Volkswagen was bouncing back.
The bounce back continued through the first half of 2017, with Volkswagen sales through June up 8 percent despite the market’s 2-percent downturn.
Perhaps July was just a blip on the radar. But Volkswagen’s eight-month streak of improvement screeched to a halt last month as the U.S. auto industry reported its most significant losses of the year, and as Volkswagen’s new SUV lineup continues to dip its toes in American waters.
If current marketplace trends hold, the Toyota Prius will not be America’s best-selling hybrid by next year.
The steep rate of decline experienced by the Prius in 2017 is no surprise. For one thing, it’s a continuation of the decline we saw earlier in the fourth-gen Prius’ tenure. For another, there are new Prius competitors, such as the Hyundai Ioniq and Toyota’s highly efficient 2018 Camry Hybrid. But the Prius’s rapid slide — sales are down by a third so far this year — is also what Toyota predicted at the turn of the calendar.
Yet even if the rate of Prius decline suddenly and unexpectedly slows, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which the Toyota Prius, long the dominant hybrid in America, holds onto its crown as the top seller for long.
The victor in 2018 will, however, almost certainly be a Toyota.
Critics love the Alfa Romeo Giulia.
And they hate it.
American luxury car buyers, however, are increasingly interested. The Alfa Romeo Giulia lineup has been available since the tail end of 2016. And every month, right through the spring and into the summer, stories of breakdowns and limp-home modes and on-track failures had no apparent impact on increased demand.
July 2017 was the Alfa Romeo Giulia’s best month on the U.S. market to date.
“We do in fact have to expedite our process of separating our brands.”
– Genesis Motors General Manager Erwin Raphael
From the start, Hyundai Motor America’s plans to launch its upmarket Genesis brand inside Hyundai showrooms was easy to question. Do consumers want the link between a $68,100 Genesis G90 and a $14,745 Hyundai Accent to be so obvious?
Of course not. But affording Genesis a mere corner of certain Hyundai showrooms wasn’t the only problem — Genesis general manager Erwin Raphael also had issues early on with the number of Hyundai dealers signed up to sell the Genesis brand.
“We may see that (350) figure go down,” Raphael said in November 2016, only a few months after the brand began selling cars in America. “I think it is too high.”
Fast forward to August 2017 and Hyundai’s plan to eventually separate the Genesis brand with standalone showrooms, perhaps in 2020, is about to be pulled way forward. “For this brand to really survive and thrive,” Raphael tells Automotive News, “and for us to develop the culture within ourselves and within our dealer network to support and take care of these customers, we do in fact have to expedite our process of separating our brands.”
So what happens to all of those Hyundai dealers who recently spent thousands renovating showrooms to include Genesis studios?
It’s always a little sad to see an existing model discontinued. Well, almost always. Mitsubishi is taking the hint and officially killing the unloved i-MiEV — something we are willing to bet isn’t going to inspire an abundance of heartache within the driving community.
Despite being a pioneering electric car (and kind of cute), the i-MiEV was never what one might consider a volume vehicle. Since 2015, North America had frequently seen months where the little Mitsubishi couldn’t even break out of the single digit sales bracket. Last year, Canada sold a total of 86 units and the United States moved 94.
With a 62-mile range rating and one of the smallest interiors money can buy, it has always been poorly suited for the majority of American drivers’ needs and repeatedly slashing the price never made up the difference. While Nissan’s Leaf comes in almost $8,000 grand higher, $22,995 is still a lot to pay for something you don’t want — and nobody wanted an i-MiEV.
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited is on track to become the highest volume automaker in the world someday. Management is keeping it under wraps but volume has been exploding over the last few years. For 2014, the brand delivered a record 4,063 cars, up 12 percent on its volume for 2013 — closing the gap with Toyota’s 10.23 million global sales.
Unfortunately, Rolls’ five year volume streak didn’t last but it is creeping back up after some minor setbacks. For 2016, the brand announced its second highest ever annual sales result in the marquee’s 113-year history, up 6 percent on its 2015 results, for a total of 4,011 global sales. While it looks like the premium automaker has — once again — placed Toyota’s volume back in its sights, Rolls-Royce doesn’t want to get too cocky and has implemented a strategy that should keep the customers pouring in.
July 2017 was the first month in which we could ascertain the year-over-year U.S. sales direction of the one-year-old Fiat 124 Spider.
That direction is down.
In fact, the rate of year-over-year decline — 124 Spider sales fell only 6 percent in a passenger car market that was down 15 percent — was by no means severe. But it’s yet another sign that when American roadster buyers want a Mazda Miata, they buy a Mazda Miata.
Expand your horizons. See the forest, not just the trees. Look west of the Pacific Coast Highway.
Cadillac sales plunged in the United States in July 2017, dropping by more than a fifth to only 11,227 units. That 22-percent dive was the worst for Cadillac’s U.S. operations since April of last year. The 11,227-sale result represented a five-month low for Cadillac in the United States and the lowest-volume since 2011.
But Cadillac is increasingly a less U.S.-centric automotive brand. Just three short years ago, two-thirds of Cadillac’s volume was produced in its American home market. Fast forward to July 2017 and the majority of Cadillac’s volume isn’t produced in the market where it’s suffering from such dwindling demand.
Rather, Cadillac generates the bulk of its global volume outside of America, where Cadillac demand is rapidly increasing.
Auto sales in the United Kingdom tumbled 9 percent in July 2017, a fourth consecutive year-over-year monthly decline for a market that had surged to record-high levels in the first-quarter of 2017.
A transitioning period for the Ford Fiesta — entering a new generation that is almost certainly not bound for North America — dropped the UK’s normal best-selling vehicle out of the top spot for a second consecutive month. Another Ford, the Focus, took over as the UK’s top-selling automobile as total sales at Ford, the UK’s top-selling brand, plunged 24 percent compared with July 2016.
Ford’s drop was by no means the only sharp decrease. Losses of more than 20 percent were also reported by Alfa Romeo, Citroën, Citroën’s DS brand, Fiat, Jeep, Peugeot, and Vauxhall.
Apparently, Brexit is to blame.
Global Subaru operating income rose 19 percent to $1.06 billion in the quarter ending June 30. Net income was up 4 percent to $733 million on an 11-percent revenue increase to $8.9 billion.
Subaru’s long since gone to look for America. And while U.S. auto sales keep on slowing — falling for a seventh consecutive month in July 2017, for example — Subaru’s U.S. sales keep on rising. July, in which Subaru begins the current fiscal year’s second quarter, was Subaru’s 68th consecutive year-over-year monthly increase.
The U.S. market generated six out of every ten global Subaru sales between April and June.
U.S. Auto Industry Slowdown, Eh? Canadian Auto Sales on Track for Fifth Consecutive Record Year After Big July
Canadian auto sales jumped 5 percent in July 2017, a big jump for an industry that has now posted growth in six of 2017’s first seven months.
Year-to-date, sales are well ahead of 2016’s pace: 58,000 units greater than in the first seven months of 2017. In fact, on a quest for the Canada’s first ever year of more than 2,000,000 sales, the industry would now need a genuine downturn in 2017’s final five months to avoid a hugely successful year.
More proof that the Canadian auto industry’s on a hot streak? Even passenger car sales are… well, they’re only down slightly.
Toyota Motor North America’s executive vice president for sales, Bob Carter, is not ready to rain down doom and gloom on the state of the U.S. auto market.
From Toyota’s perspective, even the July results — 2017’s seventh consecutive month of decline, and the worst decline yet — didn’t represent the end of the American auto industry as we know it. In fact, total Toyota/Lexus U.S. volume actually increased 4 percent despite a shorter sales month than in July 2016.
While aware of the overall climate, in which Toyota sales are down more than 2 percent this year, Toyota’s U.S. sales boss says he’s “energized,” according to Automotive News. “The industry is not at a pace where it was in 2016 — we didn’t expect it to be at the pace of 2016,” Carter says, “but it’s still very healthy.”
And not without good reason.
We learned early in July that many of the early 2018 Toyota Camrys available in Toyota’s U.S. showrooms wouldn’t be built in Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky, assembly plant.
Through June, not a single one of the 2016 and 2017 Camrys sold in America were imported. But all of the 2018 Toyota Camrys sold in July came across the Pacific from Japan.
Granted, most of the Camrys leaving Toyota showrooms are still old new Camrys, not new new Camrys.
Midsize Sedan Deathwatch #14: July 2017 Sales Plunge by a Fifth, Everybody Falls Except the Dodge Avenger
Every midsize car on sale in the United States reported declining year-over-year volume in July 2017. Every car except the Dodge Avenger, which came back from the dead with 10 reported sales after a nine-month hiatus. 2014 was the Avenger’s last model year.
But forget that sales stat quirk — Pentastar Avenger Blacktop Edition, be still my soul. Every other midsize nameplate generated fewer sales in July 2017 than July 2016, with losses piling up fastest at Ford and Hyundai, with the Fusion and Sonata, respectively.
Between major Fusion and Sonata losses and decreased volume everywhere else, U.S. midsize car volume fell by a fifth in July 2017 — a 36,000-unit decline.
Exchange rates seriously hurt Japanese manufacturers over the past year as the yen bobbed and weaved following 2015’s surge. However, Honda was not among them. The final quarter of 2016 saw the automaker posting a 27 percent earnings increase, despite being hammered by the same foreign exchange losses as the rest of its Pacific brethren.
The first quarter of 2017 appears to have shaped up much the same way, only with slimmer margins — exactly as Honda predicted. Knowing that the North American market was about to take a turn for the worse, company analysts clung to the hope that more favorable currency rates and higher-than-expected sales in Asia would keep operating profits out of the red. Earnings ultimately creeping ahead by 0.9 percent to 269.21 billion yen ($2.40 billion) for Q1 — no thanks to the United States.
July 2017 auto sales were expected to decline for a seventh consecutive month, sliding further and faster than at any point this year. In the end, with incentive spending up 5 percent, U.S. auto sales dropped 7 percent in July 2017, a year-over-year decrease worth roughly 105,000 sales.
Detroit was to blame for much of the losses, in part because of steep reductions in fleet volume. General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles combined to lose 76,000 sales. General Motors came within 4,050 sales of losing the top seller’s crown to Toyota as GM July volume fell to a five-year low. At Ford Motor Company, total Ford/Lincoln volume fell to a six-month low. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles suffered steep declines at Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, and Fiat.
Detroit automakers were by no means the only manufacturers losing U.S. auto sales in June. The Honda brand was down 2 percent, Nissan slid 4 percent, Kia and Volkswagen both fell 6 percent, and Hyundai plunged 30 percent.
But there were also bright spots. Audi sales rose 3 percent for its 79th consecutive monthly increase. Subaru sales, rising 7 percent in July, improved for a 68th consecutive month. And at Toyota, where the RAV4 was by far and away America’s top-selling utility vehicle in July, total volume rose 4 percent to 193,155 units, the best month for the brand in 2017 and the second-best of the last two years.
America’s auto industry is expected to report today its seventh consecutive month of decline, a drop of at least 5 percent based on forecasts and some sharp declines from three of the largest manufacturers: GM, Ford, and FCA.
Incidentally, GM, Ford, and FCA are America’s three biggest sellers of pickup trucks, and for the most part, pickup trucks are allowing a degree of buoyancy at the Detroit Three despite plunging passenger car sales. But after pickup truck sales rose 4 percent through the first-half of 2017, pickup truck sales declined in July 2017. Slightly. Somewhat.
And it was mostly General Motors’ fault.
As U.S. auto sales are forecasted to fall between 5 and 6 percent in July 2017, the reports released this morning by the traditional Detroit Three — General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles — appear to be worse than average.
Due to decreased year-over-year volume at each of its four brands, including a harsh 30-percent decrease at Buick, General Motors plunged 15 percent to 226,107 sales. That loss equalled 41,151 fewer sales for America’s largest automobile seller. At Ford Motor Company, total sales fell 7 percent despite rising F-Series sales. Car volume tumbled 19 percent at Ford and Lincoln, and SUV/crossover sales were up only slightly. At FCA, meanwhile, a 10-percent overall decline was caused by decreased volume at Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, and Fiat.
Fortunately, there remain reasons for optimism.
After the forgotten third-generation car, the odd and bulbous fourth-generation car, and the dull fifth-generation car, the sixth Hyundai Sonata was unveiled at the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show. It was surprising, even shocking, that Hyundai so dramatically transformed its staid midsize car into a radical “fluidic sculpture” sedan.
In the United States, after averaging 132,000 sales over the previous half-decade, the Hyundai Sonata exploded. By 2012, Hyundai sold more than 230,000 copies, and the Sonata averaged 215,000 U.S. sales between 2010 and 2014, a 63-percent increase compared with the previous half-decade average.
The momentum was not sustained. The seventh-generation Hyundai Sonata debuted in the United States at 2014’s New York International Auto Show. Where did the fun go? Where was the drama, the cat-like headlamps, the desire to stand out from the pack?
“We went from a very striking design, to a very beautiful car, but it just didn’t turn heads like the car before it did,” Hyundai Motor America’s vice president of product planning, Mike O’Brien, tells Automotive News.
After the Impreza-based Subaru Outback Sport failed to catch fire with all the ignition of the Legacy-based Subaru Outback, Subaru’s approach differed only slightly when the XV Crosstrek debuted as an upsized rival for vehicles such as the Nissan Juke. Beating the Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax, and Jeep Renegade to the punch, the XV Crosstrek produced consistent and significant year-over-year U.S. sales growth.
From the 53,741 sold in 2013, Subaru reported a 32-percent improvement in 2014, a 25-percent gain in 2015, and a further 8-percent uptick to 95,677 in 2016.
Now that Subaru is preparing to launch the second-generation Crosstrek — the XV tag disappeared after MY2015 — it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Subaru isn’t just making hay off the Crosstrek by selling a whole bunch of Impreza-based tall hatchbacks.
Subaru also sells Crosstreks to the right people.
Before it ever got the chance to serve a conventional role in Mercedes-Benz USA’s lineup as America’s lone premium mini-MPV, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class is dead.
Mind you, the B-Class isn’t dead globally. But the B-Class Electric Drive, the only version of the B-Class ever to make it to U.S. shores, is ending production this fall.
The Mercedes-Benz B-Class ED will be missed, if at all, by very few Americans.
Since arriving early this year, Hyundai Motor America has managed only a meager 4,881 sales of its Prius-fighting Ioniq. Hyundai is certain there are far more Ioniq sales that could occur, however, if only Hyundai had the Ioniqs to sell.
Supply isn’t just tight — the Ioniq Electric is essentially nonexistent at Hyundai’s showrooms in California, the only state where it’s (supposed to be) available.
Yet while Hyundai awaits greater Ioniq inventory, the lack of which is clearly to blame for the low volume to date, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Kia came out on top in this deal.
In most cases, it’s a foregone conclusion. When there are multiple bodystyles available, the fewest number of buyers exist for the wagon.
The Porsche Panamera’s case is unique, however. There is no Porsche Panamera sedan. This is a battle between the regular second-generation Porsche Panamera — a hatchback or liftback or fastback or backbackbackgone or whatever you want to call it — and the new Sport Turismo, a shooting brake five years in the making.
Yet with limited practical benefit, “It’s a question of taste; some people like the Sport Turismo more, some people like the sports sedan more,” Porsche’s sales and marketing director told Stefan Utsch, told Motoring.
80 percent of taste buds apparently prefer the regular Panamera.
Despite all of the attention being called to the U.S. auto industry’s downturn in early 2017, first-half auto sales slipped only 2 percent from 2016’s all-time record highs.
But the rate of decline in July 2017 is expected to be the worst of the year so far, with forecasters generally calling for drops of at least 5 percent.
That will represent a loss of at least 76,000 sales in July alone.
It’s a question parents don’t ask often enough: are is our children learning?
More commonly queried: why not are our doors all is sliding? Furthermore, why is minivans are not mini?
Ford gave it a five-year whirl, slapping sliding doors on the side of the Fiesta-based B-Max. But according to a report in Romania’s Automarket, production of the Romanian-built B-Max ends this fall.
Are is our automakers learning?
June 2017 was only the Volkswagen Atlas’s first full month on sale in the United States, but the Atlas, still ramping up inventory, already accounts for more than half of Volkswagen’s U.S. utility vehicle sales. In fact, the only Volkswagens that sold more often than the Atlas in June were the Jetta, Passat, and (if you count all variants together) the Golf.
2,413 units is not a terribly impressive number, although it’s stronger than what the Mitsubishi Outlander, Ford Flex, Mazda CX-9, and Volkswagen’s two other utility vehicles managed last month. But the rate at which Volkswagen is building the Atlas at the company’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, assembly plant suggests dealers are only beginning to see just how many copies of the Atlas they’ll soon have to sell.
Will there be buyers?
Cars are not at the top of the heap.
In fact, not since 2013, when the Toyota Camry was America’s third-best-selling new vehicle, has a passenger car claimed a podium position on the U.S. automotive sales leaderboard. Fast forward to 2017 and passenger cars are way down the list of America’s top-selling new vehicles.
With pickup trucks so obviously differentiated from conventional consumer-oriented vehicles, and with the top-selling trio of pickup trucks (Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, Ram P/U) so distinctly more common, we’ve compiled this list of America’s 20 top-selling vehicles that aren’t pickup trucks, a halfway measuring stick that shows which vehicles are the dominant market forces through 2017’s first six months. Not including the pickup trucks that own 16 percent of the industry, of course.
The top-ranked nameplate deserves an asterisk — an asterisk that will grow in size over the coming months. And cars? Even with pickup trucks excluded, they miss the podium altogether.
One Consequence of America's Increasing Fondness for Crossovers? Automakers Laughing All the Way to the Bank
Perhaps we oversimplify it. Perhaps we don’t.
Take one Honda Fit or Chevrolet Sonic or Mazda 2, alter the exterior body panels, clad the wheel arches or bumpers in a modest amount of black plastic, periodically route power to the rear wheels without any fancy AWD systems, elevate the roofline, and increase ride height just a bit. Use a typical small car engine, the same transmissions, and many of the same interior bits.
The result: HR-V, Trax, CX-3. Call it a crossover. Dare even to call it an SUV.
And then, according to Kelley Blue Book, charge customers $7,700 more for the privilege.
If the rate of growth FCA’s Jeep brand experienced in the United States in 2016 could be carried forward into 2017, Jeep would sell 1,000,000 SUVs/crossovers this year.
Count the zeros. 1 million.
For a company that sold fewer than 300,000 vehicles per year coming out of the recession, that’s an absurd figure.
Jeep earned 5.4 percent of the overall auto market in the first half of 2016, yet through the first half of 2017, Jeep’s market share has taken a dive to 4.8 percent. In a market gone mad for utility vehicles — where sales of SUVs/crossovers are up 6 percent, year-over-year, despite the market’s downturn — no-car Jeep is losing sales faster than every auto brand aside from Chrysler and Smart.
Worrying? According to Jeep boss Mike Manley, Jeep is, “exactly where I thought we would be in the U.S.”
After months of speculation as to the fate of the Ford Fiesta in North America, as well as months of hazy non-answers from communications staff, Ford Motor Company’s B-segment program manager, Robert Stiller, has stated that the subcompact car segment in Dearborn is dead.
No more Ford Fiesta.
After going on sale in the U.S. in mid-2010 as a 2011 model, the Fiesta’s American seems destined to end this year. Buyers in Europe and overseas — always a reliable draw for itty-bitty cars — are guaranteed a seventh-generation model. Oh boy, do they ever receive a new model. The 2018 Fiesta bows not just as a three- or five-door hatch, but also in luxurious Vignale and soft-roading Active trims.
Over here? Hug your 1.0-liter EcoBoosts tightly and shed a tear, Fiesta fans. The little guy appears doomed for the chopping block. Can Ford interest you in a subcompact crossover?
Power and performance. Luxury and emotion. Balance and elegance. These are the seductive adjectives experts in automotive marketing insist can be found in a company’s newest offering, especially in the premium sports sedan segment.
After spending time on the back roads of Tennessee with the revised-for-2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, is the marketing hype true? Does it really deliver all the desirable adjectives you’d like in your premium sports sedan offering?
In a word, no.
The possibility, or even the necessity, of turning General Motors’ Hamtramck, Michigan, passenger car assembly plant into an SUV/crossover facility in the next half-decade has the company considering the discontinuation of the Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Volt, Buick LaCrosse, and recently launched Cadillac CT6.
According to a report in Reuters, General Motors is in talks with the United Auto Workers about replacing the increasingly unpopular products currently built in Hamtramck with in-demand utility vehicles. Also in question is the future of the Michigan-built Chevrolet Sonic and the Canada-built Cadillac XTS, which has enjoyed stays of execution in the past.
On average, GM had a 111-day supply of the six models in its U.S. showrooms heading into July 2017. 70 days’ worth of supply would be appropriate. Combined, the Impala, Volt, LaCrosse, CT6, Sonic, and XTS account for 6 percent of GM’s U.S. sales in 2017.
In 2008, the Impala, LaCrosse, and the Sonic’s Aveo predecessor — merely three of the nameplates — accounted for 12 percent of a much more voluminous GM U.S. operation.
After a near decade-long run at the helm of BMW Group’s sales and marketing department, Ian Robertson is retiring.
Taking over from the Englishman Robertson will be Pieter Nota, a Netherlands native who is anything but representative of the BMW establishment, every inch not automotive industry insider. Nota comes from Royal Philips, where you buy your electric razors, and formerly worked at Beiersdorf (where you buy your Nivea moisturizer) and Unilever, which fills your grocery store shelves with Axe, Hellmann’s, Ben & Jerry’s, and Dove.
I can’t believe it’s not
butter a board member.
Honda’s probably right.
The coupe, long a staple of the American auto industry, is fading fast. Between automakers who insist on using phrases such as “four-door coupe” and “ SUV coupe” and automakers that are just plain killing off coupes and consumers who favor more practical bodystyles, one wonders how rare the bodystyle will be in 10, or even five years.
Now, the tenth-generation 2018 Honda Accord has appeared and the coupe variation we’ve known for decades is off the table. No coupe. Coupe be gone. Coupe discontinued. Coupe defunct. Coupe dead. Coupé de grâce, to thoroughly muddle the French.
Yet it’s Honda’s belief that the new sedan is enough to keep Accord Coupe buyers from straying from the fold.
Launched for the 2015 model year, the seventh Hyundai Sonata was not the avant-garde successor to the 2011-2014 Sonata for which many hoped. The new Sonata, while objectively better in virtually every way, was missing a key ingredient.
For 2018, Hyundai has thoroughly refreshed the seventh-generation Sonata, hoping that a far more aggressive front fascia will draw more eyes. Hyundai went much further than the superficial, however, by stiffening the Sonata’s structure, upgrading to an eight-speed automatic, and including more safety equipment as standard fit.
Yet while Toyota and Honda believe their new Camry and new Accord can ignite the midsize sedan segment in a bid to wage war against a crossover onslaught, Hyundai’s goals for the refreshed 2018 Sonata are far more modest. Much more modest. Más modesto.
American car buyers are increasingly turning their backs on subcompact cars.
During the first six months of 2017, the subcompact car losing the greatest number of sales is the Nissan Versa, which is suffering as Nissan realigns its dealer strategy to emphasize certified pre-owned cars.
But the subcompact car losing the second-highest number of sales is the Chevrolet Sonic, which has declined 37 percent this year (for a 10,334-unit decrease). In a continued attempt to dramatically reduce Sonic inventory — GM had a 159-day supply at the beginning of June; a 43-day supply at the beginning of July — GM is extending the scheduled plant shutdown at the Chevrolet Sonic’s Orion Township assembly plant north of Detroit, Michigan.
There are side effects from such a shutdown, an aftertaste following the swallowing of a bitter pill, spin-offs from a show nobody was watching to begin with.
Depending where you live, it’s possible the shift away from luxury cars to luxury SUVs is dramatically more apparent than America’s nationwide figures suggest.
In 48 of 50 states, luxury utility vehicles outsell luxury cars. In seven states, premium brand utility vehicles form more than 65 percent of the premium market.
But according to Edmunds, the two states in which luxury cars still outperform luxury utility vehicles account for 31 percent of America’s luxury SUV market.
If Cadillac’s top boss, Johan de Nysschen, had his way, The Hunt for Red October would feature a scene in which Capt. Vasili Borodin describes his dream of seeing the United States in an Escalade, not an recreational vehicle.
While General Motors’ luxury division counts on American and Chinese buyers to keep it flush with cash, there’s still room in the fold for other markets. Assuming, of course, those citizens have a willingness to cast off deep-seated consumer habits and, perhaps, prejudices.
After dropping pedestrian vehicles for an all-prestige lineup, GM’s conquest of the Russian luxury market hasn’t yet occurred, though it’s still early days. Sales are looking up. With a new partner in tow, Cadillac feels confident it can muscle out the Germans on the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
We can’t call it The Big Mo. Medium Mo might also be too strong a term.
But Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Alfa Romeo division is beginning to pick up a measure of Giulia sales momentum in the United States. And with the launch of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Alfa’s first utility vehicle, occurring now, we should expect to see major improvements in the third and fourth-quarter of 2017.
big medium modest momentum comes as high-profile Alfa Romeo Giulias, the Giulias that land in the hands of the people who tell the world about the Giulia, fail with shocking regularity.
The latest failure? Last night, in the hands of a Jalopnik crew that lived to tell the tale.
General Motors’ diesel-powered 2018 Chevrolet Equinox arrives at dealers later this summer, but despite the third-generation Equinox’s anticipated popularity, diesel Equinoxes will remain rare.
According to Automobile, the overwhelming majority of Equinox buyers will not stray from the standard 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. With three-quarters of Equinox customers expected to stick with the 1.5T and 20 percent optioning up to the 252-horsepower 2.0T, GM clearly expects few buyers to line up for the diesel.
So why does GM bother? Two reasons. First, “ We believe that there are customers who would be interested in a diesel variant,” Chevrolet spokesperson Michelle Malcho told TTAC this morning.
Second, 5 percent of Equinox volume — not F-Pace or X5 or Range Rover, but 5 percent of Equinox volume — is quite a bit.
In June 2017, General Motors reported 29,182 U.S. sales of its Chevrolet Equinox, the company’s most popular non-truck model in America.
A 49-percent year-over-year improvement made June the best month for the Equinox since May 2015.
Combined with sharp declines from Chevrolet’s three mainline sedans, it also made the Equinox more popular in June than the Chevrolet Cruze, Malibu, and Impala combined.
As if we needed more evidence that Americans want crossovers, not cars.
We had not yet seen the 2017 Honda Civic Type R.
We did not yet know at what lofty level the 2017 Honda Civic Type R would be priced.
We didn’t know precisely when we’d have an opportunity to purchase a 2017 Honda Civic Type R. We didn’t know how powerful it would be, whether there’d be a CVT option, if the Civic Si would be powerful enough to decrease Type R demand, or how many aero-aiding elements the Civic Type R would be wearing when it came off the boat from the UK.
But we were told Honda thought it could sell 2,000 Civic Type Rs per month. Which is impossible.
Jaguar’s U.S. sales averaged 3,400 units per month over the last year, a huge turnaround after a decade in which Jaguar’s U.S. dealers sold roughly 1,200 cars per month.
Most of the credit for Jaguar’s U.S. resurgence belongs to the brand’s first-ever utility vehicle, the F-Pace.
A fair chunk of the credit also belongs to the XE, the first entry-level sedan in Jaguar’s lineup since the X-Type disappeared after the 2008 model year.
And some of the credit belongs to an engine formula that’s earned more than its fair share of negative press over the last two years: diesel.
An inconsequential 1,630 copies of the Volkswagen Touareg were sold in the United States during the first half of 2017.
It’s therefore unlikely you’ll notice the Volkswagen luxury SUV’s absence now that Volkswagen has decided to eliminate the Touareg from its 2018 U.S. lineup.
Initially reported by Motor Trend yesterday, Volkswagen’s decision to discontinue the Touareg was confirmed to TTAC by Volkswagen of America spokesperson Jessica Anderson today. “Our focus for the 2018 model year is the all-new Atlas and redesigned Tiguan.”
So is the Touareg done, or just done for now? Volkswagen of America won’t say.
The Ford Ranger is poised to return to the domestic market in 2019, accompanied by all the fanfare befitting a junior American icon. Unless the Blue Oval totally botches the job, everyone anticipates the reborn Ranger becoming a big seller in the midsize truck market.
However, there’s already a smaller pickup syphoning off volume from its rivals before the Ranger can avail itself. While sales of most midsize truck models have been cooled by the gentle breeze of market stagnation, Honda’s second-generation Ridgeline has returned with a vengeance, enjoying favorable reviews and posting sales volume not witnessed in over a decade. While Honda still doesn’t move nearly as much midsized metal as Toyota’s Tacoma (which sold 191,631 units in the U.S. in 2016), the Ridgeline proves there is space in the marketplace for more than just body-on-frame offerings.
As Toyota watches its RAV4 quickly climb sales charts, the Japanese behemoth estimates it will sell fewer copies of its new-for-2018 eighth-generation Camry than it has in six years.
According to Reuters, Toyota is targeting 30,000 monthly Camry sales in the U.S. once the 2018 model fully takes over. That’s 360,000 Camry sales per year, well below the 412,000-unit average Toyota has managed over the last half-decade; 7-percent below last year’s output.
Toyota considers the thought of overall midsize sedan demise “inconceivable” but is by no means blind to the segment’s evolution. Recent deaths, such as the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger, followed the disappearance of the Mitsubishi Galant, Suzuki Kizashi, and domestic nameplate removals, as well. Remember the Mercury Milan, Pontiac G6, and Saturn Aura?
But as the midsize segment struggles, Toyota looks down from its lofty perch and sees the odds increasingly turning in the Camry’s favor. “If other automakers left the sedan market to focus more on SUVs,” Camry chief engineer Masato Katsumata says, “that would be an opportunity to expand our market share of the segment.”
Through the first-half of 2017, midsize car sales plunged 18 percent as nearly every nameplate in the category suffered from declining sales.
Year-over-year, sales of the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Subaru Legacy, Mazda 6, and Chrysler 200 collectively fell by nearly 200,000 units.
We know where the buyers are going. Compact crossovers such as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Nissan Rogue — each of which now sell more often than even the top-selling midsize cars — are 2017’s soup du jour: more space for Buster the Bernese, better sightlines for the driver, all-wheel drive for those weekly Rubicon excursions, and a superior image to boot.
But if the trend we’ve seen through the first-half of 2017 holds, midsize cars won’t merely lose the U.S. sales race to compact crossovers. 2017 appears primed to be the first year in history in which compact cars also outsell midsize cars.
Stiffer structures, a lower center of gravity for improved handling, more shared components, and a 20-percent cost cut are all benefits of the Toyota New Global Architecture. Eventually, Toyota wants all of its front-wheel-drive vehicles to use TNGA as a starting point.
You first witnessed TNGA in the 2016 Toyota Prius, then in the 2018 Toyota C-HR, and most recently in the 2018 Toyota Camry that’s trickling into dealers now.
But beyond the ability to improve existing nameplates and spawn dramatically different new cars, TNGA is also intended to improve plant efficiency. Yet a massive shift at Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky assembly plant, detailed by Wards Auto, hasn’t yet resulted in the efficiency rewards.
“When we change over in the future with the Avalon, we’ll be able to pull that efficiency out of (the operation),” Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky president Wil James told Wards.
Ah yes, Avalon. How could we forget?
“The Genesis was never built for the European market,” Hyundai UK director Tony Whitehorn says. “It was conceived for the Korean and American markets.”
And now, with the second-generation Hyundai Genesis sedan languishing in the United Kingdom while Hyundai launches the Genesis brand in North America, the Hyundai Genesis Americans now know as the Genesis G80 has been discontinued as in the UK.
With the July 10 launch of a new Chevrolet Silverado commercial, General Motors is once again using its Real People, Not Actors campaign in an attempt to tarnish the Ford F-150’s good name.
This methodology doesn’t appear to have had an impact in the marketplace in the past. Yet two years after General Motors displayed conversations between Howie Long and GM engineer Eric Stanczak discussing repair costs on the Ford F-150’s aluminum bed and one year after Chevrolet punctured a Ford F-150’s aluminum bed with 825 pounds of concrete blocks, General Motors is turning to admitted Ford F-150 owners as a means of casting aspersions on America’s top-selling full-size truck.
After earlier rounds, Ford gained ground in America’s full-size pickup truck market in 2016. Indeed, Ford is continuing to gain ground in that same market in 2017. Ford is selling more trucks than its rivals. Ford is selling more trucks with less incentivization. Ford is selling more trucks with less incentivization at higher average transaction prices.
So, GM sends the Chevrolet Silverado back to the same ol’ well.
One Way to Reduce Massive Fiat 500L Inventory Glut: An Ongoing Strike at Serbia's Fiat Assembly Plant
Entering June 2017, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ U.S. dealers had a 219-day supply of Fiat 500Ls, roughly 1,400 cars in stock for a nameplate that generates fewer than 200 U.S. sales per month.
At least for the time being, however, U.S. Fiat dealers won’t be accepting any new copies of the 500L.
Unfortunately for the Serbian economy, the Fiat 500L’s inventory reduction in the United States is merely a byproduct of a strike at FCA’s Kragujevac assembly plant. That facility, which is one-third owned by the Serbian government, produces 8 percent of the nation’s exports.
Consequently, Ana Brnabic, Serbia’s prime minister, is advocating for the Kragujevac line workers prompt return to work. “It will be very difficult for us in the future to bring new investors when there is no certainty that workers will honor contracts between unions and employers,” says Brnabic, according to Reuters.
Workers are reportedly after a 30-percent pay hike, as well as workload alterations and transit assistance. FCA wants its workers back. The Serbian government wants FCA to get its workers back.
But car buyers do not want Fiat 500Ls.
America’s historic subcompact car segment leader, the Nissan Versa, suffered a sharp 22-percent U.S. sales decline in the first half of 2017.
In fact, total Versa sales plunged 45 percent in June 2017. The Versa remained America’s top-selling subcompact nameplate, and by a wide margin. Even in June, when Versa sales plunged by more than 6,500 units, Nissan still owned nearly a quarter of America’s subcompact market.
Nevertheless, it’s odd to see the segment leader, a car that was selling better than ever at this time last year, suddenly dropping like a stone, declining even more rapidly than the segment as a whole.
But after years of using the Nissan Versa as a tool for turning used car buyers into new car buyers, Nissan USA is scaling back factory support for the Versa in lieu of assisting Nissan dealers with their certified pre-owned efforts.
They’re always bridesmaids, never the bride.
But after holding down the fort as America’s second-best-selling Japanese premium brand since surrendering to Lexus some two decades ago, Acura is now about to be bumped from its maid of honor position.
Scottie Pippen? Acura is quickly becoming Toni Kukoc.
After a record U.S. sales performance in 2016, Infiniti sales are rising faster than any other auto brand in America save for four niche-market luxury contenders. After trailing its Acura compatriot for 28 years, it’s past time for Infiniti to catch the bouquet.
“But in some cases, the traditionalists are going to
maybe pine over the squarer shape of the previous four iterations.”
– Jaguar Land Rover Australia Managing Director, Matthew Wiesner
The Land Rover Discovery, known for a time in North America as the LR3 and then LR4 whilst alphanumeric nomenclature was deemed necessary if one was to steal market share from the Lexus GX460, is a box.
Or rather, it was a box. For nearly three decades, through the Series I and Series II and then the LR3 and LR4 that ran for a dozen years or so, Land Rover’s sub-Range Rover was squared off. Hard lines. Rectangles. Right angles. No Bangles.
Land Rover has rediscovered the Discovery name in North America, but the brand did not manage to rediscover the Discovery’s styling themes. And on the other side of the world from Land Rover’s Coventry HQ, Australia’s Jaguar Land Rover boss is vocalizing a major concern.
“The new shape is certainly going to test some of the traditional owners of Discovery,” Matthew Wiesner told CarAdvice.
The Third-generation BMW X3 Absolutely Must Be the Best-Selling Small Luxury Crossover in 2018, BMW CEO Says
“We created that segment,” BMW CEO says of the sector in which the BMW X3 arrived before Acura, Audi, Infiniti, Lexus, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Volvo.
“The No.1 approach and target I clearly have is, there shouldn’t be anyone besides us who is No.1,” Krueger told Automotive News Europe.
In the U.S., where Krueger’s goals (expectations? demands?) for the South Carolina-built BMW X3 are lofty, the X3 ranked a distant fifth in the category in 2016.
But Krueger ain’t kiddin’ around.
We’re beginning to pummel a dying horse here but, as you already know, the North American automotive market is shrinking right now. Toyota wants to mitigate this by funneling sales into rental fleets. While this tactic has become unpopular with automakers like General Motors, others have bolstered fleet sales to cope with the lackluster demand. Hyundai, for example, has relied heavily on rental companies to boost its total volume, but the move has placed dealerships and the corporate office at odds with each other.
Toyota’s U.S. deliveries fell 3.6 percent through June of this year, which is 1.5 percent ahead of the industry’s overall decline. The automaker wants to fill the gap by ramping up volume to rental companies before the end of 2017. Like Hyundai, Toyota’s best sellers are passenger cars — which have taken the brunt of consumer apathy of late — but knows it can still unload them on Enterprise, Avis, and Hertz.
Yet month after month, for six consecutive months to begin 2017, automakers are witnessing fewer and fewer buyers walking into dealers after sales shot to record levels in calendar year 2016.
Incentives, at $3,550 per car, are an effective lure. But that doesn’t change the fact that buyers are paying, on average, $33,000 and borrowing, according to Edmunds, $31,000 in order to finance a purchase.
How do car buyers afford the highest prices on record? By stretching the payment period to the longest terms ever: 69.3 months in June, Edmunds says.
It’s been an interesting few years at Ford Motor Company, especially for the automaker’s prestige marque. Ever since Ford decided that reviving the listless Lincoln brand with a life-giving cash infusion was the right way forward, watching the division reconcile its unsavory near-past and mouth-watering distant past with its present and future has become a source of amusement.
Not to say that Lincoln’s executives and PR teams are stumbling like Gerald Ford. Far from it. However, sometimes a statement causes a “whoa, hold on a minute” moment that’s too big to ignore.
Maybe, we told you in early May, you’ll soon be able to get a deal on a Subaru Outback.
As new vehicle demand gradually shrinks in America, every automaker wants to grow their market share in order to maintain steady sales output. “Sure, there are fewer buyers,” the automaker says, “but we’ll grab more of them.”
Decreased demand has a tendency to increase competitiveness. Not surprisingly, Subaru anticipated the need to more dramatically increase incentives on the least-incentivized cars in America as 2017 progressed. Even an in-demand automaker such as Subaru is going to struggle when rival automakers are routinely dropping prices by more than 10 percent.
Thus, according to ALG, Subaru’s average discount per vehicle shot up 63 percent, year-over-year, in June 2017.
In a release yesterday detailing the company’s 2018 lineup, Hyundai confirmed that U.S. market availability of the Hyundai Azera will be discontinued.
But have no fear, dear lover of affordable large sedans. The 2017 Hyundai Azera is not yet thin on the ground.
Roughly 1,000 Azeras are currently sitting on dealer lots across the United States, enough — at the Azera’s recent sales pace — to last until mid-fall.
The Azera doesn’t deserve to meet such a tragic end, but its demise is one we knew about long before Hyundai’s official announcement on July 5, 2017. U.S. sales plunged 82 percent over the last decade.
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