Alfa Romeo “outperformed all others in U.S. sales last year,” posting astronomical year-over-year gains. At least, that’s how Bloomberg frames it in a recent news article. By that logic, infants everywhere outperformed long-distance runners by taking their first steps last year.
As Fiat Chrysler’s sexiest brand, Alfa has only recently made its return to the North American market. Therefore, referencing a large improvement in overall sales isn’t quite so impressive, considering the borderline mainstream Giulia has only just been added to the product lineup. Prior to 2017, the brand’s singular offering in the United States was the mid-engined 4C sports car.
While it’s definitely not the same doom and gloom vibe felt around the domestic auto industry as it was financially circling the drain in 2008, headlines in the new year seem to forecast storm clouds on the horizon.
After nearly a decade of sales growth, the American market for passenger cars and light trucks flattened out in 2017. Actually, sales didn’t just flatten in the U.S., they dropped 1.75 percent for the year. Not only has the overall U.S. market shrunk, we’re seeing predictions of the death of an entire segment of that market, the sedan — a segment that has pretty much defined the American automotive world for a century. It’s one thing for an iconoclastic website like TTAC to be talking about a sedan deathwatch, but when that prediction is on the front page of the Detroit News, with reports that Ford may very well stop building sedans in America and that Buick sedan sales have been cut in half over the past year, people will take notice.
I’m not here to depress you, though. Despite the gloomy cast to things, in reality the automotive industry as a whole is doing very well.
Amarok. The worst sounds mystical, conjuring up images of hairy Ice Age beasts and the grizzled 24-year-old grandfathers who once hunted them. Amarok also refers to a midsize Volkswagen pickup that’s built in Argentina and sold overseas, a pickup the automaker now wants to trademark in the United States.
Is this the first step towards Volkswagen — or a partner — joining the midsize pickup fray in America, or simply a “just in case” exercise? Volkswagen’s not saying. However, looking at the overall midsize pickup segment, is there really a case to be made for a new player, especially when there’s already a Ford Ranger on the way?
Automakers released 2017 year-end numbers today and, despite lower or near flat year-over-year volume for most, the performance beat the expectations of most analysts.
Still, American new vehicle sales slipped a hair under 5 percent in December, dropping by 1.75 percent to a total of 17.245 million for all of 2017. This brings the parade of annual growth to a screeching halt, as the industry has posted year-over-year gains ever since the dark days of 2009.
It took eight years for American Honda to break 2007’s U.S. sales record. But after muscling past the eight-year-old barrier in 2015, the Honda brand shot past the new mark with ease in 2016.
And Honda, typically prudent-verging-on-pessimistic, intends to report record sales at the end of 2017, as well.