Americans continue to buy vehicles nearly as fast as they arrive on dealer lots, as the nation is rife with stories chronicling perpetually empty lots and some establishments making bank with obscene markups.
We’ll leave those latter two topics for another day. Meanwhile, despite a consumer hunger for new cars, the market is down sharply compared to this time last year – double-digit percentages, in fact.
Delivery numbers for the first quarter of 2022 may be down compared to this same time last year, but don’t construe that as a lack of customer interest. Supply and demand are out of sync for many manufacturers right now, leading to a situation in which there seems to be no shortage of buyers but a dearth of inventory to satiate their requests.
It’s been a tough 12 months for a lot of people, including some dealer principals and their staff in the front office. Sure, more than a few of them are making bank by charging outrageous markups on the vehicles they do have on the ground but, by and large, overall sales numbers were all over the board for the majority of brands.
We’ve parsed through a few of the stats and unearthed a few notable gems, including how Dodge somehow managed to sell more Darts in 2021 than 2020 – despite it having ended production in September 2016.
To say that headline is an understatement is akin to saying Vesuvius barely covered Pompeii. The last calendar year saw plenty of struggles for those trying to move metal, many of which resulted in empty dealer lots bereft of product to actually sell. A colleague in the industry told this author he had an up who strolled into his showroom loudly declaring “I’m looking for a ’22 Suburban,” to which my friend replied “Me too, buddy.”
Yeah, it was that kind of year.
Surprising exactly no one, sales numbers for the automotive industry in this country are grim. With stay-at-home edicts being encouraged in most states and various social distancing measures in place to help temper the spread of COVID-19, it’s understandable that a limited numbers of customers are darkening the doors of the few showrooms that remain open.
The first two months of this year were reasonably robust, so the negative numbers can almost entirely be chalked up to March’s challenging conditions (to put it mildly). As a programming note, the brands of Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover, and Mercedes-Benz won’t we releasing their numbers until later in the month. This explains the holes in our chart.
Many talking heads and auto journos, your author included, theorized the American car market in 2019 would fail to sell in excess of 17 million new vehicles for the first time in several years. However, thanks to a late-year push, a total of 17.11 million copies of fresh metal moved off showroom floors and onto America’s highways.
If you’re keeping count, and many are, this makes for the fifth consecutive year the industry topped the 17 million mark. The only other two calendar years it did so was 2000 and 2001. We can draw these conclusions now that Ford has gotten off its Blue Oval butt and posted its numbers, a full 48 hours after just about everyone else.
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.