Though growth in the American new vehicle market slowed in the first-third of 2016, U.S. sales of SUVs and crossovers jumped 9 percent, a gain of 173,000 sales, year-over-year.
Matching the rate of expansion seen in calendar year 2015, the highest-volume year on record for the U.S. auto industry, was never going to be easy. It’s made all the more difficult by decreasing interest in the largest corner of the market: cars. Sales of passenger cars are down 5 percent so far this year, exacerbating a trend that was already set in stone a year ago.
Yet sales volume in Honda dealers is rising rapidly in the first four months of 2015. Honda just reported record April auto sales, not because of popular utilities such as the CR-V and Pilot, but because of cars.
America’s record-breaking new vehicle sales volume in calendar year 2015 was powered in part by better-than-average growth from premium automakers.
Yet after BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Acura, and Cadillac all failed to match the rate of industry-wide expansion in 2015, the first four months of 2016 have revealed that even more top-level premium brands are fading as the market for new vehicles continues to expand. U.S. auto sales are up 3.4 percent in 2016. Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, BMW (the three top-ranked premium auto brands), Acura, Cadillac, and Infiniti posted declining sales in the first-third of 2016.
Largely at fault are the passenger car divisions at each brand, but a number of high-volume SUVs/crossovers that are failing to match last year’s first-third sales pace, as well.
Honda hasn’t produced a new first-generation Ridgeline since 2014. Yet in the first four months of 2016, prior to the second-generation Ridgeline’s showroom arrival, Honda dealers managed to get a couple of long-since forgotten Ridgelines into customer hands.
But the Ridgeline’s ability to show up on U.S. sales charts in early 2016 isn’t unique. There have even been seven total sales of the Porsche 918 Spyder, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, and Lexus LFA so far this year.
Extinct, discontinued, on hiatus, buried, forgotten: these 17 “new” vehicles aren’t dead — yet.
The Verano, Buick’s four-year-old entry-level sedan based on the previous-generation Chevrolet Cruze, will join the Century, LeSabre, Park Avenue, Reatta, Riviera, Roadmaster, Skylark, and numerous other cars in Buick’s mass grave at the end of the 2017 model year (hopefully far, far away from Harley Earl’s resting place).
Automotive News reported yesterday that its GM sources say the Verano, while living on in China, won’t be renewed on this side of the Pacific. Verano volume tumbled 30 percent between its U.S. sales peak in 2013, the Verano’s second full year, and 2015. Buick is now generating nearly six in ten U.S. sales with just two crossovers, while the brand’s four car nameplates combined for a 3-percent drop during the first four months of 2016. That’s before Buick adds the Envision to the middle of its crossover lineup and before Buick kills off the entry-level car that generates more than one-third of the brand’s passenger car volume.
So, if it’s not too impertinent to ask, not too morbid or irreverent to inquire, how long before Buick discontinues its whole North American car division in a quest to become America’s crossover-ized answer to Land Rover?
Quick trivia: what’s the fastest-growing auto brand in America?
Jeep? Land Rover? GMC? Ram? Volvo?
Year-over-year, through the first four months of 2016, sales at Scion — Toyota’s 13-year-old youth-directed brand — are up 53 percent. It’s not just recovery after a poor start to 2015. Scion is on track for its best year since 2008.
Well, Scion would be on track for U.S. sales to rise to an eight-year high if, by the end of this year, Scion still existed.
After Mazda reported dreadful first-quarter U.S. sales results, this article, which surveyed some of the potential reasons consumers would turn away from specific Mazda products, was read more often than any other TTAC article in April. Even as critics, myself included, endlessly point out the driver-centric ideology that makes Mazdas so fun, first-quarter sales plunged 17 percent, a loss of more than 13,000 sales for Mazda dealers.
Perhaps there’s a reverse TTAC bump. Maybe we were just practicing our latest reverse psychology techniques, attempting to lure buyers into Mazda showrooms. Like parents who tell their constipated toddlers, “You won’t like this bran muffin, no, not one bit,” to develop an inexplicable craving, we may have told you about road noise, odd ride height, poor equipment choices, and cramped rear quarters simply to stoke Mazda curiosity.
It worked. Sort of. “Mazda achieved its best April since 1995 with 26,195 vehicles sold,” the company said on Tuesday. Mazda’s market share climbed to a four-month high. Year-over-year, Mazda’s volume grew more than twice as fast as the industry average.
Significant incentives did not alter the Chrysler 200’s dreadful U.S. trendline in April 2016.
As the decrease in demand for the 200 became more obvious, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles temporarily shut down the midsize Chrysler’s Sterling Heights factory in order to clear out excess inventory. But 200 demand continued to decrease, and FCA was forced into laying off workers at the Sterling Heights plant while ramping up incentives on the 200. So dreadful is the 200’s marketplace performance that FCA has no desire to develop their next midsize car.
Heading into April, inventory levels remained high. Enticing deals were thick on the ground. But apparently, those deals weren’t so enticing after all, even as TTAC published a positive rental review of the four-cylinder Chrysler 200 at the tail end of April, just as consumers headed into showrooms to capture the best deals of the month.
The U.S. auto industry once again reported gains in excess of three percent in April 2016, thanks to significant improvements at Honda, Nissan, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
General Motors continued to de-emphasize fleet sales. FCA continued to emphasize incentive spending, with TrueCar pegging their average April incentive per vehicle at a hair under $4,000. Only BMW’s was higher.
BMW is at the forefront of the luxury downturn — sales at the namesake brand slid seven percent in April and are down 10 percent through the first one-third of 2016. Mercedes-Benz led all premium brands in April and in year-to-date terms.
Ford’s F-Series produced its second consecutive 70,000-plus sales month, and truck sales jumped at General Motors and Ram, too. Sales of smaller trucks were up at Toyota and Nissan, as well. The pickup truck market rose 12 percent to 232,647 units in April.
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- Doug brockman No. It wouldnt. EV is a loser technology
- Sgeffe I'm wondering if any tooling or whatnot from the original was used in the production of this beast.
- Sgeffe I usually pass by the UCOTD posts, but I had to ask on this: what, pray tell, is with the sideview mirrors off a C5 Corvette??!! Yikes!
- Joseph Kissel I foresee ICE and EV co-existing for many, many years. But to answer the OP, who's going to be the automaker that sinks considerable funding into a NEXT-GEN ICE engine and vehicle platform? Which would also mean diverting that research from a next-gen EV battery / platform. In that regard, is BMW doing the right thing by releasing ICE and EV on a shared platform? Because I can see automakers putting lightly re-freshed ICE vehicles on the market (and maybe that's all that's needed at this point) ... But will we truly ever see something next-gen on the ICE front?
- Sgeffe It still boggles my pea brain that something that was pretty much standard on most cars two decades ago was left off of cars in the early teens! BUT if I understand things correctly, Canadian models had the immobilizers! (Along with heated steering wheels and other bits that would never be found on a car bound for, say, Minneapolis!)