Yesterday, we covered how the economic ramifications of the pandemic has negatively impacted the sales volume of electric vehicles (the ones that aren’t status symbols, anyway) in the United Kingdom. We’ll take a broader view of things today, focusing entirely on the general sales trends taking hold in the United States ahead of the Labor Day weekend.
Under normal circumstances, this would be a period where dealerships tempt the public with juicy discounts to clear out their lots for the subsequent model year. But the pandemic has left factories idle for months and vehicles in short supply. While that wasn’t an issue when everyone was first locked indoors, many states allowed their citizens to reclaim their autonomy as dealers sought new ways of selling without the face-to-face rigamarole of interacting with customers directly. We’re now in a situation where demand remains suppressed but has increased to a level where it outpaces the supply of many popular models — increasing the average transaction price of vehicles.
It’s not a great time to be shopping for a car.
A flurry of new model additions benefitted many automakers with additional sales and greater revenue last month, and none more so than Fiat Chrysler, which saw its average U.S. transaction price rise 6.2 percent, year over year. Can you guess which segments pulled in the most extra money per vehicle? Bet you can.
At the other end of the yardstick, two foreign automakers basking in the glow of a very healthy sales month saw their average transaction prices fall.
America’s appetite for intermediate sedans is disappearing, as the queasiness consumers feel when faced with the prospect of buying a family sedan seems to be settled only by the consumption of crossovers.
They go down smooth.
This isn’t news, of course. TTAC began a close, monthly watch of the U.S. midsize sedan sector in August 2016. Since then, the demise of individual midsize nameplates has continued, and the numbers associated with the segment’s sales performance – as we chronicled earlier this month – have grown more frightening.
Yet there are signs that, at least on the retail front, the midsize sedan segment’s American decline could be levelling off. And that moderation is coinciding with something you might not have anticipated: rising average transaction prices.
In 2017, the average U.S. Cadillac buyer walked out of the dealership after signing over $54,488 for a new vehicle. That’s almost $6,000 more than the average sticker in the luxury field, placing Cadillac among the upper echelon of premium cars.
However, the brand’s skyrocketing average transaction price — up 25 percent over the past five years — comes as the brand weathers a sales downturn in the U.S. market. That lofty 2017 figure has plenty to do with the models customers aren’t buying.
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.
March 2017 marked just the third occasion in three years in which Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Ram P/U line outsold the Chevrolet Silverado in the United States.
One month later, in April, Ram did it again.
Then in May 2017, Ram made it a threepeat, outselling the traditional No. 2 pickup truck in America by more than 1,000 units. By the end of May, the Silverado was only 5,055 sales ahead of the Ram on year-to-date terms, a narrow gap which served to highlight the possibility that the Ram could outsell the Silverado for the first time ever in calendar year 2017.
But June 2017 marked an end to Ram’s party, at least for the time being. General Motors reported 50,515 Chevrolet Silverado sales in June, a 2-percent year-over-year uptick and 7,442 more sales than FCA’s Ram truck lineup managed.
How did GM manage to end the trend? By earning less money per truck, naturally.
Canadian auto sales surged to record levels in May 2017, surpassing the previous monthly record from April of last year by an 8-percent margin and topping 200,000 units for just the second time in history.
You know it’s going well when, in a virulently anti-car market, passenger car sales increase, year-over-year. And in the fifth month of 2017, car sales did indeed improve, growing 3 percent beyond May 2016 levels.
You know it’s truly going well when, in a market that had already seen pickup truck market share climb to 20 percent, pickup truck sales jumped 38 percent to form 22 percent of the industry’s volume.
And you know it’s going exceptionally well when, in the span of just one month, the relatively small Canadian market purchases and leases 217,000 new vehicles at significantly higher prices than in the past.