Expectations from analysts suggested U.S. auto sales would decline by as much as 5 percent in August 2016, a year-over-year drop of more than 70,000 units.
In the end, it wasn’t quite that bad. But August 2016’s 4-percent drop translated to a decline of 55,000 sales for an industry that grew by more than 116,000 sales in the first-half of 2016, a decent rate of expansion given the record-setting pace from one year ago.
There were industry bright spots in August 2016. Subaru reported an all-time monthly record of more than 60,000 sales. This was the best August ever for the Jeep brand. American luxury — Cadillac and Lincoln — was on the rise. Volvo’s resurgence continues apace.
After a steep May decline and modest growth in June, which fell below expectations, U.S. auto sales expansion flatlined in July 2016, suggesting the market is poised for a slower second half than the early part of the year projected.
New vehicle sales volume rose less than 1 percent in July 2016, a year-over-year improvement equal to roughly 11,000 sales.
There were a number of significant improvements. July 2016 was the best July ever for American Honda, for example, as sales jumped 6 percent to 139,125 at the Honda brand, overcoming another Acura decline. Buick, up 10 percent last month, ended the January-July period with its best start to the year since 2005. The only brands with superior growth rates in July were smaller outlets: Smart, Volvo, and Scion.
Mixed in with these gains, however, were double-digit percentage losses from a bundle of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brands: Maserati, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, and Dodge.
A modest increase of 2 percent fell below expectations from forecasters that the U.S. auto industry would grow by more than 5 percent in June 2016. Indeed, given the extra day on June 2016’s auto sales calendar, the daily selling rate for the industry actually declined in June, albeit marginally.
Big gains were nevertheless not uncommon. The Ford Motor Company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Nissan-Infiniti, and Hyundai-Kia all posted above-average gains. Ford’s best-selling F-Series, which accounted for three-in-ten sales at Ford’s namesake brand, posted a 29-percent year-over-year increase. Overall pickup truck sales, powered in large part by the Ford’s 15,766-unit increase, jumped 10 percent.
The Toyota Camry claimed the top spot among cars despite its own sharp decline, a 13-percent loss worth nearly 5,000 sales. For the first time since last October, the Honda CR-V was America’s top-selling SUV/crossover.
The U.S. auto industry’s May 2016 sales performance was much better than the numbers suggest, but there were disappointing results in some quarters.
Due to a quirk in the auto sales calendar – May 2016 had two fewer selling days than May 2015 – the period in which sales were generated for the “May” period was simply too brief for May 2016 to measure up to May 2015. This is more easily seen with a look at the daily selling rate picture, where industry-wide results were up two percent, a far less daunting figure than the six percent decline in real volume reported by the industry overall.
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.
Against expectations that auto sales would rise by at least 7 percent, March 2016 volume in the United States increased just 3 percent. Modest growth at General Motors and noteworthy drops at Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz didn’t stop auto sales from increasing by more than 50,000 units, year-over-year. But the possibility that auto sales in March would climb to one of the highest levels ever failed to materialize despite an additional two selling days compared with March 2015.
Indeed, the daily selling rate achieved by the auto industry decreased even as March 2016 hosted 27 official selling days on the auto sales calendar, up from 25 one year ago.
Although the Chinese government takes much of February off for New Year festivities, GM’s deal to sell HUMMER to Sichuan Tengzhong has exactly one week left before a self-imposed deadline for completion arrives. The deal is being held up by China’s Commerce Ministry which has publicly said that it wants the Chinese auto industry to consolidate and become “greener,” two goals that are severely at odds with Sichuan Tengzhong’s HUMMER aspirations. Now, the Financial Times reports that Tengzhong may be trying to pull an end-around on the Chinese government by pursuing a purchase via an offshore investment vehicle. This would (in theory) evade the requirement for the Commerce Ministry’s approval. In reality …
Bård Eker, the Norwegian partner in Koenigsegg Automotive, and Koenigsegg Group, appeared as one of the guests on Friday night’s regular Swedish/Norwegian talk show “ Skavland” this weekend (the following, translated conversation starts at 27:09). Mr Skavland, first talking a bit about Eker’s feelings about the broken deal, and how he felt visiting Trollhättan talking to Saab employees after the deal broke, he then asked Eker: “Is there a tiny chance you’ll try again? Saab isn’t sold yet…!” Eker smiles and answers “…we’ll see. Maybe!” laughing, shrugging his shoulders, audience cheering. Skavland: “how would you wanna do it?” Eker: “I don’t know…Seriously – we haven’t given it much thought. We’ll see…perhaps there’s a new opportunity. Maybe someone’ll give us a phonecall” Skavland: “So it’s not definitive that you’re out of the game?” Eker – laughing, glancing at his watch – “..err..how long is this show?” Skavland says: “So, you’ll still want a Saab?”, Eker: “yeah, sure” Skavland: “Alright….?” and shifts to another subject. All the while Eker has a cunning smile on his face.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Crown group, which includes former Ford Executives Michael Dingman and Shamel Rushwin as well as former Volvo CEO Roger Holtback, are still in the hunt to buy Volvo Cars from Ford, or at least they like to think they are! Ford has been keeping these guys on the back burner behind Geely and told Crown to come back when they had money lined up. Guess what, Crown now says their “offer is fully funded and includes participation by Swedish investors … two adjustments aimed at making the offer more attractive to Ford in the sale of the Swedish operation.”
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