Jaguar’s U.S. volume more than doubled in 2016, rising to a 12-year high thanks to the launch of an all-new entry-level sedan and the brand’s first-ever SUV.
The XE and F-Pace, which now account for nearly three-quarters of Jaguar’s U.S. volume, have taken the brand to a high-volume place (relatively speaking) Jaguar hasn’t visited since the X-Type roamed dealer forecourts.
One year ago, those models didn’t exist, and Jaguar was selling fewer than 50 cars per day in America.
Now Jaguar’s on fire. Year-over-year growth is explosive, with Jaguar’s U.S. volume more than doubling in each of the last ten months and more than tripling in each of 2016’s final three months.
That level of growth can’t be sustained. Jaguar Land Rover North America’s CEO Joachim Eberhardt told Wards Auto, “We have to continue to grow, but we are not looking to grow at the pace we have been.”
All that growth “still does not make us a giant luxury brand,” Eberhardt says. “It makes us a bigger luxury brand that now has scale but is still special and exclusive.”
There’s the key word. Exclusive. “I think that is part of our appeal and something to focus on maintaining,” claims Eberhardt.
What a revolutionary approach for a premium auto brand.
Mercedes-Benz USA’s AMG division now markets 34 different models. Added to the list of the outlandish vehicles, the likes of which made AMG famous in the first place, are a bevy of new, entry AMG models; AMG 43s that were initially badged as “AMG Sports” but now receive the badge treatment due the genuine article.
With the surge in the number of available AMG variants, there has been a surge in sales of Mercedes-AMG vehicles. U.S. volume rose 33 percent, year-over-year, in calendar year 2016 according to Automotive News Europe, and Mercedes-AMG product sales have risen 32 percent so far this year.
That rapid expansion won’t be sustained. Mercedes-Benz USA’s sales vice president, Adam Chamberlain, says growth “will dumb down a little bit through the year.”
But by how much? By the end of 2017, Mercedes-Benz will have expanded its U.S. AMG division from 34 different models to at least 42.
A year and a half since Scion introduced the iM in the United States, little more than a year since Toyota announced the Scion brand’s discontinuation, and six months since the Scion iM began to operate as the Toyota Corolla iM, almost every Toyota Corolla buyer chooses the inferior Corolla sedan instead of this hatchback.
Fortunately, the iM generates more sales activity for Toyota than it did for Scion. Over the last four months, for instance, the Corolla iM produced 6,548 U.S. sales, up 34 percent compared to the year-before figure claimed by the Scion iM.
After spending a week with the refreshed 2017 Toyota Corolla XSE sedan in January and the last week with the 2017 Toyota Corolla iM, it’s clear the iM is the superior Corolla. It’s clear that a far greater percentage of the 28,000 monthly American Corolla buyers should be choosing this car.
But they don’t. And they won’t. And there are a number of reasons why.
It’s no Subaru Outback, soaring toward the top of sales charts with all the force of an automaker riding a decade-long wave of rapid U.S. growth. But the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, launched in the United States last autumn, is steadily earning a place as the most important Volkswagen wagon. By far.
In fact, the Golf Alltrack is quickly becoming the bright spot in Volkswagen of America’s Golf lineup and the Volkswagen brand’s overall hierarchy. Not surprisingly, the Alltrack is also dimming the spotlight previously shone upon the Golf SportWagen.
“Washington is not a place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting and the morals are deplorable. Go South, young man, go South and grow up with the country.” —Not Horace Greeley
Subaru generates 60 percent of its global sales in the United States. For a Japanese brand that still relies on imports for half of its volume in its largest market, Subaru knows that 60-percent reliance on America is way too high.
Subaru needs strength in other markets. Subaru needs to diversify its portfolio. Subaru needs another America.
Unfortunately for Subaru, history suggests the brand won’t quickly find strength in other markets. History suggests Subaru’s attempts to diversify its portfolio won’t succeed.
Fortunately for Subaru, however, there is more America.
“It’s true we want to increase sales in other countries, but in terms of the place with the best chance to increase sales, it has to be America’s Sun Belt,” Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, CEO at Subaru’s Fuji Heavy Industries parent company, told Bloomberg.
In other words, Subaru wants to add some New Orleans to its order of New Hampshire; Burlington with a side of Birmingham; Kennebunkport supplemented with a dose of Port St. Lucie.
In 2016, as General Motors launched an all-new Buick LaCrosse for the 2017 model year, sales of the LaCrosse fell to an all-time annual low.
But wait a second. Transition years are difficult for any model. Clearance of the outgoing model ends, production of the new model is ramping up, availability at dealers is limited, and the product mix is often skewed toward less affordable models.
Nevertheless, cognizant of the fact that 2016 wasn’t likely to be a great year for the Buick LaCrosse, it’s still easy to declare that 2016 was an awful year for the Buick LaCrosse. Sales were 70-percent lower last year than in 2005, when U.S. LaCrosse sales peaked. Even compared with 2014, U.S. LaCrosse sales were nearly chopped in half in 2016.
And at the current pace, 2017 will be much, much, much worse.
Nearly two and a half years since General Motors increased the number of offerings in the midsize pickup truck sector by two-thirds, and nine months since Honda revitalized its unique Ridgeline offering, we’re once again in need of new midsize pickup truck nameplates.
Yet virtually all of that growth — fully 90 percent — was fuelled not by midsize pickups but by the stalwarts: full-size trucks.
Aside from the Volkswagen Passat’s 40-percent year-over-year uptick, every automaker competing in America’s midsize sedan segment suffered from declining volume in February 2017.
The midsize car category tumbled 19 percent, a loss of more than 34,000 sales.
February 2017 marked the twelfth consecutive month of year-over-year declines for midsize car sales in America.
This is the ninth edition of TTAC’s Midsize Sedan Deathwatch. The midsize sedan as we know it — “midsizedus sedanicus” in the original latin — isn’t going anywhere any time soon, but the ongoing sales contraction will result in a reduction of mainstream intermediate sedans in the U.S. market.
How do we know? It already has.
The Passat’s exceptional year-over-year uptick by no means represents healthy volume for the big Volkswagen. But the bigger story from February’s results was the horrific nosedive performed by Detroit nameplates: one discontinued nameplate, one of the older members of the midsize fleet, the newest member of the midsize fleet, and one semi-premium niche player.
Auto sales declined by a modest 1 percent in the United States in February 2017, dragged down by plunging sales at numerous Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brands and sharp declines at Toyota Motor Corp. and Hyundai-Kia. Ford Motor Company sales slid 4 percent because of a 26-percent decline in car sales at the Ford division.
Across much of the industry, there were signs of rude health, particularly if the car sector is ignored. Of the 20 most popular cars in America — a group topped by the Toyota Camry — 16 nameplates generated fewer sales this February than last. Yet America’s five leading utility vehicles (Rogue, CR-V, RAV4, Escape, Equinox) combined for more than 25,000 additional February sales in 2017. And while minivan sales plunged by a fifth, U.S. pickup truck sales were up 10 percent because of full-size truck strength.
These stark contradictions produced a market that produced slightly degraded numbers in one of the two traditionally weakest months on the calendar. Now one-sixth of the way into 2017, the poor selling season should be behind us.
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