By on April 12, 2019

China’s auto sales declined for the ninth consecutive month in March, further proving that the market isn’t as infallible as once thought. The assumption was that, as North America surpassed peak growth and flattened out, Chinese auto sales would continue an upward trajectory. But, while China did surpass the U.S. in becoming the world’s largest auto market, it’s not living up to its billing as a golden goose.

That’s not to suggest the U.S. is about to stand triumphantly atop that mountain. Automakers are issuing profit warnings for 2019 and Moody’s Investors Service expects light vehicle sales to fall 1.2 percent this year.

“The accommodative financing environment that had helped buoy U.S. car sales is receding. Maintaining operating and financial discipline will be crucial [for 2019],” the bond credit rating business advised. (Read More…)

By on April 2, 2019

2019 Ram Power Wagon

Talking heads have been warning for days that the auto industry should prepare itself for a rougher than usual ride in 2019, speculating that sales for the first quarter would be softer than what we’ve seen in past years.

This proved to be true, as players such as the Detroit Three, Nissan, Toyota, and Mazda all conspired to drag the industry down by just over three percent compared to this time last year. Fortunes were better at places like Kia, Hyundai, and Honda, each of whom recorded jumps in volume – two of them quite healthy.

(Read More…)

By on January 8, 2019

When you’re already big, it’s hard to notice much of a change in any direction. This goes as much for the human body as it does for auto sales. So it’s no surprise to see that, of the roughly 17.3 million vehicles sold in the U.S. last year, the amount claimed by the Detroit Three didn’t budge all that much from the previous year.

Combined, the three domestic giants took a 44.4 percent slice of the U.S. auto pie, which actually represents a 0.1 percent increase from a year earlier. Combine Tesla’s volume into the American fold, and the stars and stripes collected 45.1 percent of U.S. buyers, or 0.6 percent less than in 2013.

In 2018, General Motors and Ford both ceded ground to a rising Fiat Chrysler, proving that the real action occurs at a lower data level. So, which automakers earned a larger helping of your collective buying love last year? (Read More…)

By on January 4, 2019

2018 GMC Yukon Denali Ultimate Black Edition

Ten years of lost time has a way of diminishing past events, even one so extreme as the global financial meltdown of 2008-09. It also pushes aside memories of a lot of vehicles that still lingered on the market a decade ago.

At the time, the U.S. economy found itself in freefall. Unemployment rose like a Saturn 5 rocket bound for lunar orbit, gas prices spiked as oil suddenly gained the value of a icy cold canteen on a desert island, and auto sales tanked like Lindsay Lohan’s career. Trucks and SUVs, which were gaining ground throughout the 2000s, ceded territory to passenger cars as the overall industry shed 3 million sales in 2008. The following year brought the worst of it, followed by a steady climb out of the depths. Happier days, just not for traditional passenger cars.

What a difference a decade makes. (Read More…)

By on December 3, 2018

2019 Honda Passport with Accessory Roof Rack

If you listened closely to the voices of those attending the L.A. Auto Show, more than a few people gave Honda’s new Passport the backhanded compliment of it being a perfectly competent crossover that fails to break any new ground.

Here’s the truth: most of the time, it’s only some journalists and a few fanatics who care about a car “breaking new ground” — especially when that car is a commoditized crossover. In reality, the Passport is perfectly sized for most shoppers (or at least they think it’s perfectly sized for them, which is all that matters) and bears the badge of a familiar and trusted brand. They’ll sell boatloads.

And, according to November’s sales numbers, it can’t arrive at dealers soon enough.

(Read More…)

By on June 26, 2018

2019 Honda Insight - Image: Honda

Attractive. Well received. A winner on paper. Technologically advanced. Badged with a logo that keeps producing record sales numbers.

One would assume that this is all that’s needed for the Honda Insight to be a raging marketplace success, at least in 1999.

1999 this is most certainly not, which highlights one glaring problem: the 2019 Insight is an attractive, well-received, impressive-on-paper, technologically-advanced Honda sedan.

Sedan. Sedan? Yes, sedan. (Read More…)

By on November 16, 2017

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro - Image: ToyotaAs global markets greet new players such as the Mercedes-Benz X-Class and as the North American market prepares to welcome back (later rather than sooner) the Ford Ranger, midsize pickup trucks are no longer making any headway in the United States of America.

In fact, October 2017 sales of five midsize pickup trucks (Tacoma, Colorado, Frontier, Ridgeline, Canyon) declined 4 percent. Given the rapid growth rate of full-size pickup trucks — six nameplates jumped 10 percent in October, year-over-year — it’s not surprising to see midsize truck market share fall. Through the first ten months of 2017, midsize trucks own 16 percent of America’s pickup truck market, down from 17 percent in 2016.

And in October, the midsize category’s share of America’s truck market slid to 15 percent. Is this what Ranger, Raider, Equator, Dakota, and B-Series dreams are made of? (Read More…)

By on November 13, 2017

2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T - Image: HondaU.S. sales of midsize cars plunged 16 percent to fewer than 130,000 units in October 2017, the lowest-volume month for the midsize sedan category since the winter doldrums of January.

For almost every player, from the forgotten Mazda 6 to the recently revamped Hyundai Sonata to the all-new Toyota Camry, there were fewer U.S. buyers in October 2017 than in October 2016. In most cases, far fewer. Hyundai Sonata volume plunged 49 percent, year-over-year, as Hyundai pulls away from daily rentals, clarifying just how little retail demand the Sonata truly musters. Double-digit percentage drops were also reported by the Kia Optima, Subaru Legacy, Volkswagen Passat, and Mazda 6.

But the sharp October tumble wasn’t reserved for each member of the midsize category. Newly launched this fall, U.S. sales of the 10th-generation 2018 Honda Accord predictably improved in October, driving Honda’s share of the segment up four points to 21 percent.

It’s a familiar story. (Read More…)

By on November 2, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Atlas/Tiguan - Image: VWIt was only a mere blip, the year-over-year increase reported by the U.S. auto industry in September 2017. After eight consecutive months of decline, auto sales grew in September. But October’s results once again manifested a gradual and marginal decline.

U.S. auto sales slid roughly 1 percent in October 2017 thanks in large part to sharp decreases at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Dodge brand and a 15-percent Hyundai drop. Chrysler, Fiat, Jaguar, and Maserati were the only other brands to report double-digit percentage losses. (Read More…)

By on October 19, 2017

2017 Volvo V90 T6 Inscription - Image: VolvoThrough the end of September 2017, Americans have registered 13 times more Volvo V90 CCs than Volvo V90s, clarifying with purchasing habits what every auto industry observer, casual or professional, already knew.

Volvo’s surely not surprised, either. After all, if you want to acquire a low-slung Volvo V90, Volvo forces U.S. customers to actually order the car. (Perish the thought.)

Even less surprising is the frequency with which Volvo now sells wagons. Combined, the four V60 and V90 variants account for fewer than one-in-10 Volvo USA sales through the first three-quarters of 2017. (Read More…)

By on October 19, 2017

2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid - Image: ToyotaFor five consecutive years between 2012 and 2016, the Honda CR-V has been America’s most popular utility vehicle.

In fact, the CR-V has topped America’s SUV/crossover sales charts in nine of the last 10 years, a streak of dominance that began in 2007.

It appears increasingly likely in 2017, however, that the Honda CR-V’s streak will be broken by the Toyota RAV4. Thanks to 20-percent year-over-year growth through the first three-quarters of 2017, the RAV4 leads the CR-V by more than 31,000 sales and the Nissan Rogue/Rogue Sport by more than 15,000 sales with scant time remaining for the RAV4’s rivals to make up the gap.

The difference maker? Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid. (Read More…)

By on October 19, 2017

2012 Lamborghini Urus Concept - Image: LamborghiniThe company that sells SUVs together stays together.

So it goes, or is likely to go, with Lamborghini. Keep in mind that the Volkswagen Group supercar manufacturer has already seen massive sales growth. During the half-decade before Stephan Winkelmann took over as boss at Lamborghini in 2005, the brand was selling only 800 cars on an annual basis. But by the time Winkelmann was done a decade later, Lamborghini was averaging 2,300 annual sales. In 2016, Lamborghini sold 3,457 vehicles around the world, including more than 1,000 in the United States.

Those figures will soon seem paltry because the unfortunately named Urus SUV will double the brand’s volume. But what does such a massive change do to Lamborghini’s operations? (Read More…)

By on October 18, 2017

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Cassino Italy assembly plant - Image: FCAAlfa Romeo is on track to sell between 130,000 and 140,000 vehicles around the globe in calendar year 2017, a far cry from the 170,000-unit performance Sergio Marchionne expected Alfa to put together.

U.S. sales remain predictably low by the standards of rival brands but are rising quickly now that the Stelvio SUV is in action. But on the other side of the Pacific, new rules that limit automobile manufacturers from forcing dealers to accept stock, Automotive News Europe reports, has sorely limited sales in China. Thus, rather than the 2,666 Alfa Romeo Stelvios shipped to China in July, only 227 landed in China in August.

The result? Alfa Romeo is cutting back production of the Stelvio and Giulia in Cassino, Italy. (Read More…)

By on October 12, 2017

2017 Chrysler Pacifica - Image: FCAMinivan sales tumbled 16 percent to only 33,358 units in September 2017, the lowest total for America’s people-carrier sector since January 2015.

Between the disappearance of two nameplates (Nissan Quest and Mazda 5), limitations on Dodge Grand Caravan sales during a period of plant transition, and further decreases from the aging Kia Sedona and new Honda Odyssey, minivan volume fell 6,460 units below September 2016’s total and nearly 11,000 units shy of September 2015’s tally, and more than 10,000 units short of 2017’s monthly average through the first two-thirds of the year.

A positive spin is difficult to find. (Read More…)

By on October 11, 2017

Beijing Cadillac Arena Wukesong - Image: CadillacBy the slimmest of margins, Cadillac’s U.S. operations put an end to China’s repeated dominance of Cadillac’s sales charts in August 2017.

But after Americans acquired two more Cadillacs than the Chinese did in August, normal order returned in September 2017. 49 percent of the Cadillacs sold around the world last month were delivered in China, where volume rose 38 percent, year-over-year.

Perhaps of greater consequence to Cadillac’s New York HQ is the fact that September sales not only increased in China but also in the U.S., Canada, and in its rest-of-the-world markets.

September was the 16th consecutive month of global Cadillac sales improvement. Naturally much of the credit belongs to the Cadillac XT5. (Read More…)

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