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2017 U.S. Auto Sales Finish Lower Despite Strength from Trucks, SUVs

2017 U.S. Auto Sales Finish Lower Despite Strength from Trucks, SUVs

By Philly Murtha, January 03, 2018
December new-vehicle sales ended 2017 on a weaker note, although SUVs and pickups continued to gain traction. Total retail and fleet deliveries fell 2 points from headier results in 2016, when adjusted for one fewer selling day, based on J.D. Power and auto forecasting partner LMC Automotive’s estimate. However, sales for the year surpassed 17.2 million units, and 2017 ranks as one of the five strongest years in U.S. auto history.

Most automakers reported a softer December. Ford Motor Co. (Ford) (+1.3%) was the only Detroit-based automaker to post a gain, while General Motors (GM) (-3.3%) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) (-10.7%) reported declines. Japan’s majors also saw demand diminish. American Honda Motor Co. (Honda) (-7%), Toyota Motor Sales USA (Toyota) (-8.3%), and Nissan North America (Nissan) (-9.5%) posted December drops, although both Honda and Nissan groups achieved calendar-year records. Hyundai Motor America (Hyundai and Kia) (-8.6%) also reported lower results.

The Europeans saw some year-end gains. BMW of North America (BMW) (+3.7%) deliveries improved with a 4.3% rise from BMW brand. Mercedes-Benz USA (Mercedes) (+10%) reported best-ever December deliveries. VW Group of America (VW) (-5.2%) sales dipped despite Audi’s double-digit gain. In contrast, Jaguar Land Rover (-9.4%) and Volvo (-4.4%) declined.

Among the three independents, Mitsubishi (+5.1%) achieved best growth, followed by Subaru (+0.3%), while Mazda (-6.5%) sales slipped.

Highlights: December 2017 Auto Sales
Following are December 2017 new-vehicle sales highlights (based on actual totals) for each major automaker:

American Honda Motor Co.—December sales at Honda (-7%) declined to 149,317 units. Honda brand (-6.3%) deliveries fell to 134,255 units. Both Honda Civic (31,406 units) and CR-V (36,983) sales improved when selling-day adjusted. Premium Acura (-12.2%) sold 15,062 units with strong performers MDX, RLX, and RL. Honda set an annual sales record in 2017 with a 0.2% increase to 1.64 million units.

BMW of North America—Group sales at BMW (+3.7%) rose to 38,864 units. BMW brand (+4.3%) delivered 34,253 units with robust performances from the 5 Series, X1, and X5. Mini (-1%) dipped to 4,658 sales. In 2017, BMW Group (-3.4%) sold 352,790 units as the BMW brand (-2.4%) delivered 305,685 units. Mini (-9.5%) dipped to 47,105 unit sales for the year.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles—FCA US (-10.7%) sales totals fell to 171,946 units with an uptick from Chrysler (+3%) due to best-December Pacifica (+8%) sales. Ram (-7%), Jeep (-12%), Dodge (-23%), and Fiat (-33%) posted declines. Niche brand Alfa Romeo sold 2,034 units. Better performers included: Jeep Compass, Cherokee, and Grand Cherokee; Chrysler 300; Ram ProMaster; plus the Fiat 500L and Spider. In 2017, FCA US sold 2.06 million units and reported a record year for Ram Trucks (+2%) with 556,790 unit sales.

Ford Motor Co.—December deliveries at Ford (+1.3%) edged up to 240,910 units (minus heavy trucks) with higher demand for America’s best-selling F-Series (89,385 unit sales). Ford (+1.9%) was the top-selling brand in December (231,430 unit sales). The Ford Focus and Mustang improved last month, while SUVs were most resilient—up 8% in December and 2.9% in 2017 with gains for: Escape, Edge, Explorer, Expedition, and the Police Interceptor SUV. Lincoln (-17%) sales slumped to 10,619 units with strength from the Navigator. In 2017, Ford Motor (-1.1%) delivered 2.58 million units. Lincoln (-0.5%) dipped to 111,159 units.

General Motors—GM (-3.3%) sold 308,539 cars and trucks in December. Buick (+4.7%) and GMC (+1.2%) brands posted gains while flagship Chevrolet (-2.9%) sales slipped to 206,804 units and Cadillac (-28.6%) deliveries also sank. Strong performers were mainly trucks and SUVs. Buick Enclave, Envision, and Encore sales climbed, while Chevrolet Colorado and Silverado pickups and the Equinox and Traverse SUVs excelled. The GMC Sierra and Yukon also were in demand, while the Cadillac XTS posted an impressive 73% gain for the year. In 2017, GM (-1.3%) delivered more than 3 million new vehicles; Chevrolet (-1.5%) sold over 2 million of those units.

Hyundai Motor America—Total sales at Hyundai (-8.6%) sank to 106,633 units. Hyundai (+2%) and premium Genesis brand delivered 63,594 units. Genesis sales improved by 215 units. The Tucson SUV set a record, and the Santa Fe and Elantra achieved December bests. Kia (-20.8%) delivered 43,039 vehicles, with gains from the Forte, Rio, and Cadenza. In 2017, Hyundai brand (-12%) deliveries slipped to 685,555 units and Kia (-8.9%) sales fell to 589,668. Combined 2017 sales were off 10.4% to 1.275 million units.

Jaguar Land Rover N.A.—Jaguar Land Rover (-9.4%) sales fell to 11,394 units. Land Rover (-3.6%) delivered 7,980 units, while Jaguar (-20.5%) sales fell to 3,414 units. In 2017, India’s Tata Automotive-owned brands’ sales rose 8.8% to 114,333 units.

Mazda North America—December sales at Mazda (-6.5%) fell to 26,893 units and dipped 2.8% to 289,470 in 2017. Strength in December came from the CX-5 and CX-9 crossover SUVs.

Mercedes-Benz USA—Group sales at Mercedes (+6.4%) rose to 39,416 units. The Mercedes-Benz brand (+10%) delivered 35,203 units. The C-Class was the top-volume model and gains came from the E-Class and S-Class cars plus GLC and GLE-Class SUVs. Mercedes van (+4.8%) sales rose to 4,047 units, while Smart sold 166 units. In calendar 2017, Mercedes Group (-1.4%) delivered 375,311 units.

Mitsubishi Motors N.A.—Mitsubishi (+5.1%) sold 8,501 units in December, with a boost from the Outlander Sport. Mitsubishi (+7.7%) closed 2017 with calendar-year sales of 103,686 units.

Nissan North America—As a corporation, Nissan (-9.5%) delivered 138,226 units last month. Nissan brand (-9.4%) sales fell to 121,847 units, while Infiniti (-10%) sales also dipped to 16,379 units. Nissan’s Titan (+27%), Armada (+36%), and Murano (+23.3%) were stars in December. The Infiniti QX30 and QX80 posted December gains. For a second consecutive year, the Rogue was the top-selling model in Nissan’s lineup with 403,465 unit sales. SUVs and trucks climbed 15% from 2016. In 2017, Nissan (+1.9%) total deliveries rose to 1.593 million units with a bump from Infiniti (+10.9%) and Nissan (+1%) brand’s 1.44 million-unit total.

Subaru of America—December sales at Subaru (+0.3%) rose to 63,342 units with higher demand for the Impreza and Crosstrek. 2017 was another record sales year for Subaru (+5.4%) with 647,956 unit sales.

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.—Total sales at Toyota (-6.5%) fell to 222,985 units. Toyota brand (-7.2%) sales slipped to 187,524 units, while Lexus (-13.9%) sales were 35,461 units. America’s best-selling passenger car, the Camry, made news with a best-ever December 29.7% gain (43,331 unit sales). The Tacoma also celebrated a 6.8% rise. For 2017, Toyota posted its best-ever truck sales and a best sales year for the RAV4, selling over 400,000 units. In 2017, Toyota (-0.6%) sold over 2.434 million units.

VW Group of America—Total deliveries at VW (-5.2%) fell to 61,577 units even with Audi’s major gain. VW brand (-18.7%) sold 30,281 units last month, although total 2017 deliveries rose 5.2% to 339,376 units. SUVs such as the new Atlas and Tiguan accounted for 48% of deliveries. Audi (+16.3%) rolled ahead with 26,977 unit sales in December and stellar performances for the A5 Sportback plus Q5 and Q7. Porsche sold 102 fewer units in December this year. In 2017, Audi (+7.8%) sales reached 226,511 units and Porsche (+2.1%) delivered 55,420 units.

Volvo Cars N.A.—Sweden’s Volvo (-4.4%), owned by China’s Geely Group, sold 9,679 new vehicles in December. In 2017, Volvo (-1.5%) delivered 81,507 units in the United States.

Additional Research:

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