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April 2015 Auto Sales Climb 5%; Sales Buoyed by SUV Demand

April 2015 Auto Sales Climb 5%; Sales Buoyed by SUV Demand

By Philly Murtha, May 03, 2015

April new car sales rose by 5%* from a year ago, to more than 1.463 million units as predicted in a J.D. Power and LMC Automotive mid-month auto sales forecast update. April's totals are anticipated to be the highest since April 2005. New model designs, lower gasoline prices, and some sweet incentives primed demand, according to J.D. Power and news reports.

Highlights: April 2015 Car Sales
All three Detroit-based automakers and two of the three major Japanese manufacturers reported sales gains in April, which has been described by analysts as a calmer sales month leading up to lively summer sales months.

General Motors (+5.9%); Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA US) (+5.8%); and Ford Motor Co. (+5.4%) deliveries increased, particularly due to strong crossover SUV sales. It was Ford's strongest April since 2006, according to the company. Pickups also continued to be in demand from the Detroit Three, although FCA US reported strong results for its Chrysler brand car models.

Among Japanese automakers, Toyota (+2.1%) and Nissan (+5.7%) Groups continued to post gains, although sales for the Honda Group (-1.8%) slipped slightly from a year ago.

In addition, the three independent brands--Subaru, Mazda, and Mitsubishi--reported gains. Nearly all luxury brands outperformed the industry, with strong performances from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Lexus. A handful of brands posted April declines, including Buick, Dodge, Fiat, Honda, Scion, Smart, and Volkswagen.

Following are additional details regarding April 2015 auto sales for each major automaker:

American Honda--Sales of the popular Accord sedan fell 20.1% from last year, while Honda CR-V crossover sales (+3.4%) were the highest for any previous April (29,452 unit sales) and sales were strong for the outgoing Pilot SUV (+28%). The subcompact Fit (+55.6%) also was a market leader for Honda. The Acura premium brand posted a 5.3% gain with strong demand for the newly redesigned TLX midsize sedan.

BMW Group--The BMW brand (+6.9%) continues to hold a narrow sales lead in April (26,952 unit sales) over Mercedes-Benz and Lexus. BMW's 2 Series and X6 SAV registered double-digit gains amid declines for most of BMW's crossover utilities. Mini sales surged by one-fourth, which gave the Group a 9.6% year-over-year monthly increase.

Daimler AG--Mercedes-Benz (+12.8%) sold 26,424 vehicles in April, which set a record for the month. However, in spite of the April record, sales for Mercedes were 528 fewer units than BMW for the month (Sprinter van sales were not included). C-Class sales surged by 30% from a year ago, and the E-Class and M-Class crossover SUV model lines were also leaders for the German luxury car brand.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles--Chrysler (+26%) and Jeep (+20.1%) outpaced the industry significantly in April with strong car and SUV deliveries. Ram posted better sales, as well, while the Dodge (-16%) and Fiat (-12.6%) brands posted declines in April.

Ford Motor Company--At the brand level, Ford (+4.9%) made gains in April with sales of 213,518 units. Stellar sales were reported by Lincoln (+19.6%) due to a boost from the new MKC crossover SUV. Sport utilities (+14.5%) were the stars for Ford with the new Edge posting a double-digit gain and the Escape nearly matching industry performance. F-Series (-0.9%) deliveries of 62,827 units were off slightly as production changes over to build the redesigned aluminum-body 2015 F-150. Nearly half of all F-150s sold in April were the new model, according to Ford. The iconic Mustang (+81%) also had its best April sales in nine years.

General Motors--Light-truck brand GMC (+20%) posted the biggest gain among GM's four brands, followed by premium brand Cadillac (+13.7%), which is debuting new models this spring. Escalade SUV sales surged 144%. Chevrolet (+3.4%) increased its sales due to an uptick in pickup deliveries, while Buick's sales slipped (-5.2%) even though Encore SUV sales were up 16%. Pickup truck and crossover SUV sales at GM rose by double digits from a year ago. Strong SUV sellers included the Chevrolet Equinox (+42%) and Traverse (+28%). Silverado sales outpaced the industry, and the all-new Colorado midsize pickup had its best sales month (7,010 unit sales).

Hyundai Group--An April sales record was set by Hyundai (+3.0%) with 68,009 unit sales and major increases from its Elantra compact car, Santa Fe, Tucson, and Genesis models, while Kia posted a slight dip in sales despite stronger Sportage and Sorento deliveries.

Jaguar Land Rover--Some 6,930 luxury sports cars and SUVs were delivered in April for a 15% improvement vs. last April. Range Rover and Range Rover Evoque sales advanced in double-digits.

Mazda--The Mazda (+7.5%) brand posted its best April sales in 20 years, with new Mazda 6 deliveries surging by nearly one-third. The CX-5 crossover SUV also was a strong seller in April.

Mitsubishi--It was the best sales month for the Japanese brand in seven years, with a sales increase of 25.6%, and the best month ever for the Outlander crossover SUV.

Nissan Group--Sales at Nissan advanced with a strong performance from the Infiniti brand (+8.8%). The Nissan badge (+5.4%) was bolstered by a 23.7% advance in sales of crossover utilities and trucks. Nissan's Murano and Rogue SUVs posted double-digit gains while Sentra compact car sales were up 21.2%.

Subaru--An 18% advance in sales for the Japanese independent brand included record highest-ever April deliveries for the Forester, Legacy, Outback, and XV Crosstrek.

Toyota Group--Sales edged up in April from a year ago, mainly due to strong SUV sales--particularly RAV4 and Highlander--and an 11.7% gain from Lexus. Tundra and Tacoma pickup sales also outpaced the industry's gains. Demand for the Scion brand (-20%) slumped from April 2014.

Volkswagen Group--Sales edged up only 0.8%, due to a 2.7% decline in the VW brand's sales. Audi (+7.5%) continued to increase sales with strong demand for the A3 and Q3 crossover SUV. Porsche sales also increased. VW's Golf was a strong seller, while Passat midsize sedan deliveries plunged nearly 29% in April.

Volvo--Sales remained stable (4,636 units) for the Swedish brand that is owned by China's Geely Group.

*Sales percentage changes are unadjusted. April 2015 and April 2014 had the same number of selling days.

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