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April Auto Sales Sag Despite Spiffs and SUV Demand

April Auto Sales Sag Despite Spiffs and SUV Demand

By Philly Murtha, May 02, 2017

U.S. new-vehicle sales in April continued to cool, even with an infusion of incentives and sturdy demand for trucks, especially SUVs. Total new car and light-truck deliveries (retail and fleet) slipped 4.7% from April 2016 to 1.43 million units.

European automakers Volkswagen Group (Volkswagen) and Jaguar Land Rover were the only multi-franchise automakers to post increases in April. At the brand level, a dozen mass-market and premium brands reported gains, including (in alphabetical order): Alfa Romeo, Audi, Buick, Cadillac, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Porsche, Ram, Subaru, Volvo, and VW.

All three Detroit-based automakers posted year-over-year sales declines. Although General Motors (GM) (-5.8%) sales slumped, a company official said crossovers accounted for nearly one-third of deliveries, up from one in four a year ago. Ford Motor Co. (Ford) (-7.2%) also relied on demand for SUVs and its F-Series pickups, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) (-7%) got a lift from trucks, a few car models, and a minivan model.

It was also a disappointing month for the Asian automakers. Toyota Motor Sales (Toyota) (-4.4%), American Honda Motor Co. (-7%), Nissan North America (Nissan) (-1.5%), and Hyundai Motor (Hyundai) (-1.9%) all reported dips, although each garnered gains from SUVs. Subaru was the only gainer among the three independents.

Among the Europeans, VW Group (+3.1%) continued to bounce back from a diesel emissions cheating scandal. Daimler AG (-8.7%) and BMW of North America (-12.2%) reported weaker sales but said tight inventories also hampered results. Jaguar Land Rover (+34.5%) surprised, celebrating strong demand for SUVs, as did Volvo (+15.4%).

Highlights: April 2017 Auto Sales

Following are April 2017 new-vehicle sales highlights (based on actual totals) for each major automaker:

American Honda Motor Co.—Deliveries at Honda (-7%) slid to 138,386 units. Honda brand (-6.3%) sales declined to 124,254 units and premium brand Acura (-9.4%) only sold 14,132 units despite a 39% gain for the TLX. Honda’s best performers were the CR-V and HR-V crossover SUVs along with the new Ridgeline pickup (3,186 units).

BMW of North America—BMW of North America (-12.2%) sold 26,105 units. The BMW brand (-9.3%) delivered only 22,624 unit sales. On the car side, 7 Series sales rose with double-digit gains for SUVs—X1 and X3. Mini (-27.4%) contributed only 3,481 unit sales in April.

Daimler AG—Group deliveries at Daimler AG (-8.7%) fell to 29,490 units. Despite lower totals, Mercedes-Benz (-7.9%) was the April U.S. luxury brand leader with 26,932 unit sales. The C-Class (+38.5%) and GLE-Class (+3.3%) were Mercedes’ volume leaders. Van (-15.3%) sales fell to 2,193 units and Smart (-21.7%) delivered 365 units.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles—Sales for FCA (-7%) fell to 177,441 units, despite a gain from Ram trucks (+5%) and increases for Alfa Romeo. Ram pickup sales climbed 8%. Jeep (-17%) sales dropped, even with a 6% increase for the Grand Cherokee. Dodge and Chrysler deliveries fell the least (-3%). Three Dodge models—Challenger, Journey, and Durango—improved, and the Chrysler Pacifica added 10,427 unit sales to tally its best month this year. Fiat (-18%) sales dipped except for the new Spider.

Ford Motor Co.—April deliveries at Ford (-7.2%) declined to 214,695 units, although trucks and SUVs sustained momentum. Ford’s car sales sank 21%, while SUVs rose 1.2%. Ford brand (-7.5%) remained the best-selling nameplate in April, delivering 205,004 units, with increases for the Escape, Edge, and Expedition SUVs. F-Series (-0.3%) sales fell by 117 units to 70,657 pickups. Lincoln (-0.9%) deliveries slipped to 9,691 units, despite a 24.8% gain for the MKZ and 1,003 sales from Continental.

General Motors—April sales at GM (-5.8%) totaled 244,406 units. Buick (+17%) and Cadillac (+9.5%) brand deliveries rose, bolstered by top-selling SUVs: Buick Encore and Cadillac XT5. Flagship Chevrolet (-10.4%) delivered 164,367 units, but recorded gains for the Camaro, Cruze, Equinox, and Trax. The Bolt EV added 1,292 incremental sales, while the Volt electric car dipped 8.9%. GMC (-0.3%) sales were flat with best-performing Acadia (+45.1%).

Hyundai Motor—Deliveries at Hyundai (-1.9%) dipped to 116,408 units. Hyundai and Genesis brands (+1.3%) sold 63,050 units with a record for the Tucson SUV. Although Kia brand (-5.6%) sales declined to 53,358 units, the Forte surged and set a monthly record. The new Niro hybrid added 2,939 unit sales.

Jaguar Land Rover—Jaguar Land Rover (+35%) had its best-ever April with 8,441 unit sales. Jaguar sales nearly tripled to 3,230 units with escalating demand for the new F-Pace SUV (1,377 units). Land Rover (+0.4%) sales rose to 5,211 units, led by the Range Rover Sport (+26%).

Mazda—Mazda (-7.8%) sales fell to 24,164 units, with gains for the MX-5 Miata and best-selling CX-5 and new CX-9 crossovers.

Mitsubishi—Deliveries at Mitsubishi fell to 8,375 units with a best April for the Outlander Sport.

Nissan North America—Deliveries at Nissan (-1.5%) slipped to 121,998 units. Nissan brand (-2%) sold 111,201 units but posted an April truck sales record. The brand’s best-seller was the Rogue (+18%) with 27,386 unit sales. Nissan also posted gains for the Sentra, Maxima, and Leaf. Large trucks—Titan and the Armada SUV—saw triple-digit gains for the month. Infiniti (+3.5%) delivered 10,797 units in April with a surge for the Q60 and premium crossovers (+15.3%), including the new QX30, QX70, and QX80.

Subaru—Subaru (+4%) saw a sales increase for a 65th consecutive month, selling 52,368 units in April. Strongest sellers were the Outback, Forester, and Impreza.

Toyota Motor Sales—Total sales at Toyota (-4.4%) fell to 201,926 units in April. Toyota brand (-3.5%) deliveries slipped to 179,810 units, while Lexus (-11.1%) sold 22,116 units last month. Toyota’s sales were supported by gains for SUVs—RAV4, Highlander, and 4Runner—plus an improvement for the Tundra large pickup. The Yaris was the only Toyota car model to post an increase in April. Two Lexus models—the CT and NX—posted double-digit gains for the month.

Volkswagen Group—Group sales at Volkswagen rose to 46,524 units. VW brand (+1.6%) delivered 27,557 units with gains for the U.S.-made Passat and a double-digit climb for the Golf. Audi (+5.1%) sold 18,711 units, with increases for its Q5 and Q3 SUVs. Porsche (+2.2%) sold 5,529 units as the Panamera gained.

Volvo—Sales at Swedish automaker Volvo (+15.4%) rose to 7,121 units with best volumes for the XC90 premium SUV.

Additional Research:

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