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February U.S. Auto Sales Fall with Thinner Rebates, Weak Car Demand

February U.S. Auto Sales Fall with Thinner Rebates, Weak Car Demand

By Philly Murtha, March 01, 2018
U.S. new-car deliveries skidded in February, with a drawback in incentives on domestic trucks and SUVs, along with flagging car demand. Total U.S. new-auto sales (retail and fleet) declined by more than 2 points to 1.3 million units in the second month of 2018, as anticipated in a mid-month update from J.D. Power and auto forecasting partner LMC Automotive. Still, results were mixed since more than a dozen brands, including U.S. and foreign nameplates, reported gains.

At the corporate level, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. (Toyota) (+4.5%) and major European automakers including BMW of North America (BMW) (+7.5%), Mercedes-Benz USA (Mercedes) (+1.9%), and Volkswagen Group of America (VW) (+9.3%) led increases for the month. Volvo Cars N.A. (Volvo) and Jaguar Land Rover N.A. also excelled, while all three independents—Mazda North America (Mazda), Mitsubishi Motors N.A. (Mitsubishi), and Subaru of America (Subaru)—reported increases, sustained by crossovers.

In contrast, the Detroit Three—General Motors (GM) (-6.9%), Ford Motor Co. (Ford) (-6.4%), and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) (-1%)—posted lower totals, which were impacted by leaner incentives on trucks. American Honda Motor Co. (Honda) (-5%), Nissan North America (-4.3%), and Hyundai Motor America (-9.3%) also posted weaker numbers.

Yet, at the brand level, 17 winning nameplates (in alphabetical order) were: Acura (+1%), Audi (+12%), BMW (+4.2%), Buick (+1.2%), Cadillac (+14%), Jeep (+12%), Land Rover (+18.8%), Lexus (+5.1%), Mazda (+12.7%), Mercedes-Benz (excluding Sprinter vans) (+1%), Mini (+42.3%), Mitsubishi (+18.8%), Porsche (+20.5%), Subaru (+3.8%), Toyota (+4.4%), VW brand (+6%), and Volvo (+35%).

Highlights: February 2018 Auto Sales
Following are February 2018 new-vehicle sales highlights (based on actual totals) for each major automaker:

American Honda Motor Co.—February sales at Honda (-5%) fell to 115,557 units. Honda brand (-5.6%) delivered 104,588 units, with gains mainly for SUVs—HR-V (+6.9%) and Pilot (+48.9%). The Odyssey minivan (+3.4%) also was in positive territory. Major performers Civic and CR-V posted declines. In contrast, Acura (+1%) sales reached 10,969 units in February, with higher demand on the car side (+17.4%) with double-digit momentum for the TLX, ILX, and the RLX.

BMW of North America—Group sales at BMW (+7.5%) rose to 26,573 units. BMW brand (+4.2%) sales rose to 23,508 units, with a double-digit gain for the 5 Series plus incremental momentum for the 6 Series, X1, X5, and X6. Mini (+42.3%) also celebrated higher demand with 3,065 unit sales, primed by demand for the Countryman.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles—FCA (-1%) totals dipped to 165,903 units, but were bolstered by the Jeep brand (+12%) with a February best for the Wrangler (+17%), while Compass sales nearly quintupled and the Renegade (+4%) improved. Other FCA brands declined: Chrysler (-3%), Dodge (-8%), Ram (-14%), and Fiat (-42%). Some good news: Chrysler’s Pacifica (+27%) midsize van sales rose to 11,482 units, Dodge Charger (+8%) sales increased, and Ram delivered 20,384 light-duty large pickups (+8%). Niche brand Alfa sales nearly tripled compared to the same month last year.

Ford Motor Co.—Company deliveries at Ford (-6.4%) fell to 194,162 units (minus commercial trucks). The Ford brand (-6.1%) sold 186,662 units, while Lincoln (-23.4%) deliveries slumped to 6,700 units. Unlike its domestic rivals, the U.S. best-selling F-Series (+3.5%) marked its best February deliveries in 18 years (68,243 unit sales). Ford got a tiny bump from the Fusion (+1.3%) midsize sedan, while Lincoln’s momentum came from demand for the redesigned Navigator (+13.3%).

General Motors—GM (-6.9%) sales totaled 220,905 units (with commercial trucks) in February. Cadillac (+14%) and Buick (+1.2%) were the best performers among GM’s four brands, while flagship Chevrolet (-8.8%) sold 149,605 units. GMC (-8%) also saw a drop in deliveries. Buick’s winners were the Enclave, Regal, and LaCrosse, while Cadillac, which sold 12,338 units, saw momentum for the ATS, CT6, Escalade, and the XT5. Chevy’s best performers were the Colorado, Equinox, Suburban, Traverse, and niche-model Bolt EV. GM’s large pickups—Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra—posted double-digit decreases in February, while the GMC Acadia and Terrain posted gains.

Hyundai Motor America—Total sales at Hyundai (-9.3%) declined to 86,767 units. Hyundai brand (-13%) with premium Genesis brand (-13.8%) delivered 46,095 units. The Tucson (+31%) and Santa Fe (+8%) marked their best February sales to date. The new Kona SUV debuted with 199 unit sales. Kia (-4.7%) sales declined to 40,672 units, with best February sales for the Sportage SUV. A footnote: 1,344 Stinger sport sedans were delivered.

Jaguar Land Rover N.A.—Jaguar Land Rover (-2.4%) sales slipped to 9,013 units. Land Rover (+18.8%) delivered 6,828 SUVs, while Jaguar (-37.3%) sales fell to 2,185 units.

Mazda North America—Mazda (+12.7%) celebrated a best February in 24 years with 25,731 unit sales. SUVs starred for the Japanese automaker in February. The CX-5 (+68.7%) and CX-9 (+6%) were strongest performers.

Mercedes-Benz USA—Total sales at Mercedes (+1.9%) set a February record with 27,894 units. Mercedes-Benz brand (+1%) sales were 24,760 units, with the GLC-Class, C-Class, and E-Class in the top volume spots and the S-Class gaining momentum. Van (+20.5%) sales rose to 3,028 units, while Smart sold 106 units.

Mitsubishi Motors N.A.—Mitsubishi (+18.8%) posted its second-best February this year with 12,973 deliveries. Outlander and Outlander Sport SUVs posted best sales months historically, and the new 2018 Eclipse Cross arrived.

Nissan North America—Deliveries at Nissan (-4.3%) fell to 129,930 units. Nissan brand (-4%) sold 117,110 units in February and Infiniti (-6.7%) sold 12,820 units. Nissan SUV and truck sales (+9%) set a February record. The Rogue (+15%) continued to set the pace with 38,119 unit sales. Frontier and Titan pickups plus the Armada and Murano SUVs celebrated double-digit increases from a year ago. On the car side, only the Sentra (+7.1%) improved. Infiniti’s (-6.7%) best performance was on the car side (+11.6%) with gains for the Q50, Q60, and Q70. QX60 SUV (+46%) sales also soared.

Subaru of America—Subaru (+3.8%) marked its best-ever February, selling 47,249 units with best month totals for the Crosstrek and Outback.

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.—Toyota (+4.5%) total sales advanced to 182,195 units, with record February light-truck deliveries. Toyota brand (+4.4%) sales tallied 162,930, while Lexus (+5.1%) delivered 19,265 units. The Toyota RAV4 (+13.3%) set a record (29,867 units) and Camry (+12.2%) sales grew to 30,865 units. The Highlander, Land Cruiser, Tacoma, and Tundra also posted gains during February. Lexus LS sales nearly doubled, while the NX, RX, and GX were also winners.

VW Group of America—Total sales at VW (+9.3%) rose to 46,493 units. The VW brand (+6%) posted a record February with 26,660 deliveries. SUV (+54%) sales soared with top performances from the redone Tiguan and new Atlas.
Premium Audi (+12%) sold 15,451 units with the A5 plus Q3 and Q5 performing at their best. Porsche (+20.5%) deliveries surged to 4,382 units with climbs for 2-door sports cars, including the 911, 718 Boxster, and Cayman.

Volvo Cars N.A.—Volvo (+35%) reported its second monthly rise in 2018 with 6,283 unit sales, principally XC90 and new XC60 gains.

Additional Research:

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