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January U.S. Auto Sales Eke Out Small Gain on Continued Truck Strength

January U.S. Auto Sales Eke Out Small Gain on Continued Truck Strength

By Philly Murtha, February 01, 2018
In January, typically the year’s weakest auto sales month, new-vehicle deliveries managed to eke out a small 1.2% gain thanks to an additional selling day this year. However, on an adjusted basis, total deliveries dipped a few points. SUV and pickup demand continued to bolster most major automakers’ totals in January.

Star performers for the first month of 2018 were Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. (Toyota) (+16.8%) and Nissan North America (Nissan) (+10%) with hearty demand for their crossovers and pickups. Among the Detroit Three, only General Motors (GM) (+1.3%) improved. Ford Motor Co. (Ford) (-6.3%) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) (-13%) sales slid, despite truck demand. Japan’s third major, American Honda Motor Co. (Honda) (-1.7%) sales slipped, even with HR-V and Pilot gains. South Korea’s Hyundai Motor America (Hyundai and Kia) (-6.4%) also reported lower sales than a year ago.

Europeans reported bumps in both premium car and crossover demand. Volkswagen Group of America (VW) (+6.7%) was bolstered by Audi and Porsche gains. BMW of North America (BMW) (+3.5%) totals were reinforced by BMW brand (+5%) sales, while Mercedes-Benz USA (Mercedes) (-1.1%) totals were propped up by van gains. Still, Mercedes brand held the premium sales crown for January. Other European makes posted mixed results. Jaguar Land Rover (-0.6%) dipped, while Volvo Cars N.A. (Volvo) (+60.5%) achieved a big advance.

All three independents reported increases, buoyed by crossovers as sales for Mitsubishi Motors (+31.3%), Mazda (+15%), and Subaru (+1.1%) improved.

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

American Honda Motor Co.—Total sales at Honda (-1.7%) declined to 104,542 units. Honda brand (-1.6%) delivered 95,634 cars and light trucks, with strength from the Civic, HR-V, and the Pilot (+61.8%). Top-volume CR-V demand fell 16.9% to 24,326 units. Acura (-3.2%) reported best performances for the TLX and RLX.

BMW of North America—Group sales at BMW (+3.5%) rose to 21,953 units. BMW brand’s (+5%) sales tally in January reached 19,016 units, with marked strength from the 5 Series plus the all-new X3. Electrified variants made up 5.2% of BMW U.S. sales, according to the automaker. However, Mini (-5.6%) sales totaled only 2,937 units.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles—FCA US (-13%) totals declined to 132,803 units, although retail deliveries edged up 2%. Fleet sales were reduced by 50%, the company said. Jeep (+2%) was the only brand among the five to post an increase with gains for the Compass, Wrangler, and a double-digit hike for Cherokee sales. Niche brand Alfa Romeo also gained ground. Remaining brand results were: Ram (-16%); Chrysler (-21%), even with Pacifica’s 20% gain; Dodge (-31%), with only Durango up 9%; and Fiat (-43%).

Ford Motor Co.—Total deliveries at Ford (-6.3%) fell to 160,411 units (minus commercial trucks). Ford brand (-5.6%) delivered 154,733 units in January, while Lincoln (-27%) sales slumped to 6,510 units. Trucks (+2.2%) were the only segment to improve, with F-Series eking out a 1.6% rise to 58,937 unit sales. Demand for Ford SUVs (-5.9%) dipped in January, and car sales plummeted 23.3%. Lincoln’s only star last month was the redone Navigator—sales nearly doubled.

General Motors—GM (+1.3%) sales rose to 198,548 units in January. At the segment level, SUV sales roared ahead by 20% and truck sales surged 7% from last year. Flagship Chevrolet (+5%) sold 141,947 units and Buick (+4%) posted an increase, while Cadillac (-3.9%) and GMC (-11.4%) saw declines. Chevy best-sellers included: Equinox, Traverse, Tahoe, and Trax, plus Colorado and Silverado. The Buick Envision and LaCrosse also were star performers. The Cadillac Escalade and XT5 outpaced last January, while the GMC Canyon and Terrain improved.

Hyundai Motor America—Total sales at Hyundai Motor (-6.4%) declined to 76,870 units. Hyundai (-11%) and its premium Genesis brand delivered 41,242 units. Genesis sales were down by 205 units. Tucson (+33%) and Elantra were strong performers. Kia sales were flat, up by 2 units to 35,628 units, with best performances for the Sportage and Forte.

Jaguar Land Rover N.A.—Jaguar Land Rover (-0.6%) sales slipped to 9,050 units. Land Rover (+4.6%) delivered 6,446 units, while Jaguar (-11.4%) sales fell to 2,604 units.

Mazda North America—Mazda’s (+15%) best January in 24 years tallied 24,962 unit sales. SUVs were strong performers, with the CX-5 (+60.2%) in the lead, followed by the CX-9 and CX-3.

Mercedes-Benz USA—Total sales at Mercedes (-1.1%) dipped to 27,603 units in January. Mercedes-Benz brand sales, including vans (-0.3%) were 27,498 units. Minus van sales, Mercedes sold 25,307 units—down 220 units, with GLC in the volume lead, followed by the C-Class and E-Class. Van sales (+6.9%) improved to 2,191 units, while Smart sold 105 units.

Mitsubishi Motors N.A.—Mitsubishi (+31.3%) posted its best January in a decade, with 8,480 deliveries. Outlander and Outlander Sport SUV demand was up by more than two-thirds from a year ago.

Nissan North America—Nissan Group (+10%) delivered 123,538 units. The Nissan brand (+12.1%) sold 112,903 units in January, offsetting Infiniti’s (-8%) decline to 10,635 unit sales. Combined Nissan SUV and truck sales increased 18%. The Nissan Rogue (+26%) set another record with 36,184 unit sales. Other double-digit gainers included: Armada and Murano SUVs, plus Frontier and Titan pickups. Infiniti’s strongest performers in January were the QX60 and QX80 crossovers.

Subaru of America—Subaru (+1.1%) set a January sales record with 44,357 unit deliveries and best totals for the Crosstrek and Outback.

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.—Total deliveries at Toyota (+16.8%) surged to 167,056 units, with record light-truck sales for the month. Toyota brand (+17%) sales added 149,142 units, while Lexus (+15%) deliveries advanced to 17,914 units. Strong demand for SUVs provided January records for the RAV4 (26,655 unit sales), plus the Highlander and 4Runner, while all-new Camry deliveries climbed 21.3% to 24,638 units. The Tacoma and Tundra pickups also saw double-digit gains. Gasoline and hybrid versions of the NX compact crossover enjoyed strong sales, as did the RX and GX, as well as the ES on the car side.

VW Group of America—Total deliveries at Volkswagen (+6.7%) rose to 44,161 units. The VW brand (+5.2%) delivered 24,744 units, with SUVs accounting for 52% of sales. The new Atlas and Tiguan posted over 12,600 unit sales. Premium brand Audi (+9.9%) sold 14,511 units with strength from the new Q7, Q5, and A4. Porsche (+4.7%) sales rose to 4,816 units with gains from the 911 and Panamera.

Volvo Cars N.A.—Sales at Volvo (+60.5%) surged to 5,567 units, supported by top-volume XC90 and new XC60 SUVs.

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