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Large Pickups Boost U.S. Auto Sales in April

By Jeff Youngs, May 01, 2013
Detroit's three automakers led the charge in April by selling more new vehicles--especially large pickup trucks--in the U.S. market than in the same month of 2012.

In early reports, Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group, and General Motors outperformed the industry and also outpaced two of their three top-volume Japan-based competitors, Toyota and Honda Groups. The third major Japanese automaker, Nissan Group, reported one of the best year-over-year gains in April among all automakers, as sales were up 23% from a year ago (on an unadjusted basis*).

Large pickup truck demand surged in April, partially because of a continuing improvement in the housing market as well as in construction. Also, there was pent-up demand following the economic downturn in December 2007-June 2009 when consumers kept their vehicles longer. The average age of a vehicle in the United States was nearly 11 years in 2012, based on registration data from R. L. Polk & Co.

The Ford F-Series, which is the best-selling model in the U.S. market, continued to reap double-digit gains and posted its highest April numbers since 2006, according to the company. Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra sales were up by double digits, and Ram large pickup sales were up by nearly one-half from a year ago.

Compact crossovers (CUVs) also were particularly strong sellers in April 2013. The high-volume sellers--Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and Toyota RAV4--all achieved strong double-digit sales gains from a year ago. In fact, the CR-V and Escape set April sales records, and the RAV4 was one of Toyota's strongest performers last month.

Among the three U.S.-based automakers, Ford Motor Co. reported an 18% gain, with a strong 21% increase from its Lincoln luxury brand. Deliveries of the new MKZ, which was more plentiful in dealer showrooms in April, nearly doubled from a year ago.

General Motors and Chrysler Group both celebrated 11% sales gains on an unadjusted basis. All four of GM's brands posted gains from April 2012. Cadillac was the shining star for the company, with sales up by nearly one-third from a year ago. Chrysler's increase was buoyed primarily by Dodge brand deliveries.

Among other major automakers with multiple brands, Toyota Group posted a small dip from a year ago, although sales of the new Avalon more than doubled from a year ago. Lexus sales edged up slightly as did sales for the Scion youth brand. Honda Group achieved a 7% increase in deliveries, with strength from its best performers, Odyssey and Civic. Hyundai Group posted a small gain, with Hyundai brand sales up 2%.

In contrast, there were mixed results reported by European automakers. Volkswagen Group, which has been achieving successive months of sales gains in the United States, reported a small dip (-5%) in April, although sales of its Audi and Porsche luxury brands posted double-digit gains.

BMW Group posted an 8% increase, and Daimler Group sales rose 4%, with gains from Mercedes-Benz offsetting lower Smart car sales.

Subaru was the only independent brand to post a year-over-year sales increase as the brand set a monthly sales record, with deliveries up 25% from April 2012. Mazda, Mitsubishi and Suzuki brands all posted lower sales in April 2013 than a year ago.

*There were 25 selling days in April 2013 and 24 in April 2012. The percentage of change is not adjusted for 1 less selling day this year.

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