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March Auto Sales Rise Less than Anticipated

March Auto Sales Rise Less than Anticipated

By Philly Murtha, April 01, 2016

March U.S. new-vehicle sales results were mixed, with some automakers benefitting from two extra selling days this year.* Also, the month featured stronger sales for cars as well as light trucks, and even a few records.

According to preliminary automaker reports, March car sales totals will rise in single digits (unadjusted1) and may not quite hit 1.6 million units, though a few major players—Toyota and Hyundai Groups and the Europeans—posted flat or sluggish numbers.

Auto Sales photoThe single-digit year-over-year sales increase translates into at least a 1% dip when adjusted for the number of selling days, according to a recent update from J.D. Power and auto forecasting partner LMC Automotive that said March sales featured longer-term loans and an uptick in leasing.

Two of Detroit’s three automakers—Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA)—posted 8% increases, while General Motors’ (GM) sales edged up 0.9% from a year ago. GM sold fewer new vehicles than rival Ford because it continued to curb rental and fleet sales to focus on retail deliveries, according to company officials.

Among the Asian majors, Nissan Group (+13%) and American Honda (+9.4%) were among the strongest performers, while Toyota (-2.3%) and Hyundai (-0.2%) Groups posted sales dips.

The Europeans posted weaker results. BMW Group was down 13% and Daimler Group sales slipped nearly 4%. Volkswagen Group’s Audi brand (+7.5%) reported a healthy gain that couldn’t offset VW brand’s 10% decline. Among independents, Mitsubishi and Subaru posted increases, while Mazda sales fell.

At the corporate level, Nissan Group (+12.7%) ended March with the highest sales percentage increase, while at the brand level, Scion (+64.1%); Jaguar Land Rover (+28.8%); Tesla (+18.4%); Volvo (+15.9%); and Jeep (+15%) were top five performers.

Highlights: March 2016 Auto Sales

Following are March 2016 new-vehicle sales highlights for each major automaker:

American Honda—Group sales (+9.4%) were propped up by car deliveries to total 138,221 units in March. Honda (+10.5%) brand sales rose to 123,369 with strength from the redone Civic (+21.8%) and Accord (+17.3%). Acura (+1.2%) sold 14,852 units with strength from the RDX (+34%) and TLX (+9.9%).

BMW Group—BMW Group (-13.3%) sales fell by 5,300+ units, to 34,795 units in March. BMW (-12.5%) brand sales were 30,033 units with increases from the 7 Series (+16.1%) and X1 and X3 SUVs. Mini deliveries slumped 18.3% from a year ago.

Daimler AG—Group deliveries (-3.6%) dropped to 31,715 units. Mercedes-Benz (-3.3%) sales fell to 31,236 units. The C-Class remained the volume model and GLE (formerly M) and GLC (formerly GLK) were strong performers. Sprinter Van deliveries rose 29%. Smart (-17.8%) delivered 479 vehicles.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles—Sales at FCA were up 8%, to 213,187 units—a best March total in a decade. Jeep (+15%), Dodge (+11%), and Ram (+11%) outpaced other FCA brands. Jeep had its best-ever March as four models posted March records. The Dodge Journey set a record and Caravan sales more than doubled. In contrast, Chrysler (-13%) sales fell, despite a record March for the outgoing Town & Country. Fiat (-24%) sales declined despite incremental sales from the new 500X.

Ford Motor Company—Ford Motor (+8%) had its best March in a decade, selling 254,711 new vehicles. Ford’s SUV deliveries were up 15.8% with top performers: Edge, Escape, and Explorer. Some 73,884 F-Series pickups (+9.1%) were sold, outpacing a 70,000-unit record in 2007. Ford brand (+7.8%) remained the industry leader in March with 245,022 unit sales. Lincoln (+11.4%) was bolstered by MKX crossover (+87.9%) gains.

General Motors—GM (+0.9%) sold 252,128 units—fewer than 3,000 units less than cross-town rival Ford Motor. GMC (+6.9%) scored the best gain, bolstered by the Canyon midsize pickup and Yukon and Yukon XL large SUVs. Flagship brand Chevrolet (+1.4%) sales improved to 176,283 units, while Cadillac (-5.1%) and Buick (-11.3%) deliveries fell from last March. Chevrolet’s trucks were strong: Colorado (+46.8%), Silverado (+6.1%), and Express/City Express sales surged. On the car side, Camaro (+15.5%) was up, and Volt plug-in sales nearly tripled. The Impala and Malibu also posted higher deliveries. Despite brand sales drops, demand for the Cadillac Escalade and Buick Encore surged.

Hyundai Group—Group (-0.2%) sales were nearly flat. However, Hyundai brand (+0.4%) still celebrated its best total for any sales month with strength from the Tucson and Sonata. Kia (-0.8%) sales slipped despite increases for the Forte and Sportage. The Genesis also posted an increase.

Jaguar Land Rover—Sales for Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles combined rose 28.8%.

Mazda—Although niche model MX-5 Miata sales doubled and the CX-3 compact crossover SUV added incremental boost, Mazda sales fell 27.2% from last March.

Mitsubishi—Sales at Mitsubishi rose 13.5% from March 20125, with momentum coming from the Outlander and Outlander Sport SUVs.

Nissan Group—A surge in car deliveries (+15.6%) bolstered Nissan Group (+12.7%) in achieving a best-ever monthly record of 163, 559 unit sales. Nissan brand (+13%) delivered 149,784 units. Rogue and Murano sales strengthened, and Sentra and Versa were up in double digits. Maxima doubled deliveries from a year ago, and the new Titan full-size pickup enjoyed a 21.6% sales increase. Deliveries at Infiniti (+10%) also rose, with double-digit gains for the Q50 and increases for the QX50, QX60, and QX70 premium SUVs.

Subaru—Subaru (+0.4%) reported its best March sales for the Outback and WRX/STI.

Toyota Group—New-vehicle sales for Toyota Group slipped by 2.7%, to 219,842 units in March. Toyota brand (-2.7%) deliveries also dropped to 189,644 units, while Lexus sales were down 2.8% to 30,198 units. Scion, which is being folded into Toyota in August, was the only bright light—sales soared 64% in March, with enthusiasm for the new iA and iM. On the car side, Camry sales fell 9.3% to 36,991 deliveries. Prius (-24.7%) sales also sank. Toyota trucks fared better, with gains for the Highlander, 4Runner, RAV4, Land Cruiser, Sequoia, and Tacoma.

Volkswagen Group—VW Group (-3.7%) deliveries fell less than expected due to a boost from Audi (+7.5%) and Porsche (+0.7%). Fallout from the diesel emissions cheating software debacle continues to hamper the VW brand (-10.4%). The Tiguan (+53%) posted its best March sales and Golf SportWagen sales rose eight-fold.

Volvo—Sales of Volvo vehicles increased 15.9%, to 6,857 units with strength from the new XC90.

*March 2016 had two more selling days (27) compared with March 2015 (25).

1Sales percentage changes are based on actual totals.

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