May Auto Sales Lack Luster; Many Automakers See Dips
May is traditionally a strong month for car sales, but this year, U.S. new-car and light-truck deliveries for the month that just ended were tepid, partly due to two fewer selling days in the month vs. a year ago (May 2016 had 24 selling days vs. May 2015, which had 26 selling days) and what seems to be a cooling of the marketplace. Total new-auto sales fell 6% from last May to 1.53 million unit sales, based on a comparison of actual sales.
In addition, month-end numbers align with a mid-month update from J.D. Power and auto forecasting partner LMC Automotive that anticipated lower sales and a reduced calendar-year forecast by 100,000 units to 17.7 million units. However, on a brighter note, the new forecast surpasses 2015’s tally and would set another annual record for U.S. auto sales.
Highlights: May 2016 Auto Sales
Among corporate automakers, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Hyundai Group, Volvo, and Jaguar Land Rover reported year-over-year sales gains in May. FCA’s 1% improvement was buoyed by a best month from the Jeep brand. Hyundai Group celebrated a 6.3% increase, due to the Hyundai brand’s surge in SUV deliveries. Jaguar Land Rover’s sales charged ahead with Jaguar gains, and Volvo’s 10.2% gain was propelled by demand for the XC90 SUV.
On the downside, two Detroit automakers—General Motors (-18%) and Ford Motor Co. (-5.9%)—and Japan’s Big Three posted dips, although Nissan Group’s (-1%) decline was only 1,200 units. American Honda (-4.8%) and Toyota Group (-9.6%) reported lower sales, despite some monthly records among models.
European automakers’ results were lukewarm. Mercedes-Benz (-1%) was the month’s luxury leader despite Daimler Group’s (-1.9%) dip. BMW brand (-6.4%) deliveries fell with parent BMW Group (-8.8%). Volkswagen Group (-9.5%) could not offset a 17.2% VW brand sales dip with gains from its Audi (+1.3%) and Porsche (+7.3%) nameplates. Subaru (+1.1%) was the only independent automaker to post a gain, as Mazda (-4.3%) and Mitsubishi Motors (-5.7%) posted declines.
Following are May 2016 new-vehicle sales highlights for each major automaker:
American Honda—Group sales fell 4.8% to 147,108 units in May. Honda brand (-2.9%) sales totaled 133,547 units, which was behind last May’s all-time record. However, Honda sales were helped by a redesigned 2016 Civic (+2.7%). Accord, HR-V, Odyssey, and Pilot were the brand’s best sales performers. Acura (-20.4%) only sold 13,561 units, due in part to regional shortfalls of its MDX SUV, according to the company.
BMW Group—BMW Group (-8.8%) sales totaled 33,612 units. BMW brand (-6.4%) sales were 29,017 units with strength from its premium utilities—BMW X1, X3, and X6. Deliveries of Mini-brand (-21.2%) vehicles slumped in May.
Daimler AG—Deliveries for Daimler AG (-1.9%) dipped to 32,567 units. Mercedes-Benz (-1%) sold 29,299 units. The C-Class (-6.2%) was the volume leader, and double-digit performers were the GLC/GLK, GL/GLS, and G-Class SUVs. Vans (+2.9%), including Sprinter, rose, while Smart (-49.8%) car sales declined.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles—Group sales (+1%) edged up to 204,000 units—the automaker’s best May in 11 years, according to the company. Jeep (+14%) offset dips from Ram (-3%), Dodge (-5%), Chrysler (-19%), and Fiat (-19%). The Jeep Patriot, Renegade, and Compass all posted May records. Additionally, Dodge and Chrysler midsize vans were among the strongest sellers for the group, and the Fiat 500X was in demand.
Ford Motor Company—Ford Motor (-6%) sold 235,937 units and reaped a 9% gain from its best-selling F-Series pickup (67,412 units). Ford SUV sales rose 0.3% with strength from the Escape (+5.5%) and Expedition (+21.9%), while car deliveries were off by one-fourth. Transit sales boosted Ford’s overall van sales performance. Ford (-6.4%) remained the auto market’s brand sales leader in May with 226,190 unit sales. Lincoln (+6.9%) continues to make a comeback with a demand surge for the new MKX (+87.8%).
General Motors—Sales at General Motors (GM) (-18%) sank to 240,450 units, partly due to a short supply of new products, cutbacks in sales to fleets, and fewer selling days, according to the Detroit automaker. All four GM brands posted declines in May, with Chevrolet (-18.6%) and Buick (-22.1%) reporting major drops, followed by Cadillac (-16%) and GMC (-14.3%). Top GM SUV performers included the Buick Encore, Cadillac Escalade and XT5, Chevrolet Tahoe, and GMC Yukon. On the car side, the Chevrolet Malibu, Spark, and Volt posted gains as did the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups.
Hyundai Group—Group sales (+6.3%) were 133,932 units. Hyundai (+12%) posted its best all-time sales of 71,006 units in May, with three SUVs—Tucson, Santa Fe, and Santa Fe Sport—achieving double-digit gains. Kia deliveries edged up 493 units, to 62,926 units, with gains from the Forte, Sportage, Sorento, and Sedona.
Jaguar Land Rover—Combined sales rose 8%. Land Rover (-8%) declined, while Jaguar (+79.7%) sales jumped.
Mazda—Deliveries at Mazda fell 4.3% in May, with 1,000-unit sales from niche model MX-5 Miata (+122.7%). The Mazda 6 had its best sales month in 2016, despite a dip vs. last May.
Mitsubishi—Sales of Mitsubishi cars and SUVs slipped 5.7% from last May with the Outlander (+119%) posting the top performance.
Nissan Group—Nissan Group (-1%) delivered 133,496 new vehicles in May, with SUV and truck sales climbing 6%. Nissan Division (-1.3%) sold 122,668 units in May with sales power from the Versa and Maxima on the car side, Rogue and Murano sport utilities, plus the Frontier midsize pickup. Adding momentum to Nissan’s stable is Infiniti (+3.4%), with a fivefold increase for the QX50 and gains from other premium SUVs—QX60, QX70, and QX80.
Subaru—Subaru (+1.1%) sales were primed with gains from the Forester, Impreza, Legacy, Outback, and Crosstrek.
Toyota Group—Toyota Group (-9.6%) sales fell to 219,339 units in May. The Toyota brand (-9.5%) sold 192,657 units. Toyota SUVs had a banner month, including best-ever months for the RAV4 (+12%) and 4Runner (+21%). However, Toyota truck sales slid 9.9%. Also, Prius (-36%) sales fell. Scion, which becomes part of the Toyota brand in August, soared (+38.6%) with strength from the iA and iM. Lexus (-10.1%) delivered 26,682 cars and SUVs, although RX Series and LS deliveries rose in double digits.
Volkswagen Group—VW Group (-9.5%) deliveries fell, hampered by issues related to the VW diesel emissions cheating scandal. VW (-17.2%) brand sales slumped to 28,779 units, although the Tiguan and Golf R posted double-digit increases. Audi (+1.6%) set a May record, bolstered by performances from the Q3 and Q7 SUVs, and Porsche (+7.3%) reported strong sales for its Macan compact luxury SUV, all 911 variants, and the Cayman.
Volvo—Sales at Volvo rose 10.2% to 5,536 units in May.