Strong December Car Sales Boost Industry to Record Year
By Philly Murtha, January 05, 2016
The year 2015 set a record for U.S. new-car sales, as projected by J.D. Power and auto sales forecasting partner LMC Automotive. Total (retail and fleet) new-vehicle deliveries for the year hit 17.47 million units and outdistanced a previous high of 17.35 million units set in 2000. In addition, December was the strongest U.S. new-vehicle sales month in 2015.
Among the top-selling automakers, Detroit-based Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ford Motor Co. said their 2015 sales were the best in nine years. Highest-volume General Motors posted single-digit monthly and annual increases. In December, Toyota, Nissan, and Honda Groups reported double-digit or near-double-digit gains, which translated into healthy single-digit increases in 2015. Both Honda and Nissan reported 2015 bests. The Hyundai Group also posted a single-digit increase in 2015. Additionally, the Europeans and independents fared well, with several setting annual sales records.
Last year, consumers continued to replace aging vehicles and took advantage of year-end deals. Reasonable gasoline prices and a spate of new models—especially popular crossover sport utilities—primed the market.
J.D. Power and LMC Automotive predicted that December’s sales would be up 6%, when adjusted for two extra selling days vs. December 2014.* Totals for the calendar year were anticipated to hit 17.5 million units for a new all-time high.
Highlights: December 2015 Auto Sales
Following are December auto sales highlights for each major automaker:
American Honda—Group sales were up 9.9% in December to 150,893 units, and for the year rose 2.6% to nearly 1.6 million units. Honda brand (+12.2%) delivered 134,070 units in December. The CR-V (+3.2%) set a new best in 2015, and Civic (+2.9%) sales improved, while the new Pilot was up 25%. Acura sales (-5.5%) slipped in December but posted a 5.6% gain in 2015 with strength from the TLX (+145%) and RDX (+13.7%).
BMW Group—BMW Group sales edged up 2.2% in 2015 to 405,677 units, although BMW (-16.6%) and Mini (-24.3%) took major hits in December. For the calendar year, BMW outperformed Lexus with sales of 346,023 units for another record. The X5 and performance M brand reached highs. Mini sales were off 24.3% in December but rose 4.3% in 2015.
Daimler AG—Group deliveries (including Sprinter) rose 3.8% in 2015 to 380,461 units. In December, Mercedes-Benz sales (minus Sprinter) rose a slight 0.6% to 34,203 units. The C-Class (-14.6%) remained the volume leader, but the G-Class and new GLE-Class posted gains. Sprinter Van deliveries rose 16.1% in 2015. Smart sales ended 2015 down 28.4%.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA)—Sales reached 1.7 million units (+7%) and were the best in nine years, according to the automaker. December sales (+13%) reached 217,527 units for the 69th straight monthly increase. The Jeep brand (+42%) remained the sales leader for FCA and logged best-ever monthly and annual sales. Five Jeep models, including the top-selling Cherokee (+36%), set records. December deliveries also rose for Dodge (+6%), Ram (+4%), and Fiat (+1%), but declined for Chrysler (-21%). The Dodge Durango, Charger, and Grand Caravan posted December gains.
Ford Motor Company—Ford delivered more than 2.6 million units in 2015 (+5.3%). December sales rose 8.2% to 239,242 units. Ford (+5.3%) remained the brand sales leader in 2015. December stars included the Fusion, Edge, Explorer, and Escape. Along with Ford crossovers, the Mustang (+48%) was a strong finisher in 2015. The Transit and Transit Connect vans also excelled. Some 85,000 F-Series pickups were sold in December, which gave Ford the best-selling pickup and model title in 2015. Lincoln had a good month (+12.1%) and year (+7.1%). The new MKX (+77%) and MKC bolstered totals.
General Motors—GM (+5%) sold 3.1 million units in 2015. December’s tally (+5.7%) was 290,230 units. All brands posted December gains: Buick (+1.7%); Cadillac (+28.7%); Chevrolet (+2.1%); and GMC (+13%). In 2015, only Buick (-1.7%) dipped, while Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC were up. Chevrolet (+4.5%) sold 2,125,347 units annually. Crossovers (+20%) were best sellers for Chevrolet with strength from the Traverse and Trax in 2015. The Encore (+38.2%) was Buick’s best-seller for 2015. The Silverado pickup had its best December since 2005 and was up 13.4% in 2015. Cadillac ATS, XTS, SRX, and Escalade saw double-digit gains. GM’s new midsize pickups—Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon—posted exponential increases. On the car side, Chevrolet’s Volt posted a 42% gain in December, and Malibu full-year deliveries were up 3.4%.
Hyundai Group—Group sales climbed 7.0% in December and were up 6.2% for calendar 2015. Hyundai (-1.5%) sales in December slipped to 63,508 unit sales despite healthy gains for the Santa Fe and Tucson. Kia (+19%) bolstered group sales in December and was led by the Optima and Soul.
Jaguar Land Rover—Combined brand sales soared 29.6% in December and were up 26.5% in 2015 due to Land Rover’s 46.7% gain. Jaguar (-28.9%) December deliveries dropped to contribute to a calendar year loss (-8.3%).
Mazda—December sales were the best for Mazda (+18.1%) since 1994, according to the company. Mazda finished 2015 up 4.4%.The CX-5 (+47.9%) celebrated another best month and was Mazda’s top seller.
Mitsubishi—Sales rose 20.5% in December and ended the year with sales up 22.8% over 2014—a best total since 2008. The redesigned Outlander (+76.6%) and Outlander Sport (+21.8%) dominated.
Nissan Group—Nissan Group (+18.7%) sold 139,300 units in December and nearly 1.5 million units in calendar 2015, setting new monthly and calendar-year records. Nissan brand (+17.9%) got a lift from Versa, Sentra, and the redone Maxima. Rogue and Murano were up by double digits. Infiniti (+25.7%) crossover sales were up a combined 64.5% in December and helped the Japanese luxury brand achieve a 13.8% gain in 2015.
Subaru—Subaru (+13%) set another monthly and yearly (+13%) sales record with the top-selling Forester and Outback contributing, and on the strength of strong WRX and STI sales.
Toyota Group—In 2015, Toyota Group (+5.3%) delivered 2.5 million new vehicles. December group sales surged 10.8% as the Toyota brand (+12.4%) sold 196,970 units. The Toyota RAV4 set December (+38.6%) and annual (+17.8%) records. The Highlander also set an annual record. On the car side, the Camry remained America’s best-selling car for a 14th straight year and the Corolla reported best-ever annual sales. Prius (-10.9%) sales fell for the year but rose (+4.6%) in December, while Scion’s new models boosted December totals (+44.4%), although Scion dropped (-3.2%) in 2015. Lexus (+3.8%) reported its best monthly total in the brand’s history with 41,380 unit sales in December and held the month’s luxury brand sales title—helped by demand for its SUVs (+26.5%).
Volkswagen Group—In 2015, VW Group sales gained a fraction of a point (+0.4%), mainly due to gains from Audi (+11.1%) with higher demand for the A3 and Q3, and from Porsche (+10.1%) with major growth from the Macan and Boxster. Due in part to the diesel emissions cheating debacle, VW brand sales dipped 9.1% in December and were down 4.8% for calendar 2015. In spite of the company’s struggles, Tiguan sales soared and Golf model sales were up.
Volvo—Sales rose 24.3% in 2015 to 70,047 units, with strong demand for the all-new XC90 and best-selling XC60 (+35.6%) SUVs. December deliveries climbed 89.9% from a year ago.
*There were 28 selling days in December 2015 vs. 26 days in December 2014. Sales percentage changes are unadjusted and based on actual totals.