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Strong December Car Sales Boost Industry to Record Year

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.

At the corporate level, in December, Nissan Group (+18.7%) posted the best monthly gain, while Volvo (+89.9%) reported the best brand-level increase. For the year, Jaguar Land Rover (+26.5%) posted the best increase, followed by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (+7.3%). Lexus was the December luxury brand sales leader, although BMW held on to the premium sales crown in 2015.

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.
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