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U.S. Auto Sales Finish Strong in December, Set Another Annual Record

U.S. Auto Sales Finish Strong in December, Set Another Annual Record

By Philly Murtha, January 04, 2017

U.S. new-vehicle sales in December 2016 were more robust than anticipated, tallying more than 1.6 million unit sales and helping automakers set another annual record. During the final month of 2016, two of the three Detroit-based automakers and Japan’s majors posted year-over-year sales increases. Even Europe’s largest automaker—the embattled Volkswagen Group—posted a double-digit improvement in December.

In calendar 2016, new-vehicle sales in the U.S. market surpassed 17.5 million units, eclipsing 2015 by more than 50,000 units. Demand for SUVs and pickups—along with substantial end-of-year incentives averaging as much as $4,000 per vehicle—helped automakers clear 2016 model-year vehicles.

America’s largest automaker, General Motors (+10%), reported one of its best December totals in a decade, while Ford Motor Co. (+0.1%) eked out a few extra unit sales in December to post a slight gain. Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) sales fell 10%, partly due to a reduction in rental car deliveries, the company said in a statement.

Among Japan’s majors, Nissan Group (+9.7%), American Honda (+6.4%), and Toyota Group (+2%) posted gains and set sales records bolstered by double-digit truck and SUV increases. South Korea’s Hyundai Group (-0.9%) sales dipped,  even with the Kia brand setting a record.

European automakers posted some records and declines. BMW (-5.4%) sales continued to slip in December, while Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz (-6.4%) also posted lower sales, although it was the luxury brand sales leader in 2016. Volkswagen Group (+16%) posted a major improvement from its three major brands. Jaguar Land Rover (+30%) made news with strength from a new Jaguar SUV. Additionally, among the three independents, Subaru (+12.3%) led, followed by Mitsubishi (+1%), while Mazda (-1.8%) slipped.

Highlights: December 2016 Auto Sales

Following are December 2016 new-vehicle sales highlights (based on actual totals) for each major automaker:

American Honda—Sales at American Honda (+6.4%) set a December record with 160,477 deliveries. Honda brand (+6.9%) sold 143,329 new units, while Acura (+1.9%) delivered 17,148 units in December. The CR-V set a record and the HR-V and new Ridgeline excelled. A redone MDX helped Acura post a best December. Honda also set a new record in 2016 (+4.8%) with 1,476,582 unit sales. Acura (-8.9%%) slipped from its performance in 2015.

BMW Group—BMW Group (-5.4%) delivered 37,493 units in December. BMW brand (-5.2%) sales totaled 32,835 units with gains from its best-selling 3 Series. Mini (-7%) sold 4,658 units. For the calendar year, BMW Group deliveries (-9.7%) fell to 365,204 units with BMW brand (-9.5%) sales of 313,174 units.

Daimler AG—Sales at Daimler Group (-4.8%) totaled 37,057 units. Mercedes-Benz (-6.4%) delivered 32,011 units with a gain from the C-Class (+4.6%). Van sales (-4.6%) slumped to 3,860 units, while Smart sales (+77.3%) rose. In 2016, Daimler Group sales (+0.1%) totaled 380,752 units, although Mercedes-Benz (-0.8%) brand deliveries of 340,237 were off slightly.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles—FCA US (-10%) posted another decline in December, selling 192,519 units. Ram trucks (+10%) were in demand, while Jeep (-6%)—including its Renegade, Grand Cherokee, Compass, and Wrangler SUVs—posted gains. Chrysler (-32%) sales plummeted, though Pacifica van sales increased again. Dodge (-21%) had two achievers: Challenger and Journey. Fiat (-54%) sales fell as did Alfa Romeo (-7%). For 2016, Ram and Jeep brands posted gains. FCA US 2016 sales were nearly flat, compared with 2015—2,244,315 unit sales.

Ford Motor Company—Deliveries at Ford edged up (+0.3%) to 239,854 units in December with F-Series (+2.7%) sales totaling 87,512 units. Ford brand (-0.6%) sold 227,063 units with double-digit climbs for the Edge, Flex, Expedition, and C-Max. Lincoln (+17.8%) pulled ahead with 12,791 deliveries led by the MKX, MKC, and MKT. Ford’s calendar-year sales reached 2,614,697 units—a best in a decade—while the Ford brand (-0.4%) held on to the overall nameplate title with sales of 2,502,973 units. Lincoln (+10%) sold 111,724 units in 2016.

General Motors—December sales at GM (+10%) rose to 319,108 units. All four brands posted gains, with Chevrolet leading (+12.8%). GMC (+5.8%), Cadillac (+3.2%), and Buick (+2.8%) followed. Best performers for the three smaller brands were SUV models: Buick Encore, Cadillac Escalade, and GMC Acadia. Flagship Chevrolet flourished with sales of 212,959 units and double-digit gains from the Camaro, Colorado, Corvette, Equinox, Impala, Malibu, Suburban, Tahoe, Traverse, Trax, and Volt. The new Bolt EV posted 579 deliveries. In 2016, GM deliveries slipped 1.3% to 3,042,775 units and Chevrolet sales dipped 1.4% to 2,096,510 units.

Hyundai Group—Combined sales at Hyundai Group slipped (-0.9%) to 116,658 units. Kia (+0.2%), led by the Soul, delivered 54,353 units. Hyundai (-1.9%) deliveries fell despite a best December for the Santa Fe and gains for most models. Premium Genesis brand sold 1,733 units for the month. In 2016, Hyundai (+1.8%) sold 775,005 units and Kia (+3.5%) capped off the year with a record 647,598 unit sales. Genesis delivered 6,948 units in its first few months as a new, stand-alone brand.

Jaguar Land Rover—Tata Motors’ premium brands set December (+30%) and calendar 2016 (+24%) records. In 2016, deliveries reached 105,104 units with triple-digit growth from Jaguar and its new F-Pace SUV. Land Rover sales improved 5% to 73,861 units.

Mazda—December sales at Mazda (-1.8%) slipped to 28,754 units, despite gains for crossovers (CX-5 and CX-9) and the MX-5 Miata. Calendar-year deliveries dipped 6.7% to 297,773 units.

Mitsubishi—Mitsubishi’s December sales slipped 6.4% to 7,383 units, but reached 96,267 units in 2016 (+1%).

Nissan Group—Nissan Group (+9.7%) delivered 152,743 units with truck and SUV sales climbing 35.6%. Nissan brand (+8.3%) sold 134,545 units with December records for the Rogue and Pathfinder. The Titan, Armada, Murano, and Leaf EV also boosted deliveries. Luxury Infiniti (+20.6%) sales surged with all but two models posting double-digit gains. For the year, Nissan Group deliveries rose 5.4% to more than 1.56 million units, and Rogue was Nissan’s best-selling model.

Subaru—Subaru (+12.3%) set December and calendar-year (+5.6%) records. Deliveries in 2016 totaled 615,132 units with the Outback and Crosstrek posting best month totals in December.

Toyota Group—December sales at Toyota Group (+2%) increased to 243,229 units. Toyota brand (+2.6%) delivered 202,047 units in December. Highlander, 2RAV4, and 4Runner SUVs set records for the month and year. The Camry remained the best-selling passenger-car model in the United States. Premium Lexus (-0.5%) sold 41,183 units in December, with strength from the NX, RX, and GX SUVs. For 2016, Toyota Group (-2%) sales declined to 2,449,630 units and Toyota brand sales (-1.7%) dipped to 2,118,402 units. Lexus (-3.9%) sales fell to 331,228 units.

Volkswagen Group—VW Group (+16%) sales increased to 64,932 units. VW (+20.3%) brand sold 37,229 units, with gains for the Tiguan, Golf, and Passat. Audi (+13.7%) delivered 23,195 units in December and set a calendar-year record (+4%). Porsche’s sales rose 79 units to 4,015 units in December, led by the Macan. The German sports car brand also set a calendar-year record.

Volvo—Sales at Volvo (+8.4%) in December rose to 10,129 units, and full-year sales of 82,724 represented an 18.1% increase from 2015 for the Swedish automaker.

Additional Research:

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