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U.S. Auto Sales Slow in February despite Continued Truck Demand

U.S. Auto Sales Slow in February despite Continued Truck Demand

By Philly Murtha, March 01, 2017

U.S. auto sales were less resilient in February than anticipated, despite big discounts and solid demand on the truck side. Overall February 2017 car sales fell 1.1% compared with the same month last year. On the positive side, General Motors (GM), American Honda Motor Co., and Nissan North America reported new-car sales gains from a year ago. Volkswagen Group, plus the premium German nameplates and three independent brands, also posted sales increases. However, Ford Motor Co. (Ford) and Toyota Group reported lower tallies.

In mid-February, the month’s new-vehicle deliveries (retail and fleet) were projected to rise a fraction of a point from a year ago to near 1.35 million units, according to a sales update from J.D. Power and auto forecasting partner LMC Automotive.

Among the Detroit Three, only GM (+4.2%) reported a gain in February. Ford Motor Co. (-4%) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) (-10.1%) sales fell from last year, despite demand for their trucks and SUVs. Japan’s majors also posted mixed results. Nissan Group (+3.7%) set a sales record and Honda Group (+2.3%) deliveries improved, while Toyota Group (-7.2%) sales lagged for a second straight month. Hyundai Motor (-6.9%) sales also slipped.

European automakers posted better results than their domestic and Asian counterparts. BMW brand (+0.3%) sales rose and Mercedes-Benz (+6.9%) set a February record. Volkswagen Group (+14.5%) brands posted gains on the heels of its diesel-emissions cheating violation settlements. Jaguar Land Rover (+16.4%) gained momentum with sales of the new F-Pace. All three independents posted increases, with demand for their SUVs.

Highlights: February 2017 Auto Sales

Following are February 2017 new-vehicle sales highlights (based on actual totals) for each major automaker:

American Honda Motor Co.—Sales at American Honda (+2.3%) edged up to 121,686 units, a February record for the company. Honda brand (+4.3%) delivered 110,882 new vehicles during the month, while Acura (-14.9%) sales fell to 10,864 units, despite strength for the RDX compact crossover SUV. Honda also set February benchmarks for the CR-V and HR-V and got a boost from the new Ridgeline pickup.

BMW of North America—Although BMW of North America (-2.5%) sold 24,712 units, BMW brand (+0.3%) sales rose by 60 units to 22,558 new vehicles with momentum from the 5 Series and X1, X3, and X5 SUVs. Mini (-24.1%) totals declined to 2,154 units despite strong demand for the Clubman.

Daimler AG—Sales of Daimler AG (+6.8%) vehicles were 27,383 units, with Mercedes-Benz (+6.9%) turning in a best premium brand performance for the month: 24,522 unit sales. Strong sellers included the C-Class (+0.7%), E-Class (+28.6%), and GLE (+1.7%). Sprinter van (+10.8%) sales totaled 2,513 units and Smart (-17.5%) delivered 348 units.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles—FCA US (-10.1%) deliveries slumped to 168,326 units last month, despite strength from Ram trucks (+4%). Jeep (-15%) sales faltered despite solid gains for the Grand Cherokee and Renegade. Chrysler (-28%), Dodge (-7%), and Fiat (-19%) brands suffered even with gains from the Dodge Challenger, Journey, and Viper, and for the new Chrysler Pacifica minivan. Fiat Spider and Alfa Romeo bolstered totals.

Ford Motor Co.—February was soft for Ford (-4%). Sales slipped to 208,440 units (including heavy trucks), despite gains for SUVs (+6%), F-Series (+8.7%) to 65,956 pickups, and the Lincoln brand (+8.8%). Ford brand (-4.5%) sold 199,696 units but set a record for the Escape and a double-digit increase for the Expedition. Car deliveries fell 24% with gains only for the Taurus and Fiesta. Lincoln sold 8,744 units, led by the MKC, MKX, and Continental.

General Motors—February deliveries at GM (+4.2%) rose to 237,388 units. Chevrolet (+3.4%) and GMC (+17.2%) posted gains from a year ago, with increased demand for SUVs and large pickups. All GMC models posted gains. On the car side, Chevrolet reported strong performances for its EVs—the Volt and new Bolt—in addition to the Cruze and Spark. The Trax and Equinox SUVs also posted February bests. In contrast, Buick (-9.4%) and Cadillac (-8.6%) stumbled, despite double-digit increases for the Buick Cascada and Encore and momentum for the Cadillac XT5.

Hyundai Motor—Collectively, Hyundai and Kia (-6.9%) sales declined to 95,693 units. However, Hyundai brand (+0.0%) with its new Genesis luxury brand (1,582 units) sold 11 more units for a February record of 53,020 unit sales. The Hyundai Santa Fe and Elantra posted double-digit gains. Kia (-14.2%) sales declined to 42,673 units, with a best performance from the Forte and a boost from the new Niro crossover, which sold 2,143 units.

Jaguar Land Rover—Jaguar Land Rover (+16.4%) was supported by demand for Jaguar’s new F-Pace. Jaguar sales doubled to 3,484 units in February, while Land Rover (-10.4%) sales declined to 5,747 units.

Mazda—February sales for Mazda (+5.9%) rose to 22,824 units, with a best month since 2006 for the MX-5 Miata and a threefold gain for the CX-9 SUV.

Mitsubishi—February deliveries at Japanese automaker Mitsubishi (+38.8%) were the best since 2005—10,924 units, with the Outlander up 72.8%. The Mirage and Lancer also improved.

Nissan North America—Nissan North America (+3.7%) sales rose to 135,740 units, with another 22% gain for SUVs and trucks. Nissan brand (+1.2%) delivered 122,003 units and set a February record with the top-volume Rogue dominating (+53.7%). The Pathfinder (+24%) set a February record. The Titan and Armada also posted triple-digit gains. Infiniti (+32.5%) bolstered group totals with 13,737 unit sales and a demand jump for the new Q60 plus its premium SUV models (+43.4%).

Subaru—Subaru (+8.3%) was on a roll with its 63rd consecutive month of year-over-year growth, selling 45,500 units with bests for the Outback, Forester, and Crosstrek.

Toyota Motor Sales—February sales at Toyota Motor (-7.2%) totaled 174,399 units with the Toyota brand (-5.4%) posting 156,001 deliveries and premium Lexus (-20.6%) tallying only 18,338 sales in February. The Toyota Yaris was the only car model to post strength, although total SUV deliveries were up 14.3% with improvements for the RAV4 and double-digit gains for the Highlander, 4Runner, Sequoia, and Land Cruiser. Meanwhile, Toyota delivered fewer Camrys and Tundras than a year ago, and none of Lexus’ range of models posted gains from February 2016.

Volkswagen Group—VW Group (+13.3%) sales totaled 42,766 units, rising after the company resolved much of its diesel engine emissions cheating scandal settlements. VW brand (+12.7%) posted 25,145 unit sales with strong performances for the Golf family variants, Tiguan, and Beetle. Audi (+17.3%) delivered 13,201 units and set a February sales record with demand for its SUVs rising 36%. SUVs make up 50% of Audi’s sales and the Q5 was the volume leader. Porsche (+2.1%) sold 3,637 units and saw strong demand for the Macan.

Volvo—Sales (-11.6%) at the Swedish automaker dipped again in February to 4,651 units.

Additional Research:

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