* See the Top 279 models, Top 40 brands and Top 15 groups by clicking on the title *
As is the tradition on BSCB, after detailed November results, we now zoom in on the year-to-date sales charts to extract longer-term trends. Overall the US new light vehicle market is up 6% so far in 2014 to 15.02 million units and with just one month to go. 2014 will be the strongest sales year in the country since 2007, sanctioning 5 consecutive years of sales increase, a winning stretch we had only seen happen once in the past 80 years: from from 1996 to 2000. The record is 8 straight years of growth from 1909 to 1917. The groups ranking is pretty much cemented for the year with General Motors holding the top spot with 2.66 million sales (+4%) ahead of Ford Motor at 2.25 million (-1%) and Toyota Motor at 2.16 million (+6%) while Fiat Chrysler is up 16% to 1.9 million. The top of the brands ranking is not as certain: below Ford at 1.99 million, Chevrolet should remain #2 by the time 2014 comes to an end but its advantage over Toyota has thawed to 15,492 units from 17,786 last month.
1. Mercedes now almost certain to finish 2014 as #1 premium brand.
A tight race is the one for the title of #1 premium brand in the country. Actually it was tight up until this month. After 11 months, Mercedes leads with 318,837 sales, up 7% on the same period in 2013. It has taken a definitive advantage over BMW in November (+6,091 sales), extending the gap to 20,625 units even though BMW has gained more ground YOY at +10%. BMW’s flagship (3-4 Series) is up 19% so far, but the X4 has arrived too late in the year to have a real impact. Back at Mercedes, the C-Class loss (-18%) has been more than compensated by a great-performing SUV range (M-Class +12%, GLK +13%) and the arrival of the ultra-successful compact CLA (25,000 units) and GLA (5,000 sales). Plus the S-Class doubled its sales this year. 2014 would be the 2nd consecutive year Mercedes takes the #1 premium brand spot when 2013 was the first time it ever did so. It should remain on top in 2015 as its flagship, the new generation C-Class, gears up, the GLA gains momentum and the GLE targets the BMW X6.
As a reminder, BMW held the premium top spot in 2011 and 2012 whereas Lexus was leader for 11 consecutive years before then. Hit by Toyota’s recall issues a few years back, Lexus is climbing back the ladder from a distance, up 14% to 271,510 sales so far this year. Just below in the premium ranking, a very momentous event is taking place: thanks to sales up 15% to a record 162,773 units, Audi has overtaken Cadillac (down 6% to 154,600) for the first time in the history of automobile in the USA! This means there is no US premium brand in the Top 4 for the first time ever. The last time Cadillac topped the premium sales charts at home was in 1997.
2. Two novel brand battles
In anticipation for 2015, let’s single out two brand battles that never before occurred on US ground because one of the contestants is evolving at all-time record highs. Jeep is up 44% so far in 2014 to a record 629,074 units partly thanks to the runaway success of the all-new Cherokee. This means it is up two spots on 2013 to #7 overall, overtaking Dodge and Kia in the process. However both in October and November it also outsold Hyundai to rank #6. Jeep is too far below Hyundai year-to-date (32.137 units) to have any hope of overtaking the Korean manufacturer in the next month, but 2015 will be very open.
After 36 straight months of monthly YOY gains, Subaru has earned a spot among America’s 10 favourite brands for the first time. It ranks #10 after 11 months, one spot higher than a year ago, with sales up 21% to 463,770 deliveries. During 4 of the past 5 months (July, August, October and November), Subaru also outsold the #9 in the YTD ranking, embattled American brand Dodge, down 4% so far in 2014. Same situation as above, it is too late for Subaru to pass Dodge in 2014, but longer-term trends say it will do so in 2015 and could also tease Kia to the overall 8th spot…
3. Who will round up the 2014 U.S. models podium?
The suspense is becoming properly unbearable. After 334 days in 2014, the Toyota Camry sold 396,988 units (+5%) while the Ram Pickup was at 395,567 (+23%), a tiny 1,421 sales (0.35%) below compared to 8,440 a month ago. The Ram outsold the Camry for the last 3 months in a row: by 8,105 units in September, 6,670 in October and 7,019 units in November. The logic would say the Ram will edge past the Camry in the last couple of weeks of the year to snatch the #3 spot. Not that simple. December is a little unpredictable as skewed by end-of -year promotions, however the Camry has just been facelifted for the 2015 model year and dealers will be reluctant to incentivise it too hard. On the other hand, record-low petrol price will favour the Ram as well as all other pickups and SUVs in the market and disadvantage passenger cars. I predict the Ram Pickup will take third place in the Full Year 2014 ranking and therefore make the 2014 U.S. models podium 100% pickup trucks (1. F-Series 2. Silverado 3. Ram) for only the second time in the past two decades (along with 2003).
4. Can the Honda CR-V outsell the Toyota Corolla and Nissan Altima to rank at a record #6?
SUV and crossovers have been selling like hotcakes in the U.S. this year, and an illustration of this trend is the record 4th place of the Honda CR-V in November, the first time a crossover ever outsells all passenger cars in the country, including perennial leader the Toyota Camry. Since its mid-cycle refresh a couple of months ago, the CR-V has been going from strength to strength and breaking monthly volume records. As a result, while it ranked #10 at end-August it has since passed the Ford Fusion and its stablemate the Honda Civic up to #8 with one month left to go. And it could go further up. The CR-V stands a mere 663 units below the 7th placed Nissan Altima whereas it outsold it by… 9,544 sales in November. The gap with 6th placed Toyota Corolla is 6,723 vs. an advantage of 6,769 for the CR-V in November. All doable, but very tight indeed. I’ll take a risk and say the CR-V will outsell them both and finish the year at #6.
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Full 11 months 2014 Top 279 models, Top 40 brands & Top 15 groups Ranking Tables below.