Despite the harsh weather currently affecting the country, most US analysts now forecast new light vehicle sales to start with a bang in 2015 with a year-on-year gain of at least 12% in January to reach a Seasonaly Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) of 16.4 to 16.6 million units vs. 15.3 million a year ago. This would be the biggest year-on-year monthly gain since August 2013. General Motors predicts sales up 20% and both Ford and FCA also are aiming at double-digit gains. Final figures will be published on BSCB on Wednesday.
* See the Top 15 groups, Top 40 brands and Top 281 All-models by clicking on the title *
Thanks to blockbuster sales in Decmeber, the US new light vehicle market ends 2014 on a high: up a very robust 6% to 16,531,070 registrations – almost one million more than in 2013! This marks the fifth consecutive year of growth after hitting a 27-year low of 10.4 million in 2009. Seems mundane enough, but the only other time in the past 80 years that the US market enjoyed a 5 year growth run was from 1996 to 2000. The record is 8 straight years of growth from 1909 to 1917. With fuel prices hitting a 6-year low towards the end of the year, 2014 was pulled up by light trucks: crossovers (+13%), SUVs (+8%) and pickup trucks (+7%) all outperformed the market while passenger cars were up just 2%. Sales of light trucks were above passenger cars each and every month of the year, an event we haven’t seen occur since 2003.
A perfect illustration of this trend and confirmation of the trend towards pre-recession buying patterns: the Top 3 best-selling nameplates in the country are all pickup trucks for the first time since 2003 and only the second time in the past two decades. 2014 was a daunting year for the Ford F-Series: a risky transition to the aluminium bodied 2015 F-150 required both its plants to be idled and stocks of the outgoing model to be managed extremely carefully with incentives a lot sparser than usual. It did limit the damage, becoming the best-selling vehicle in the country for the 33rd consecutive year (no interruption since 1982!) with sales down just 1% to 753,851 units, a very comfortable 224,000 unit-margin over the #2, the Chevrolet Silverado up 10% to 529,755 sales. Along with the GMC Sierra up 15% to 211,833, GM’s full-size pickup line come close (741,588) to matching the F-Series and outsold it each of the last 5 months of the year.
The pickup success story of the year is without a doubt the Ram Pickup, which I had the chance to drive across the country from New York to LA this year. Bolstered by a new 1500 ecoDiesel variant that smashed all full-size pickup fuel economy records, it is the fastest-growing nameplate in the Top 20, up 24% to 439,789 units, edging past the Toyota Camry in the last weeks of the year to notch a podium finish for the first time since 2003. Now that the pickup segment is back to pre-recession volumes, it splits again into two sub-segments: the mid-sized Chevrolet Colorado (8,003 sales) and GMC Canyon (3,070) were reborn this year and will climb much higher in 2014, potentially threatening mid-size leader the Toyota Tacoma (#29).
The Toyota Camry is the best-selling passenger car in the US for the 13th year in a row thanks to sales up 5% to 428,606, keeping a safe 40,000-unit distance from the Honda Accord (+6%). It is the 17th time in the past 18 years the Toyota Camry is America’s favourite, with the Ford Taurus (1995, 1996) and Honda Accord (2001) the only other two winning nameplates in the past two decades. A testimony of the market’s strength this year, no less than 13 brands established all-time annual US sales records in 2014: Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Jeep, Kia, Subaru, Ram, Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Land Rover, Porsche and Maserati.
The analysis continues below.
Previous year: USA Full Year 2013: Ford F-Series at its best since 2006
USA Full Year 2014 Top 15 groups, Top 40 brands and Top 281 All-models vs. Full 2013 figures below.
* See the Top 275 All-models, Top 40 brands & 15 groups by clicking on the title *
An improving economy, fuel prices at 6 year-lows and very advantageous year-end deals: all conditions were reunited for US car buyers to flock to dealerships in December. And they did, propelling new light vehicle December sales up 11% year-on-year to 1.507.928 and lifting the 2014 figure up 6% to 16.5 million deliveries. Looking at automotive groups, General Motors (+19%), Toyota (+13%), FCA (+20%) and Hyundai-Kia (+14%) all lodge double-digit year-on-year growth while Ford (+1%) Honda (+1%) and Nissan (+7%) lose market share.
Brand-wise, Chevrolet is up a stellar 20% to take a definitive advantage over Toyota (+13%) in the final 2014 ranking, Jeep is faithful to month after month of explosive growth at +19%, GMC is up 23%, Subaru up 24% and Ram up 35%. And that’s just the Top 10… Further down, notice Kia up 36%, Lexus up 15%, Chrysler up 53%, Buick up 32% and Alfa Romeo already climbing one spot up the ladder, overtaking Rolls-Royce to rank #38 with 67 units sold.
While the Ford F-Series is waiting out its transition period to the new aluminum-bodied 2015 F-150 (-0.3% on December 2013), the Chevrolet Silverado (up 36% to 57,837 sales) and the GMC Sierra (up 31% to 23,436 both deliver their best monthly results since August 2007, meaning GM’s full-size pickup line outsells the Ford F-Series for the 5th month running at 81,273 sales vs. 74,355. In other great pickup news, the Ram Pickup hits its best monthly score since July 2005 at 44,222 sales, up 32%, thus securing the #3 spot overall in 2014. The Honda CR-V is virtually immobile vs. last month, tying its best-ever monthly ranking at #4 overall, outselling all passenger cars in the market for the second month running (and ever) and lodging the nameplate’s 5th best-ever monthly tally at 32,369.
The Nissan Altima (+30%) is the best-selling passenger car in the country for only the third time ever after March 2013 and February 2014 at #5 above the Toyota Camry (+6%) and Honda Accord (-2%). The Toyota Corolla is up a beautiful 34% YOY at #8 and the Chrysler 200 hits its 2nd best-ever monthly volume at 16,229 units (+187%) thanks to the 2015 model. But the most impressive performance of all is the works of the BMW 3/4 Series smashing the all-time record it hit exactly one year ago in December 2013: up 16% to 19,464 sales in 15th position.
Further down in the ranking, the Jeep Cherokee lodges a third consecutive month inside the Top 20, the Ford Transit finally breaks its ties now that the E-Series it replaces has been discontinued: up 107% and 33 spots on November to break into the Top 50 for the first time and pass the 10,000 monthly-unit milestone at #45 and 10,030 sales. The Ford Mustang is up 66% to #49, the BMW X5 up 212% to #75, the Lexus NX up to #123 with 2,905 units for its first full month of sales and the Chevrolet Trax lands at #199. In the medium-size pickup revived segment, the Chevrolet Colorado is up 71% on last month to 4,037 units at #99 while the GMC Canyon is up 80% to 1,533 sales at #167. If the Toyota Tacoma is still a fair bit ahead (#31 at 14,284 sales), the Nissan Frontier (#75 – 6,060 units) is now a locked-down target for the Colorado.
Previous post: USA 11 months 2014: Discover the Top 279 All-models
Previous month: USA November 2014: Best November score since 2001
One year ago: USA December 2013: BMW 3 Series breaks all-time record
Full December 2014 Top 275 All-models, Top 40 brands & 15 groups below.
The average fuel price in the U.S. has fallen to $2.47 a gallon, down from a peak of $3.69 in April and dropping below $2.50 for the first time since October 2009. Gas prices in many places in middle of the country have even dipped below $2 a gallon. Missouri, close to the geographic centre of the U.S., is where drivers can find the cheapest gas as of today, according to GasBuddy.com. “As of this morning, there are 24 states with prices under $2 a gallon. But Missouri is lowest,” GasBuddy’s senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan told USA Today on Friday. The last time gas hit $1.99 a gallon in Missouri was June 2009. “It’s not guaranteed, of course. But we think they’ll drop a little more, 5 to 15 cents a gallon,” he said. Areas east of Nashville, Tennessee, also are reporting prices of less than $2.
Lower fuel prices — caused by OPEC’s decision to play the short game against United States oil production — is putting more money into the pockets of consumers, who are, in turn, using the savings to buy new vehicles, including SUVs, CUVs and trucks. The new-car rush is lifting December sales to its highest levels in over a decade. J.D. Power and LMC Automotive both forecast a gargantuan 10.4% year-on-year increase in December, also predicting that this year will close at 16.5 million and that 2015 will see 17 million units sold for the first time since 2001.
Is the fuel price situation going to get better? American Automobile Association travel analysts think so. They estimate that current gas prices are likely to drop as much as 7 cents by Christmas and possibly 7 more cents by New Year’s. Automotive News agrees and reports that by New Year’s Day, gasoline could be selling for as much as $2.25 to $2.40 nationally, a seasonal low not seen since 2008. But because of higher fuel taxes, some states won’t crack the $2 barrier. 13 states, many in the South, have gas taxes of less than 40 cents a gallon, according to the American Petroleum Institute. For 17 states gas taxes are more than 50 cents a gallon. Among the states with the highest gas taxes: California at 68.87 cents, New York at 68.65 cents and Hawaii at 66.29 cents. The rock-bottom lowest gas tax? Alaska at 30.8 cents a gallon.
U.S. December and Full Year 2014 sales figures will be available on 5 January 2015.
* 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.
Previous post: USA November 2014: Best November score since 2001
Previous month: USA 10 months 2014: Discover the Top 275 best-selling models
Full 11 months 2014 Top 279 models, Top 40 brands & Top 15 groups Ranking Tables below.
* UPDATED See the Top 270 models, Top 40 brands & Top 15 groups by clicking on the title *
The good news keep rolling on for the US new light vehicle market, up another 5% year-on-year in November to 1.302.655 deliveries, lifting the year-to-date total to 15.023.111 units, up 6% on 2013. More significantly, this is the best November volume since 2001 and corresponds to an annualised sales rate (SAAR) of 17.2 million units, only the 2nd time since early 2006 that the SAAR crosses the symbolic 17 million milestone – the only other time was last August. This increase is solely due to the regained interest of American consumers towards pickups and SUVs as petrol price plummet to their lowest level in 4 years, with light truck volume up 9% year-on-year (pickups: +11%) while car deliveries are down 0.1%. Other piece of good news: the average transaction price is also on the rise at $33,754, up 2% on November 2013. Of course not all manufacturers fare the same way in November…
General Motors is back in positive territory this month at +6% leading the groups ranking by far, while Ford is handicapped by the F-150 changeover and drops 2% – its 4th consecutive monthly decline – now threatened for 2nd place by Toyota (+7%). Without the F-Series, Ford Group sales would be up 2%. Ford’s market share fell to 14.3% from 15.3% in November 2013 and has declined YOY every month in 2014 except July. Reversely, at #4 Fiat Chrysler lodges a 56th consecutive month of YOY gains at +20%, and some of the strongest sales gains came from vehicles that were either new or redesigned onto Fiat platforms, such as the Jeep Cherokee, Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart. Volkswagen Group is up 10% and Subaru delivers the biggest increase at +24% – its 36th straight month of YOY gains.
Onto the brands ranking, and if Ford leads the way it however drops 3% whereas the next 3 brands are all on the up: Toyota overtakes Chevrolet to rank #2 while Honda remains #4. Jeep manages to outsell Hyundai for the second consecutive month in 6th place thanks to sales up 27%, GMC is up 23% to crack the Top 10, Ram is up 31%, Chrysler up 30%, Buick up 27%, Audi up 22%, Lincoln up 21% thanks to the new MKC, Porsche up 18% and Maserati up 36%. Finally we welcome the return of Alfa Romeo in the US in November, appearing in the sales charts for the first time since 1995 with 24 units of the all-new 4C sport coupe sold.
Model-wise, Ford F-Series sales are now clearly affected by the changeover to the 2015 F-150 models: down 10% in November to 59,049 deliveries. The company began shipping the new F-150 to dealers a week before Thanksgiving and has delivered “a handful” of them to customers so far, said its chief sales analyst Erich Merkle, reported by Automotive News. John Felice, Ford’s vice president for US marketing, said Ford is working to maintain a “delicate balance” with incentives on the outgoing model until the new version is more widely available to avoid running low. Taking advantage of the situation and lower fuel prices, all other full-size pickups progress by 20% or more in November: the GMC Sierra is up 57%, the Chevrolet Silverado up 24% – meaning GM full-size pickups outsold the F-Series for the 4th month running at 65,343 deliveries – and the Ram Pickup is up 21% to a new November record of 35,865 units, boosted by sales of the Ram 1500 up 30%.
The freshly redesigned Honda CR-V is up a fantastic 38% to land at a record 4th place with 32,378 sales, its 4th best-ever monthly total. Perfectly illustrating the trend towards SUV and crossover and away from sedans, the CR-V outsells all passenger cars for the first time ever, kicking the Toyota Camry down to #5, just above the Corolla up 14% and the Ford Escape up 22% to its best-ever November score at 25,528 units. The Jeep Cherokee posts a 2nd straight month inside the overall Top 20 at a best-ever #17, the brand’s best-seller for the third consecutive month, up 67% to 16,945 units. The Chevrolet Cruze (+26%), Ford Explorer (+24%) and Nissan Rogue (+44%) also shine.
Further down, the redesigned Chrysler 200 increases 2.5-fold year-on-year to post its best-ever November score at #24 with 14,317 sales, the Subaru Outback is up 60% to #25, the Mercedes C-Class is up 10 spots on October to #39, the Dodge Dart surprisingly breaks its all-time monthly record over 2 years after launch at #42 and 9,012 sales and the Ford Mustang is up 62% year-on-year and 38 ranks on last month to deliver its best November since 2006 at #45 and 8,728 units.
Among recent launches, the all-new GM mid-size pickups continue making their way up the ladder: the Chevrolet Colorado is up 59% on October to 2,366 deliveries at #128 while the GMC Canyon is up a more discreet 28% to 854 units and #187. The Ford Transit replaces the E-Series as the best-selling full-sized van at #78 and 4,851 sales, the Kia Sedona breaks into the Top 100 at #98 and sees its sales up 7-fold on November 2013 thanks to the new model and the BMW X4 is up 12 spots to #206. We welcome no less than 4 new nameplates in the US ranking this month: the Lexus RC at #185 with 880 sales, the Alfa Romeo 4C (#258), Chevrolet City Express (#259) and Lexus NX (#260).
Previous post: US Exclusive: Ford shares F-Series production mix for 2014
Previous US strategy post: How fracking is boosting US heavy duty pickup sales
Previous month: USA October 2014: Honda CR-V up 30% to 5th place
Full November 2014 Top 270 models, Top 40 brands and Top 15 groups Ranking Tables below.
* See the 2014 F-150 and Super Duty monthly production figures by clicking on the title *
Exclusive data communicated by Ford Motor Corporation USA shows for the first time the production mix for the F-Series nameplate, namely separating the F-150 full-size pickup from the Super Duty variants (F-250 and up). During my ongoing USA Coast to Coast 2014 series, I have repeatedly pointed out the surprising strength of the F-250 and F-350 in some towns like Savannah for example. JATO Dynamics state by state data has confirmed these observations, with the Ford F-250 Super Duty even finding its way among the 5 best-selling nameplates in Texas (#5), Oklahoma (#4) and New Mexico (#5).
Ford does not communicate the F-Series sales mix. Why? Because doing so could cost the nameplate the overall U.S. sales crown it has held for the past 32 consecutive years. So far this year at end October, a total of 783.583 F-Series pickup trucks have been spit out of Ford factories. 67.5% of them (528.958) were F-150, the rest or 32.5% (254.626) were Super Duty pickups: the F-250 and up. This production mix is higher for the Super Duty variants than I had expected and confirms the exceptional strength of higher variants at the moment, a trend that should continue on the way up partly because of a once-in-a-lifetime surge in heavy duty pickup sales triggered by the fracking boom the country is experiencing at the moment. (see STRATEGY How US fracking is boosting heavy duty pickup sales)
Production data is always a good indication of sales for US pickup trucks as these are sold almost exclusively in North America. Indeed YTD F-Series sales across USA+Canada come to 727,059 units, logically under the production figure as most of 2014 was spent in over capacity for the outgoing F-150 to prepare for the successive idling of both F-150 factories to upgrade tooling for the aluminium 2015 model. Things start to get interesting if we zoom in on U.S. sales figures where the F-Series totals 620,447 units vs. 429,119 for the Silverado. Applying the 67.5% production ratio to estimate F-150 U.S. sales gives us a total of 418,802 units, actually below the Silverado.
There are a few asterisks to this though. Firstly, the F-Series overall production mix may not be applicable exactly as is to U.S. sales. Secondly, you can argue the Silverado is also divided into full-size (1500) and super duty (2500 and above) pickups and would therefore need to split their sales as well to be ‘fair’. I say the F-150 may in fact not be the best-selling nameplate in the country, especially given that with the 2015 model now in dealerships, differences with the Super Duty F-250 variants and above are much more significant than between Silverado 1500 and Super Duty 2500 and above. It’s actually not the same vehicle at all anymore.
Another element brought to light by Ford’s production figures is the idling of the Dearborn Truck Plant for almost two months. This was no joke: production stopped (zero units produced) in September and only ramped up to 2,688 in October. Meanwhile the Kansas City plant continued to spit out F-150 unhinged but will now be idled to allow conversion for the 2015 model. The first ‘consumer’ version of the 2015 F-150 pickup came out of the Dearborn production line on November 11. (see USA November 2014: 2015 F-150 production debuts) As a result, and this is of course a one-off event due to the transition between the 2014 and 2015 F-150, production of Super Duty variants came dangerously close to the F-150 both in September (28,587 vs. 29,685) and October (29,783 vs. 33,219). Note the Super Duty hit its strongest two production months of the year then.
Ford making more Super Duty F-Series to smooth out the transition to the new F-150? Makes sense.
2014 Monthly production data for F-150 and Super Duty by plant below.
A recent article published on the U.S. version of Automotive News brings to light a fascinating recent development on the new heavy duty pickup market. An ongoing explosion of domestic energy production — primarily from a highly controversial extraction process commonly called fracking — is transforming rural communities across North America. Local farmers and landowners can lease the mineral rights to their property for one-time payments of $4,000 an acre or more. More money — much more, in the form of residual payments — is expected in the coming decades. Result: both the companies involved in fracking in these areas and the newly cashed-up local landowners are rushing to car dealerships to buy heavy duty pickups at an unprecedented rate.
This has prompted Automotive News to declare: “Considering the staggering number of heavy-duty pickups sold in fracking areas, neither factories nor dealers can afford to miss this opportunity. If automakers want to take full advantage, they should precede energy exploration companies into areas where shale plays are happening to make sure their rural dealerships are also up to speed.”
Autonews reporters visited Marietta OH and this is what they saw: “Until 2013, median household income here trailed the nation’s average by more than one-third at $33,445. Yet for more than a year, fracking has sent gushers of cash into the community. Here hotels are full. Restaurants are booming. The city’s median household income shot up more than 20% in one year to a 2013 estimate of $40,286, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. At Marietta’s auto dealerships, the increase in business has been immediate and dramatic. “Three months ago, we couldn’t get them financed on a $5,000 car,” Marietta dealer Jim Cobb says of one of his recent Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram customers. “Suddenly, they come in and buy a $60,000 truck and pay you cash for it.”
Autonews continues: “Before long, according to government estimates, these same changes will come to vast swaths of the continental United States and Canada. Appalachia, the Great Lakes basin, the mid-Atlantic, the Gulf Coast, the central plains, Texas — all are home to shale deposits thought to contain extractable oil and natural gas. It is a boom — with all the good and bad the term entails — that also has hit West Virginia, Colorado, North Dakota and elsewhere. And while fracking’s short- and long-term environmental impact on vital resources such as groundwater remain under intense debate, there is no doubt its economic impact is changing the fortunes of auto dealers as well as their customers.
“It’s kind of a heartwarming scene when you’ve got somebody that’s never bought a new vehicle in their life, and all of a sudden they’ve got a million dollars,” says Jeff Summers, who holds the Buick-GMC franchises in Marietta. “It’s kind of nice to be able to deliver them a brand-new truck, and that’s the first new vehicle that they’ve ever owned.”
More detail below.
* See the Top 275 best-selling models, Top 38 brands and Top 15 groups by clicking on the title! Now with complete analysis *
As is the tradition on BSCB, after exploring the US sales charts for October, we look into the year-to-date rankings to try and extract longer term trends. In October the US new light vehicle market has stabilised at a sturdy 6% year-on-year growth, the same rate it displays year-to-date at 13.72 million units. Lifted by GMC gaining 9% on 2013, General Motors accentuates its advantage over Ford in the groups rankings, adding up to 2.43 million units in 10 months vs. 2.06 million (-1%). Toyota Motor Corporation goes with the market at +6% to 1.97 million sales and though FCA Fiat Chrysler is catching up (+15%) it is still 250,000 units below vs. 370,000 a year ago. Nissan Motor (+13%) passes Hyundai-Kia (+4%) for 7th place overall.
Brand-wise, Ford continues to struggle at -1% year-on-year to just under 2 million sales in 10 months, while Chevrolet (+3%) keeps Toyota (+6%) at bay for now with a 17.800 unit-advantage vs. 14.900 a month ago but 56.900 a year ago. Nissan continues its march forward at +14% and now 74.100 units below Honda vs. 196.400 a year ago. Jeep remains the best performer in the Top 33 (!) at +46% to a record 571,585 sales, already well above its Full Year 2013 result (490.000 units). Other great performers include Subaru (+20%), Ram (+26%), Lexus (+14%), Audi (+15%), Lincoln (+14%), Mitsubishi (+29%) and Maserati (+265%).
In the models ranking, just as the first 2015 generation F-150 rolls out of the production line, the Ford F-Series holds at -0.5% and despite being outsold by the GM full-size pickup truck duo Silverado/Sierra for the third month in a row, is in no danger of losing its pole position, having sold almost 200,000 units more than the #2 the Chevy Silverado. Haloed by another very strong showing in October, the Ram Pickup is frankly catching up on the Toyota Camry for the annual third spot, nearly halving its gap on last month from 15.000 units to 8.400. At this rate it will jump up to third place next month. The Honda CR-V is also gaining ground on the Civic for #8.
The only two changes in the YTD Top 20 are the Ford Focus getting back above the Hyundai Elantra at #15 and the GMC Sierra kicking the Chevrolet Malibu out to #20. The only American models in the Top 100 to gain more than 25% on 2013 are the Jeep Cherokee launched exactly one year ago and the Buick Encore at +55%, with the other best performers being the Lexus IS (+59%), Toyota 4Runner (+47%), Nissan Sentra (+45%), Kia Sportage (+41%), Subaru Forester (+35%), Acura MDX (+33%), Kia Soul (+28%), Mazda CX-5 (+27%), Toyota RAV4 and Mazda6 (both at +26%). Notice also the GMC Yukon at +54%, Chevrolet Corvette at +146%, Mercedes S-Class at +105% and Audi A3 up 1889% to #150 thanks to the new sedan.
Now that the Jeep Cherokee and Ram ProMaster are out because one year old, the Acura TLX becomes the best-selling all-new nameplate in the US after only 3 months in market at #171 and 11,060 sales, up 28 spots on last month. It is followed by the Lincoln MKC at #189 and 8,615 units (+1), the Ford Transit at #207 and 5,567 examples (+14) and the Porsche Macan at #208 and 5,390 deliveries (-2). The BMW i3 at #214 (+11), Mercedes GLA at #234 (+16) and BMW i8 at #260 (+5) also move up.
Previous post: USA October 2014: Honda CR-V up 30% to 5th place
Previous month: USA 9 months 2014: Discover the Top 275 best-selling models
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Yesterday on November 11, the first production version of the all-new aluminium-bodied 2015 Ford F-150 rolled out the production line at the Dearborn Truck Plant near Detroit. The Detroit Bureau says Ford is taking what many observers have called its biggest risk in decades switching from a traditional, steel-bodied pickup to one that uses an “aluminium-intensive” design. The F-150 is the first truly high-volume product in the industry to go with an aluminum-intensive design. According to Ford, the benefits are numerous: better fuel economy, improved towing and larger payload capacity.
Ford produced 647,697 of the trucks last year. The entire F-Series line-up – including heavy-duty duty versions such as the F-250 and F-350 – has been the nation’s top-selling truck for 37 years running, and the country’s best-selling overall vehicle for the past 32 consecutive years! The F-Series is generally considered the top contributor to Ford’s bottom line, and CEO Mark Fields said he didn’t expect that to change. But not everyone is convinced. Some analysts have warned of a slow ramp-up of production, and they have warned that the higher cost of aluminum could drive up production costs.
To prepare for the new F-150, Ford had to make major changes to its big truck plant in the Detroit suburbs – and it is now converting operations at its second F-Series plant near Kansas City. Ford’s competitors have used the transition to close the sales gap with the Ford F-Series, with the General Motors duo of full-size pickup trucks, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, outselling the F-Series for the past 3 months in a row. Ford has said it will put a focus on quality, rather than quantity, as it launches the F-150, Fields noting “We’ll be at full speed in terms of production (only by) the end of Q2 2015.” Even then, not everyone is convinced Ford will be able to maintain sales at the traditional flat-out pace that saw its two plants rolling out a new F-150 at the rate of one every 49 seconds. The 2015 F-150 will hit North American dealerships in December.
Ford says it expects buyers to be drawn in by the new truck’s improved fuel economy. While official EPA-certified numbers won’t be revealed until later this month, CEO Fields suggested that compared to the old F-150, the new truck should get “between 5 and 20% better mileage…depending on engine.” The timing of the launch, however, comes as fuel costs slip to their lowest level in at least four years, an estimated 30 states now averaging below $3 a gallon for regular unleaded, according to various tracking services. Longer-term, however, Fields stressed that fuel costs are likely to rise again, and even now, fuel economy is a major factor for truck buyers, so are the improved towing and payload numbers that come from trimming about 750 pounds off the weight of some new F-150 models.
Ford has already confirmed the heavier F-Series Super Duty lines will go aluminium-intensive. The new F-Series is “important, with a capital ‘I,’”said Fields, if anything an understatement. Ford has only rarely taken such a big risk on a single product. If it succeeds it would likely cement its leadership in the profitable full-size segment. Anything less could pose serious problems for Detroit’s second-largest automaker.
Source: The Detroit Bureau