* See the Top 15 groups, Top 40 brands and Top 281 All-models by clicking on the title *
Thanks to blockbuster sales in December, 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.