* See the Top 274 All-models, Top 40 All-brands and Top 15 groups by clicking on the title *
At +0.5% to 1.545.710 sales, the year-on-year gain may be small for the US new light vehicle market this month, but don’t get fooled by this result: March was exceptionally strong, for a few reasons. First, the 17.1 million seasonally adjusted annual selling rate was the third best monthly SAAR since July 2006. Second, last year March benefited from good weather, generous automaker deals and a five-weekend calendar. This March had one fewer selling day and one fewer weekend. SAARs of 16.7 million in January and 16.2 million in February were below most analysts’ predictions of annual 2015 sales of 16.9-17 million units, so March’s 17.1 million selling pace gets us back on track somewhat. But the true sign that the US market is not only growing for the 6th consecutive year, but also doing so on very sound foundations, is the fact that not all manufacturers were chasing volume this month. Overall incentives are down 1.3% year-on-year and average transaction prices are up 2.2%…
Only Toyota Motor, FCA US and Hyundai-Kia increased their incentives and saw their March sales frankly rise, but their average transaction prices fell. Let’s look at it in more detail. Toyota’s incentives rose 16%, resulting in a 5% sales increase to 225,959 units, but this is the traditional as Toyota always offers deals in March, the closing month of its Japanese parent’s fiscal year. FCA US had a target to reach: 60 consecutive months (five full years) of year-on-year gains. The US manufacturer saw incentives spike by 10% and sales rise by 2% to 197,261. Finally Hyundai-Kia used massive incentive increases to generate a 10% year-on-year gain to hit 133,790 sales, enough to outsell American Honda.
Now let’s look at the opposite strategy. General Motors (-2%), Ford Motor Co. (-3%) and Nissan North America (-3%) all significantly reduced incentives, resulting in sales drops but a rise of 4% in transaction prices for all 3 manufacturers. These two very distinct approaches are evidence of a healthy market. Automotive News quotes TrueCar President John Krafcik: “In a stable market, brands are free to either buy some share or take profits. Those are tactical moves to make the most of their situation.” Automotive News says Ford Motor cut incentives 17% from a year ago but transaction prices jumped almost $1,200 a unit to $32,974. Ford is so short of pickups during model changeover that it is deferring fleet orders to feed dealers. Its overall retail sales rose 1% but fleet plunged 13%.
These two opposite strategies have a significant impact on the sales charts this month. The Ford F-Series is down 5% but still extremely solid overall at 67,706 units. It is followed by the Chevrolet Silverado up 7% to 45,193 deliveries and the Ram Pickup down 2% to 41,595. The Toyota Camry remains the best-selling passenger car in the country at #4 and 40,800 units and the Toyota Corolla rounds up the Top 5 thanks to sales surging 20% on a year ago to 35,532 – the nameplate’s third best monthly score in the past 6 years below August 2009 (43,061) and May 2014 (36,611).
Below, the Hyundai Elantra jumps 34% to post the nameplate’s all-time record monthly volume of 28,794 units and the Nissan Rogue is up 41% to break into the monthly US Top 10 for the first time at #10 and lodge a record 27,418 sales, smashing its previous best of 21,419. Further down, the Chrysler 200 is up a stunning 155% thank to the new model to also break its volume record at 19,190 (previous best: 16,229 last December) while the Jeep Cherokee is the 4th nameplate in the Top 25 to evolve at all-time record highs, up 38% year-on-year to 19,033 (previous best for this generation is 18,235 last August).
Other great gainers include the Toyota RAV4 up 28% to #14, the Chevrolet Equinox up 22% to #15, BMW 3/4 Series up 47% to #30, Ford Mustang up 36% to #35, Honda Pilot up 34% to #37, Jeep Patriot up 41% to #38 and the Dodge Dart up (at last!) 56% to #49. Has the Chevrolet Colorado already plateaued? It is down 9 spots on February to #69 and back below the Nissan Frontier (#66) while its twin the GMC Canyon is down 18 ranks to #134. One new entrant in the ranking this month: the Jeep Renegade landing at #191 with 943 sales. According to Cars.com, there are more than 4700 Renegades currently in stock at the moment, so except it to rise up the ladder over the coming months.
Full March 2015 Top 274 All-models, Top XX All-brands and Top 15 groups below.