* See the Top 15 groups, Top 40 brands and Top 288 models by clicking on the title *
It’s official: the U.S. market has plateaued. In September, new light vehicle sales decline year-on-year for the second consecutive month and the 4th time so far in 2016 at -0.5% to 1.435.689 units. This means the year-to-date tally is now up just 0.5% after 9 months to 13.115.309. The last year when volumes declined so many times was 2009 when sales dropped eight months out of twelve. The seasonally adjusted annualised sales rate (SAAR) ends up being higher than forecasts at 17.74 million, up from 16.97 in August but down from 18.04 in September 2015. A strong end of 2015 makes it unlikely for the U.S. market to post a 7th consecutive year of growth – it will have to settle for a slight decline but remains at incredibly high levels. Cars continue to handicap the overall market with sales down another 7.1% to 575.114 or just 40% share and down 8.2% year-to-date to 5.429.943 whereas light trucks gain 4.5% to 860.575 and 7.7% year-to-date to 7.685.366.
General Motors registers a 6th consecutive decline at -0.6% to 249.795 units but retail sales are up 0.3%, with Buick up 14% and Cadillac up 3% but Chevrolet down 0.3% and GMC down 9%. Ford Motor’s overall volume is down a harsh 8% to 203.444 with retail sales down 4% and fleet deliveries freefalling 21%. Toyota Motor ends 4 consecutive months of declines with a 1.5% growth to 197.260, spread evenly across the Toyota brand now including ex-Scion-branded models (+1.4%) and Lexus (+2%). Honda Motor skids down 0.1% to 133.655 sales with Acura (-13%) the sole culprit as the Honda brand gains 2%, Nissan is up 4.9% to 127.797 with the Nissan brand up 4.3% and Infiniti up 12%, Hyundai-Kia is up 2% to 115.830 as Hyundai gains 4% but Kia drops 1%, Subaru gains 3.5% to lift its year-to-date tally to a record 446.887 units (+4.2%) and the Volkswagen Group (-3%) endures an 11th consecutive month of decline by VW (-7.8%) just as Audi posts an 83rd consecutive year-on-year gain at +1.6%.
But the big news this month come from FCA Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, down 0.9% to 192.883 – a relative stability that hides vast disparities across brands. Ram surges 27% to 51.866 sales thanks to an exceptional month by the Ram Pickup up 29% to 47.792, outselling the Chevrolet Silverado (down 16% to 45.380) for the 2nd place overall for the second time in history along with March 2014. In fact, since BSCB started following the U.S. market monthly in July 2004, only once has the Ram Pickup posted a higher monthly volume: in July 2005 at 48.710. Chevrolet dismisses this as a freak event due to stronger-than-usual incentives by Ram. Although true, high incentives are the norm this month for full-size pickups and haven’t been that high since December 2008 in the midst of the last recession. According to JD Power, average incentives on the Ram Pickup in September 2016 are up 29% year-on-year to $7.082, compared to $5.647 for the Silverado (+21%) and $5.173 for the Ford F-Series, whose volume is down 3% this month to 67.809.
If Dodge (-6%), Chrysler (-27%), Fiat (-30%) and Alfa Romeo (-27%) all post dismal results, these are in line with their recent under-performance whereas the big surprise comes from Jeep, posting its first year-on-year decline in three years at -2.7% to 76.331. The last time the Jeep brand was in negative, in September 2013, was the month before the then-delayed Jeep Cherokee hit the U.S. market. Although not a surefire sign for Jeep’s near future, this decline raises a few red flags, especially given the fact that the sales drop is spread across the majority of its lineup: the Cherokee is down 12% despite reported $7.000 incentives, the Renegade down 13%, the Compass down 16% despite regional incentives as high as $4.750 and the Wrangler down 18%. The only Jeep gainers are the Grand Cherokee up 18% and Patriot up 33% in runout mode before its discontinuation.
Local press outlet Automotive News points that Jeep’s sales losses “stand out in September within their respective market segments: while Renegade sales are down 13% and its inventory level at 114-days – the highest of all Jeep nameplates – other subcompact crossovers, such as the Subaru Crosstrek, Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax and Mazda CX-3, are up by double digits. And while Cherokee and Wrangler are down, the competing Toyota 4Runner in the midsize SUV segment is up 21%. In the race to the luxury U.S. crown, Mercedes cements its domination with sales up 1.7% to 29.500 excliuding Sprinter and Metris LCVs, compared to 25.801 for Lexus (+2%) and 25.389 for BMW (-4.6%). Year-to-date, Mercedes leads with 249.204 (-0.2%) ahead of Lexus at 236.193 (-4.5%) and BMW at 230.133 (-7.9%).
The high level of discounts throughout 2016 is another factor dimming analysts’ optimism for the rest of the year and 2017. Automotive News reports that “According to J.D. Power, incentives reached an all-time record of $3.923 per vehicle in September, whereas the previous record of $3.753 was set in December 2008, the month that the U.S. government first issued emergency funding to General Motors in preparation for its eventual bankruptcy filing.” TrueCar for its part estimates industry incentives at $3.387, up 8% year-on-year. Based on TrueCar figures , BMW has by far the largest average incentive per vehicle this month at a whopping $6.732, up 44% on September 2015. It is followed by Daimler at $4.342 (-9%), FCA at $4.302 (+23%), GM at $4.101 (+2%), Ford at $4.092 (+11%), Volkswagen Group at $3.910 (+23%) and Nissan at $3.896 (+12%). Below the market average are Kia at $2.763 (-2%), Hyundai at $2.431 (+1%) and Toyota at $2.330 (-0.1%) and remaining at negligible levels are Honda at $1.722 (-17%) and Subaru at $1.014 (+69%).
Over in the models aisle, below the pickup podium mentioned above the Honda CR-V gains 6% to consolidate its #1 SUV ranking at 31.884 sales and 263.493 year-to-date vs. 29.438 and 260.380 for its archenemy the Toyota RAV4, up 9% this month. The Toyota Corolla (+17%) becomes the best-selling passenger car in the country above the Camry (-11%), Honda Civic (-0.3%) and Accord (-19%). The Nissan Rogue (+6%) rounds up the Top 10, with the Chevrolet Malibu (+26%), Subaru Outback (+12%), Toyota Tacoma (+35%) and Highlander (+21%) delivering some of the largest gains in the Top 30. Below, the Chevrolet Colorado hits a record #36 rank and 10.383 sales, up 42% year-on-year, the Dodge Charger is up 35%, the Chevrolet Tahoe up 64%, Toyota Tundra up 18% and Chevrolet Trax up 39%.
The Chrysler Pacifica leads recent launches (<12 months) and breaks into the Top 50 for the first time at #45 and an all-time high 9.172 deliveries in September. Only the Cadillac XT5 manages to rank within the Top 150 at #90 with 4.698 units. The Buick Envision (#154), Cadillac CT6 (#166), Tesla Model X (#169) and Genesis G80 (#177) are the next most popular newcomers. We welcome three new arrivals in the U.S. sales charts this month: the most successful is the Lincoln Continental landing directly at #200 with 775 sales, followed by the Genesis G90 at #277 and 10 units and the Alfa Romeo Giulia at #279 and 7 deliveries.
Full September 2016 Top 15 groups, Top 40 brands and Top 288 models below.