* See the Top 15 groups, Top 40 brands and Top 315 models by clicking on the title *
The story was on the wall: the U.S. new light vehicle market only scored two months of year-on-year gains in 2017 and ends the year down 1.7% to 17.244.347 units. This is the first U.S. annual decline in eight years, since the 27-year low of 10.4 million units in 2009, in the midst of the financial crisis. Although disappointing, this is the third consecutive year the U.S. market is above 17 million annual units and only the fifth time in history, the only two other years being 2000 and 2001. Following up on long term trends, light trucks continue to gain market share in 2017 with a 4.3% year-on-year gain to 10.897.511 sales – the segment’s second consecutive, and ever, year above the 10m mark – while passenger cars freefall even faster than in 2016 at -10.9% vs. -8.1% to just 6.332.925 units. In the detail, pickup trucks are up 4.8% to 2.822.839, crossovers are up 8.1% to 5.351.370 and SUVs up 0.3% to 1.791.481. In the Passenger Car aisle, midsize cars are down 13.1% to 2.792.346 while small cars are down 9.6% to 2.615.386.
General Motors drops slightly less than the market at -1.3% to maintain itself just above 3m units for the year, improving its market share slightly from 17.3% to 17.4%. Astonishingly, this is only the 4th year since 1990 that GM sees a year-on-year market share gain… GM crossover deliveries are up 17%, driven by record sales of the Chevrolet Equinox, Traverse and Trax and Buick Envision, Encore and GMC Acadia. For the fourth consecutive year, GM sold more pickup trucks in the U.S. than any other automaker at a record 948.909 units. GM sold 239.719 full-size SUVs and has led the segment since the launch of the Chevrolet Suburban in 1935. GM’s average transaction prices (ATPs), which are net of incentive spending estimates, end the year above $35.400 vs. an industry average of $31.600. Finally, the result of a policy to reduce reliance on less-profitable sales, 2017 marks the first year in the past 25 that GM Commercial and Government deliveries outsell daily rental deliveries, following a cumulative reduction of 170,000 rental deliveries since 2014.
Ford Motor remains the #2 manufacturer in the country, also dropping slower than the market at -0.9% to 2.575m units and resulting in an improved 14.9% share. Car sales are down an abysmal 14.2% to 593.390 but SUVs are up 2.9% to a record 867.909 and trucks up 4.3% to 1.123.416. Fleet represent 29% of total sales for 2017 (-0.1 point on 2016) with 11.1% going to rental (+0.3 point), 11.8% to Commercial (-0.2 point) and 6.1% to Government (-0.1 point). Toyota Motor drops even less at -0.6% to 2.43m but FCA tumbles down 7.6% to 2.07m. Nissan Motor mechanically lifts up one spot thanks to its acquisition of Mitsubishi, up 2.2% to a record 1.7m, distancing American Honda up 0.2%, posting a third consecutive annual volume record at 1.64m. Hyundai-Kia is the hardest hit of all manufacturers in the U.S. this year at -10.4% to 1.275m deliveries, whereas the Volkswagen Group (+5.9%) and Jaguar Land Rover (+9.1%) fare the best. In fact, only FCA, BMW Group, Hyundai-Kia and Mazda lose market share year-on-year.
Brand-wise, Ford remains the most popular for the 8th year in a row, dropping slightly at -0.9% to 2.46m deliveries. Ford brand SUV sales are at an all-new high of 796.302. Toyota (+3.2%) passes Chevrolet (-1.5%) to #2, partly due to the incorporation of discontinued Scion models into its lineup. Honda edges up 0.7% to a new annual record at 1.49m units, with Nissan up 1% to also hit a new high at 1.44m sales. Breaking records in 2016, Jeep (-10.6%), Hyundai (-13.4%) and Kia (8.9%) all fall heavily this year. Subaru on the other hand posts an incredible 9th record year in a row at +5.3% to 648.000 units and is on a 73-month streak of consecutive year-on-year gains. Just below GMC up 2.6% and above 560.000 deliveries, Ram posts a new record at +2% to 557.000 units.
Volkswagen (+5.2%) and Mitsubishi (+7.7%) also shine but like in 2016 the highest year-on-year improvements are to be found in the luxury segment. Mercedes is the best-selling luxury car brand in the U.S. for the second year running despite falling for the second time in a row at -0.9% to 337.246 units excluding Sprinter variants – despite posting an all-time record month in December at 35.203 sales. After 11 consecutive years of Lexus reign between 2000 and 2011, BMW had won the luxury crown in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015, while Mercedes was tops in 2013 and 2016. BMW (-2.4%) comes in 2nd place, edging past Lexus (-7.9%) while Audi surges 7.8% to a record 227.000 sales and is on a 98-month streak of consecutive year-on-year gains. Infiniti (+10.9%), Land Rover (+1.2%), Porsche (+2.1%) and Tesla (+35.1%) all post new annual volume records, with Jaguar (+26.7%), Rolls Royce (+49.1%), McLaren (+27%), Genesis (+196%) and Alfa Romeo (+2232%) also up spectacularly.
The Ford F-Series is the best-selling pickup truck in the U.S. for the 41st consecutive year (since 1977) and the best-selling vehicle in the country for the 36th year in a row (no interruption since 1982). With deliveries up a sturdy 9% to just under 897.000 units, the F-Series is at its best in 12 years, signing it fourth best-ever annual volume below 2004 (939.511), 2001 (911.597) and 2005 (901.463). Fittingly, in December 2017 the F-Series had its best month since December 2005 at 89.385 deliveries, and sees its Average Transaction Price shoot up 7.7% to a new record $47.800 per truck vs. $44.400 in 2016. Its two followers, the Chevrolet Silverado and Ram Pickup, both edge up just 2% but should be a bigger menace in 2018 with both nameplates launching completely new generations. 2017 marks the fourth consecutive year the U.S. podium is 100% full-size pickups and only the 5th time in the past two decades along with 2003, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
It’s just outside the podium that we witness the most significant change of the year and, potentially, the most symbolic in the past decade. Illustrating the ever-strong rush of U.S. car buyers away from passenger cars into the SUV/crossover segment, the 2017 U.S. Top 5 models are for the first time 100% light trucks. The Toyota RAV4 surges 16% to cross the 400.000 annual mark for the first time in the nameplate’s 23-year career, landing just below 408.000, becoming the brand’s best-seller in the U.S, for the first time in history. It is also the first time in Toyota’s history that an SUV is its best-seller. Exactly the same event happened to Nissan with the Rogue in 2016 and the brand’s star nameplate doubles up with a stunning 22% for a maiden trip above the 400.000 annual milestone, partly due to the arrival of the Rogue Sport aka Qashqai.
The Toyota Camry can then be found just outside the Top 5 at #6 with sales down 0.4% to 387.081, now America’s favourite car for the 16th straight year and for 20 of the past 21 years. But the picture looked very different as late as end-November, with the Honda Civic then in the lead by 2.130 units. It took the Camry its best December ever (43.331) and its best-ever quarter (104.574) to rally back to #1 by the end of the year. The Honda CR-V is up 6% but drops from #1 to #3 SUV, also edging past the Civic (+3%) and the Toyota Corolla (-11%) while the Honda Accord, in difficulty at -7% rounds up the Top 10.
If U.S. carmakers have cemented their domination in the full-size pickup segment, 2017 marks the 21st consecutive year that U.S. passenger car sales have been dominated by a Japanese model: the last American sedan to be crowned #1 is the Ford Taurus in 1996. In fact, this year the most popular U.S. passenger car only ranks 7th in the segment below six Japanese nameplates and #19 overall: the Ford Fusion, down a steep 21%. More worrying, like it was the case in both 2015 and 2016 there are no U.S. SUVs in the overall 2017 Top 10, but they line up just below: the Ford Escape is up 0.4% to #11, the Chevrolet Equinox up 20% to #12 – both nameplates posting all-time volume records while the Ford Explorer is up 9% to sign its best year since 2005.
Other notable performers near the top of the ranking include the Jeep Grand Cherokee (+13%), Toyota Highlander (+13%), Toyota 4Runner (+15%), Mazda CX-5 (+14%), Kia Forte (+14%), Subaru Impreza (+33%), Hyundai Tucson (+28%), GMC Acadia (+26%) and Subaru Crosstrek (+15%). Launched or relaunched in 2016, the Chrysler Pacifica (+90%), Cadillac XT5 (+73%), Nissan Titan (+142%) and Buick Envision (+189%) also impress. The Kia Niro (#135) is the best-selling all-new launch for 2017, followed closely by the VW Atlas (#137) and Toyota C-HR (#141). The Hyundai Ioniq (#194) also slots into the 2017 Top 200.
Previous month: USA November 2017: Nissan, Honda, Ford lift market up 1.3%
Full Year 2017 Top 15 groups, Top 40 brands and Top 315 models vs. Full Year 2016 figures below.
Full December 2017 Top 15 groups, Top 40 brands and Top 285 models below.