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USA February 2019: Hyundai-Kia, Subaru, Ram strong in slowest start of a year since 2014

The Kia Telluride has landed in the US, helping Hyundai-Kia to a 4th consecutive gain.

The U.S. new light vehicle market sinks -3.4% year-on-year in February to 1.258.042 units. Note some external reports have this figure up to 12.000 units higher due to overestimating Tesla sales. This clear February loss means the year-to-date tally is now down 3.1% to 2.381.439 deliveries, the lowest result at this stage of the year since 2014 (2.206.454). and the largest year-on-year decline at this point since 2009. Accordingly, the seasonally adjusted, annualised selling rate  (SAAR) drops from 17.08 million in February 2018 to 16.61 million, the second consecutive month below 17 million and the lowest SAAR in 1.5 years, since the 16.58 million of August 2017. There’s more worry to come: even though the stock market is strong and consumer confidence remains positive, March is traditionally the theatre of tax refund-driven sales, but tax reform legislation has meant some consumers getting lower refunds than their habit is, with the risk of hampering the new car market even further.

There’s also the issue of rising vehicle prices, with the average transaction price up 3% year-on-year to $34,565 according to ALG, and higher interest rates with the average annual percentage rate on financed new vehicles up from 5.19% in February 2018 to 6.26% this month according to Edmunds. Lastly, lease maturities, which have an increasingly favorable mix of SUVs and crossovers, should peak in 2019 and total some 4.1 million vehicles according to Automotive News, which will put further pressure on new-vehicle sales. There are some good/healthy news though: average incentive spending per vehicle is expected by ALG to be down year-on-year for the 8th consecutive month at -0.8% to $3,653.

Over 5.000 Ford Rangers have already found a new home in two months.

The groups ranking has no gainer in the Top 6: General Motors is the only one selling over 200.000 units this month but drops 5.3%, followed by Ford Motor (-4.4%), Toyota Motor (-5.2%), FCA (-2.9%) putting an end to 11 consecutive months of growth, Nissan Motor (-10.4%) still bearing the effect of a lesser reliance on fleet sales, and American Honda (-0.4%) just edging down. In contrast, Hyundai-Kia (+4.4%) enjoys a 4th straight year-on-year gain, Subaru (+3.9%) prolongs its streak to 86 consecutive months of year-on-year increases, Jaguar Land Rover (+28.9%) posts the largest gain in market followed by Tesla (+27.5%).

Brand-wise, here too the Top 6 is entirely in negative, led by Ford (-5.1%), Toyota (-6.3%), Chevrolet (-5.3%) and, worst of all, Nissan (-11.4%). Honda (-1.6%) is more contained while Jeep (-4.2%) posts a 2nd consecutive decline after 12 straight months of gains. Kia (+6.7%), Subaru (+3.9%) and Hyundai (+2%) all delivers an uptick but in the remainder of the Top 10, it’s Ram (+24%) that performs best, simply because it actually paid dealers as much as $7,500 per vehicle to get them to purchase cars themselves (self-registrations), talk about artificial sales… Below, strong gains are the exclusivity of luxury brands, with McLaren (+127.5%), Jaguar (+58.6%), Tesla (+27.5%), Land Rover (+19.4%), Lincoln (+15.3%), Genesis (+12.1%), Acura (+11.3%) and Porsche (+10.1%) posting the only double-digit upticks in the rest of the market, while Volvo (+5.6%), Lexus (+4.5%), Lamborghini (+3.2%), Bentley (+2.4%), Rolls Royce (+2.2%) and BMW (+0.2%) also advance.

The first month of sales for the new Gladiator can’t prevent a drop at Jeep.

Over in the models ranking, the Ford F-Series (-3.1%) records a 5th year-on-year decline in the past 6 months but remains comfortably in the lead with a 26.000-unit margin over the Ram Pickup (+20%) stepping up to 2nd place thanks to self-registrations (see above), earning the 2nd spot YTD also above the Chevrolet Silverado (-17%). The Nissan Rogue (-16.3%) is the most popular SUV in the country for the 2nd time in the past 3 months despite a ghastly drop, eclipsing the Chevrolet Equinox (+23%), Honda CR-V (+1.7%) and Toyota RAV4 (-12.4%). There are only three passenger cars in the February Top 10: the Toyota Corolla (+16%) lifted by the new gen hatchback, the Toyota Camry (-21.4%) and the Honda Civic (-11%). As a result the Toyota Corolla (+16.6%) becomes the #1 car YTD above the Camry (-13.4%), it’s a title the Corolla has never earned over a Full Year yet.

Strikingly, the next 7 best-sellers all gain ground vs. February 2018, with the GMC Sierra (+36.3%) estimated to be the most dynamic above the Toyota Tacoma (+10.2%) splendidly signing a 16th consecutive month of year-on-year gains and the Toyota Highlander (+8.9%). Further down, the Dodge Journey (+72.7%), VW Jetta (+54.8%), Jeep Cherokee (+31%), Kia Soul (+29.6%), Subaru Forester (+12.8%) and Kia Optima (+12.7%) post the largest gains in the remainder of the Top 50. The Subaru Ascent (#63) is the best-selling recent launch (<12 months), way above the Nissan Kicks (#96), Cadillac XT4 (#104) and Ford Ranger (#109) whose official sales eclipse the 5.000 mark YTD thanks to 2.899 sales this month. The Honda Passport is up 107 spots on its inaugural month in January to #139, the Lexus UX is up 28 to #163 and the BMW X2 up 29 to #171. In February we welcome the Kia Telluride at #225 and the Jeep Gladiator at #259.

Previous month: USA January 2019: Ford, Ram, GMC strong in market down 3%, light trucks at record 69.6% share

One year ago: USA February 2018: Toyota and VW Group stay afloat in market down 2.4%

Full February 2019 Top 15 groups, Top 40 brands and Top 280 models below.

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