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USA February 2020: Only 11 brands report in “Good news only” market, Kia (+20.2%), Mazda (+19%) spectacular

Almost 2.800 Kia Seltos found a new U.S. home in February.

11/03 update: Now with Toyota, Lexus and Volvo figures.

29 brands ended monthly sales reporting in the U.S. last month, instead choosing to report quarterly. As a result only 11 out of the 40 brands present on the market, accounting for less than 40% of the total annual volume, now report monthly in the U.S., making this market less transparent than roughly 70 countries and territories worldwide. All groups, brands and models data will be updated in early April with official Q1 results. According to Motor Intelligence, the seasonally adjusted, annualised rate of sales for February (SAAR) came in at 17.04 million, almost identical to last month (17.07 million) and up 2.5% on February 2019 (16.63 million). The estimated average transaction price hit $37.876 this month., up $975 or 2.6% year-on-year but down $126 or 0.3% on January, according to Kelley Blue Book. An indication of market health, fleet sales are expected to drop -7.7% year-on-year to 316.260 units or roughly 24% of total light vehicle sales.

Although increasing retail prices and weaker fleet sales are good news for carmaker profitability, a third element is dampening this enthusiasm: record-level incentives. According to J.D. Power and LMC, average industry incentives in February are up 7.5% year-on-year to $4.179 per vehicle in February which is their highest level ever recorded for the month. J.D. Power even forecasts industry incentives will reach $5.000 per vehicle by the end of the year. However TrueCar/ALG has average incentives at a lower $3.576, only $8 up year-on-year, with Nissan (+15%), the VW Group (+14%), Toyota (+12%) and Kia (+8.4%) the most “dynamic” with incentives compared to a year ago, and Daimler ($5.637), BMW ($5.561), GM ($4.846)  and FCA ($4.622) the most generous (see table above). For example and according to Cars Direct, Cadillac is offering up to $20.000 off the outgoing Escalade SUV, Costco is promoting $2.500 in incentives for members who buy an Audi e-tron by March 31. and Dodge dangled up to $4.250 in cash allowances on the 2019 Journey crossover.

In typical stock market-obsessed fashion, U.S. sales reporting is now on a “good news only” basis, with all 11 brands that have continued monthly reporting showing positive year-on-year results in February. It shouldn’t be a surprise, given the carmakers that have stopped monthly reporting have done so primarily to avoid having to say bad news too frequently, opting for a quarterly reveal rather than monthly. As such, sales of brands reporting this month are up a stunning 11% year-on-year to 523.499 units. Hyundai-Kia (+17.9%) and Toyota Motor (+12.4%) clearly stand out among groups with American Honda (+4.2%) also solid thanks to both light trucks (+6%) and sedan sales (+2%). Among brands, Kia (+20.2%), Mazda (+19%), Hyundai (+16.2%), Toyota (+13.4%) and Mitsubishi (+13%) post the largest gains. Hyundai scores its 17th year-on-year gain in the past 19 months and takes advantage of retail sales up 26% while fleets are down -20%  and a 57% rise in crossover volume while Toyota benefits from a 20% surge in light truck sales at 109.394 but also a 3% uptick in car sales up 3% to 63.619.

Model-wise, Toyota, Lexus and Volvo chose not to disclose the nameplate detail this month. As such, the Kia Rio (+69.2%), Honda Passport (+68.2%), Mitsubishi Outlander Sport (+53.4%), Outlander (+50%), Honda Ridgeline (+46.8%), Subaru Forester (+25.3%) and Hyundai Kona (+24.7%) score some of the largest upticks. The Hyundai Palisade (6.967) is the best-selling newcomer above the Kia Telluride (6.754), Mazda CX-30 (3.754), Kia Seltos (2.798) and Hyundai Venue (1.226).

Previous month: USA January 2020: Hyundai-Kia and Toyota strong, only 1 in 4 brands now reporting monthly

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

Full February 2020 sales for available groups, brands and models below.

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