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Autofield Blog

2012 U.S. Auto Sales: Random Thoughts


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4. January 2013

The Buick Regal is a really good car. It looks handsome. It drives well. It is priced right. Yet for the year its sales are down 38.7%. Presumably, this is because the Buick Verano, which was essentially  introduced to the market this year (well, they did sell 265 units in 2011, but the real year is 2012 for that car), is eating the Regal’s lunch. A Regal starts at $29K; the Verano at $23K. There were 24,616 Regals sold and 41,042 Veranos.  While the folks at Buick are undoubtedly happy with the Verano’s success, I wonder which car makes more money for the company?  And does this portend anything for Cadillac as regards the new ATS and the comparatively vintage CTS?

2013 Buick Regal GS

Buick Regal GS

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Even though Camaro sales are down 4.4% compared with 2011, its 84,391 bests the Mustang’s 82,995, and that car, which has more variants that you can shake a dipstick at, is up 17.8% compared to 2011.

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One of the things that Bob Lutz did some years ago when he got the product development job at GM was to strip the Chevy Avalanche of its massive polymer panels. And quite frankly, I didn’t realize that the truck continued to exist today. Yet its sales were up 19.4% compared with those in 2011, with annual sales of 23,995. Is this a case of vehicular anonymity, or am I paying insufficient attention?

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Say what you will about Chevy Volt sales, but realize that its 23,461 isn’t that far off the aforementioned Regal’s 24,616.

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Is smaller the new bigger? The sales of the GM three-row crossover (CUV) triplets—the Buick Enclave, Chevy Traverse, and GMC Acadia—were all in the red for 2012, with the Traverse off a whopping 20.1% (total sales of 85,606). The Chevy Equinox crossover was up 13.1%, at 218,621 units. The twin GMC Terrain was up 17.6%, to 97,786. Bet Buick is anxious for its small CUV (the Encore).

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The Ford F-Series has been the best-selling pickup for 36 years running and the overall top U.S. vehicle for 31 years straight. Ford sold 645,316 of them, up 10% over 2011. Here’s betting that that record never gets bested.

2013 Ford F-150 Lariat

Ford F-Series

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The Fiesta Movement seems to have moved on. Sales of that small car were off 17.2% in 2011, down to 56,775 units. Meanwhile, Chevy Sonic sales were up 414.9%, to 81,247 vehicles.

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When I wrote about the Volkswagen Passat, I suggested that this Chattanooga-built car was for the Big American. And that seems to be borne out by the fact that the Passat’s sales of 117,023 are a 413.7% increase for the year. And what is worth noting is that while this seems to run contrary to the question about smaller being the new bigger, sales of the Beetle were up 351.1% (29,174 units), so VW is handling it both ways.

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Chrysler Group sales have been going higher and higher, with annual month-over-month sales increases for 33 months running. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the Chrysler brand led the way with a 39% increase over 2011 (helped in no small part by a 95% increase in sales for the stylish 300), followed by Ram brand at 17%, Dodge brand at 16%, and Jeep at 13%. OK. Fiat brand is included in the Chrysler Group numbers, and it was up 121% in 2012 versus 2011, but it sold 43,772 units, and we’ve already looked askance at the 56,775 for the Ford Fiesta.

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Audi had its best year in the U.S. Ever. It had just two cars in its lineup go south: the R8 (down by 30%, to 802 units overall) and the TT (down 0.4%, to 2,226 units). Clearly, demand for two-seaters isn’t particularly high. Meanwhile, sales of its A6 were up 70.8%, compared with a 9.4% increase for the A4 and 5.3% increase for the A8, which goes to say that the midmarket for Audi is strong.

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But that two-seat thing didn’t have the same effect on Porsche, which showed gains for the Boxster/Cayman and 911 models. However, 3,356 Boxster/Caymans and 8,528 911s totals 11,884 cars, and the real volume leader at Porsche is the Cayenne SUV, of which it sold 15,545 in 2012.

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Honda has done repentance for the current-generation Civic, as it went to work both inside and out to make the 2013 model a distinct improvement compared with the 2012—well beyond any typical midcycle refresh. But apparently consumers weren’t quite as off-put as some commentators and analysts were of the 2012 models because Civic sales were up by 43.7% in 2012, to 317,909 units. Sales of the highly lauded Ford Focus? 245,922.

2013 Honda Civic EX-L Coupe

Honda Civic Coupe

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Although Acura has been criticized as being nearly irrelevant in the market, it is worth noting that its 2012 sales of 156,216 units is a 26.7% increase compared with its 2011 performance. Infiniti, which few question, had total sales of 119,877 vehicles.  Maybe some people really don’t like that (now-attenuated) shield-like grille on the Acuras or they have greater expectations.  Incidentally: the total of those two brands is 276,093 units.  The total for Lexus in 2012 is 244,166.

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How strong is the Nissan Altima? Consider this: if you sum the sales of the Nissan Versa (113,327), Sentra (106,395) and Maxima (59,349), you get a total of 279,071. The 2012 sales for the Nissan Altima: 302,934. A solid car that’s in a sweet spot in the market—despite the fact that it is a segment that is crazy competitive.

2013 Nissan Altima Sedan

Nissan Altima

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Can a niche vehicle maker make it? Well, Subaru seems to be doing quite well. While some might quibble with it being called a “niche” builder, in 2012 it sold a total 336,441 vehicles. That’s just 4,569 more vehicles than the number of Honda Accords sold in 2012. That said, Subaru’s 2012 sales were up 26% compared with 2011’s, and it has had sales increases for the last five years running. Clearly, Love is a Subaru.

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The Kia Optima is a car that I think is still the best-looking midsize sedan out there. Evidently, others share my opinion. In 2011 84,590 were sold. In 2012, that number was 152,399, which makes it the best-selling vehicle in Kia’s lineup (the Sorento crossover comes in second at 119,597 units).

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The once down-and-out Toyota, the company that recently announced a $1.1-billion “economic loss settlement” to take care of customers who were adversely affected by the unproven claims that the company’s electronic throttle control system didn’t work, finished 2012 with sales (Toyota, Lexus and Scion) of 2,082,504 vehicles. That’s 26.6% better than the performance in 2011. The Camry, of course, was the best-selling car in the U.S. There were 404,886 of them sold in the U.S. That’s more than all of the Buicks and Cadillacs (180,408 and 149,782, respectively) sold in 2012. The Camry has been the best-selling car in the U.S. for the past 11 years. (If it is an “appliance,” then some other OEMs ought to see if the Maytag man is available.) Another interesting aspect of Toyota’s performance is Prius, of which there are now multiple variants. In total, there were 236,659 Prii sold. That’s more than the total number of Chevy Malibus (210,951) and not all that far off the Ford Fusion sales (241,263). If this doesn’t mean hybrids are mainstream, I don’t know what does.

Prius_-_Family

Prius Family

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BMW brand had a very good year in 2012, with a 13.5% sales increase compared to 2011 (281,460 units in all). But what’s interesting to note is that BMW Group’s other brand in the U.S., MINI, had an even better year, with a 15% improvement in sales. Of course, given that MINI sold, in total,all variants,  66,123 vehicles, and there were 99,602 BMW 3 Series sold. . . .

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