March 2015 Auto Sales: Better Than it Looks

2015 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Custom Front Side View

Judging purely by the number of vehicles sold, the industry plateaued this month. The industry is up a half a percent compared to a year ago, and several automakers witnessed overall declines. But circumstances are actually quite a bit better than that. First, it’s important to remember that March 2014 saw a big uptick in sales as much of the country emerged from a colder and longer winter than the one we experienced this year (excepting Boston, of course). Additionally, sales of profitable trucks like the Chevrolet Silverado continue to outpace the rest of the market. Finally, incentives have continued to drop, according to the automotive pricing site TrueCar. Automakers sold only a few more cars than last year, but they are probably depositing a lot more cash.

2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV Front Three Quarter 02

General Motors: 249,875 units sold, down 2.4% *The Chevrolet Silverado (up 7%,) and GMC Sierra (up 3.2%,) continued to benefit from low gas prices, but it couldn’t offset declines in passenger cars. The Camaro (down 30.9%, to ), Cruze (-11.0), and Malibu (down 12.3%,) are all showing their age. *Similar, but more concerning story at Cadillac. The Escalade and Escalade EXT are red hot (up 125.2% and 113.6%, respectively), but the CTS and ATS (down 48.6% and 31.6%) are performing very poorly. Unlike the Chevrolets, they haven’t been on market long.

2015 Lincoln Navigator Front Three Quarter In Motio

Ford Motor Company: 235,929 units sold, down 3% *The F-series was down 4.6%, although Ford says retail sales rose 10%. It blames “order timing” for a dip in fleet sales. We’ll see as the months pass whether that’s true or whether commercial buyers are holding back on buying the new aluminum truck. *Much like Cadillac, Lincoln is basically living off truck sales right now, with the Navigator (up 47.1%) and new MKC mostly making up for declines in car sales. The MKZ dropped 29.9 percent and the MKS dropped 19 percent. *The new Mustang (up 36.1%) continues to gallop out of the gate. Get it? It’s a pony car. It gallops. Like a pony. It trounced the Camaro (12,663 to 5,956). *The Explorer (up 17%) continues to sell well despite its age.

2013 Dodge Dart Front Three Quarter In Motion 3

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles: 197,261 units sold, up 2 percent *Chrysler has been very dependent on truck and crossover sales, so it was encouraging to see cars pull some weight this month. The 200, which was ramping up this time last year, had its best sales month ever, up 155% over last March. The Dart surged 56% compared to last March, and is enjoying the same growth for the whole calendar year. The Challenger, thanks to its refresh and to the Hellcat halo effect, is up 25%. That was enough to slip past the Camaro. *That said, Jeep continues to be the beating heart of the company. Its sales rose 23% for the month, surpassing those of Dodge to become the company’s biggest brand. Meanwhile, the first Renegades are leaving dealer lots (943 sold for the month). *The Ram 1500 was off slightly from last year (2%) but the brand as a whole grew slightly (1%) thanks to the ProMaster Van (up 112%) and the new ProMaster City (504 sold). *Only 50 people bought Vipers last month, compared to 67 this time last year. Not good numbers.

2014 Toyota 4Runner Front Three Quarter

Toyota Motor Sales: 194,905 units sold, up 4.4% *People still love the Corolla (up 19.7%), no matter how many times we say it’s not very good. *Toyota and Lexus trucks, though long in the tooth, performed well. The Tacoma and 4Runner both gained (up 10.0% and 22.5%), as did the Lexus GX (up 8.0).

2014 Nissan Rogue Front Three Quarters

4. Nissan North America: 145,085 units sold, down 2.7% *As with the American companies, big upticks in SUV and crossover sales (Pathfinder up 8.9%, Rogue up 41.2%, Murano up 4.7%, QX80 up 14.1%) ease the pain from declines in passenger cars (Altima down 10.9%, Maxima down 54.1%, Versa down 7.9%). *Hard to believe consumers are so fickle such as to pass over purchasing an electric car because gas prices happen to be low in a given month, but the Leaf is down 27.5%, so perhaps they are. *The GT-R is up quite a bit for the month (47%) and the year (49.2), although the numbers are still very small at only 394 sold through the end of March. *Honda and Nissan have been engaged in a slap fight over fleet sales. Honda senior vice president John Mendel told reporters at the New York auto show that Nissan “juices” its sales totals by dumping cars in rental fleets. Nissan says its fleet sales remain less than 17 percent of its business.

2015 Honda Fit Front Three Quarter 03

5. American Honda: 126,293 units sold, down 5.3% * Honda can swallow a 6.2% decline in Civic sales as long as customers continue piling into Pilots (up 39.6%). *The CR-V was down for the month (-3.6%), but has outperformed the Civic so far this year (73,127 to 66,722). *The Fit is go: up 73.2% from last year. *The Acura TLX is outpacing last year’s combined sales for the TL and TSX.

2015 Hyundai Genesis Sedan Front Side View

Hyundai: 75,019 units sold, up 12% *The Elantra (up 34%) accounts for much of the growth. * The new Genesis sedan continues to massively outperform its predecessor (up 141%).

2015 Kia Sedona SX Limitied Front Three Quarter View 1

Kia: 58,771 units sold, up 7.3% *The new Sedona is a hit at soccer practice, up 568% for the month and 498% for the year. *The Forte ticked up 6.9%, but Kia’s other passenger cars dipped. Good thing the Sorento (up 25%) and Sportage (up 45%) are doing so well.

2015 Subaru WRX STI Front Three Quarter In Motion

Subaru: 49,111 units sold, up 10.4% * The WRX and STI are up 13.3%. *But the Forester (up 8.1%) and Outback (up 6.6%) are still the breadwinners in this family.

2012 BMW 3 Series Front Three Quarters

BMW Group: 40,139 units sold, up 12.2% *The new Mini, which was still ramping up this time last year, is up 209.5%. That doesn’t include 1509 4 Door hardtops, which weren’t on sale last year. *3 and 4 Series are up 46.6% over last March. *X3 was down 65%. Mazda: 32,123 units sold, down 8% *Most of the decline comes from the phase out of the old Mazda 2 (down 98.4%). The 2016 Mazda 2 should earn those sales back when it finally goes on sale in the United States. Volkswagen: 30,025 units sold, down 18.2% *The Tiguan (down 0.6%) and Touareg (down 6.6 percent) are somehow immune to the massive growth in the crossover segment. * The GTI is outselling the less-expensive Golf (1997 to 1869), which is nice for profits but doesn’t bode well for VW’s volume aspirations in the States. Daimler-Benz: 29,921 units sold, up 9.2% *Mercedes sold 1918 GLAs. That may have cannibalized some sales from the older GLK, which is down 25.9%. *On the other hand, the CLA-Class continues to perform well (up 81.4%) and hasn’t hurt the new C-Class (up 34.9%). Audi: 17,102 units sold, up 20% * Almost all the growth comes from the A3, which is now Audi’s best-selling car (3081 for the month, versus 2266 A4s). The Q5 remains Audi’s best-selling vehicle, up 17.2% to 3934 for March. Mitsubishi: 9,764 units sold, up 8.5% *The Mirage is up 66%. Hey, it’s a new car with a warranty. Volvo Cars of North America: 5,916 units sold, up 0.2% Porsche: 4,291 units sold, up 12.7% *All of Porsche’s carryover models were down this month, but the new Macan, 1180 of which were sold in March, cancels out the losses. Compact cars, March sales:

1.) Toyota Corolla 35,532

2.) Hyundai Elantra 28,794

3.) Honda Civic 26,895

4.) Chevrolet Cruze 23,598

5.) Nissan Sentra 21,277

Midsize cars, March sales:

1.) Toyota Camry 40,800

2.) Nissan Altima 31,993

3.) Ford Fusion 29,044

4.) Honda Accord 26,018

5.) Chrysler 200 19,190

Compact crossovers, March sales

1.) Honda CR-V 27,618

2.) Nissan Rogue 27,418

3.) Ford Escape 26,303

4.) Toyota RAV4 25,243

5.) Chevrolet Equinox 24,335

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