US New Car & Truck Sales Fell Below Year 2000 Level, 3rd Year in a Row Below 2016 Peak
20 years of stagnation interrupted by the collapse during the Financial Crisis and subsequent recovery.
By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.
Ford finally reported its new-vehicle deliveries this morning, after every other major automaker had reported their deliveries on Friday. So now we have the full picture of what happened with auto sales in 2019. These are deliveries by dealers to their customers, by automakers directly to large fleet customers such as rental fleets, and by automakers directly to their employees. The total was not pretty, but not every automaker was hit by declining sales.
Total new car and truck sales, retail and fleet, fell 1.2% in 2019, from a year ago and 2.5% from the peak in 2016, to 17.11 million vehicles. This makes it the third year in a row below the 2016 peak. And it was 1.4% below the prior peak set in the year 2000:
That total deliveries in 2019 of 17.1 million vehicles were below the 17.35 million deliveries in 2000 shows how horribly mature the market is despite a rising population. The market is impacted by a complex set of changes, including the continually rising average age of vehicles on the road and some structural trends, such as more people moving into high-rises at city centers – focus of much of the housing construction boom over the past decade – where cars are expensive to park and often less necessary.
The long-term trends of decline and stagnation were interrupted by the collapse of the auto industry during the Financial Crisis – with GM, Chrysler, and a substantial part of the component makers going bankrupt – and the subsequent recovery.
But for US automakers, the German automakers combined, and for Toyota, among the big ones, their peak was in 2015, as we’ll see in a moment. But now the trends are back on track.
General Motors: New-vehicle retail and fleet deliveries in 2019 fell 2.3% to 2.89 million units. This was down 5.1% from the recent peak in 2015 (3.08 million units) and took sales back below 2014 levels. Its market share ticked down to 16.9%:
Some GM standouts:
- Fleet sales, such as deliveries to rental car companies, amounted to 21.8% of total sales, within the historic range.
- Sales of crossovers (compact SUVs) jumped 12.7% to 1.166 million units, now accounting for 40% of GM’s total sales.
- Crossovers have taken the place of sedans. Most of GM’s sedans are being phased out as sales have withered.
- Combined sales of the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra pickups ticked down 1% to 802,962 units, accounting for 28% of GM’s total sales.
- But within the pickup group, crew cabs, which are four-door pickups, are hot, with sales of GM’s light-duty crew cabs soaring 15% in 2019. In its press release, GM said that “three out of every four full-size pickups GM sold were crew cabs,” at the expense of regular pickups.
Ford: New car and truck sales, which it finally reported this morning, fell 3% in 2019, to 2.42 million units, down 6.9% from the peak in 2015, and below its 2013 level. Its market share edged down to 14.2%:
Same Ford standouts:
- F-Series sales ticked down 1.4% to 896,526 vehicles in 2019, accounting for 37% of Ford’s total sales.
- SUV sales, which includes crossovers, fell 4.8% in 2019 to 830,471.
- Car sales plunged 28% as Ford is phasing out most of its car lines.
- Transit and Transit Connect van sales soared 15% to 195,466 units, to 8% of Ford’s total sales, on the booming last-mile-delivery market that has become key to ecommerce, under relentless pressure from Amazon which in the span of a couple of years has created a network of 800 delivery companies with 75,000 drivers that all need vans.
Toyota: Sales at the third largest automaker in the US, fell 1.8% in 2019 to 2.38 million units, were down 4.7% from the peak in 2015, and were up just a hair from their 2014 level. Its market share edged down to 13.9%:
Despite Carmageddon, Toyota’s top two cars, the Camry and the Corolla, hung on, with Corolla sales ticking up 0.4% to 304,850 units in 2019 and Camry sales ticking down 1.9% to 336,978 units. Sales of all other Toyota-brand sedans plunged by the double digits, including the Prius (-20%). Total Toyota-branded sedan sales fell 4.0%. Sales of Lexus-branded sedans fell 12.6%. All sedan sales combined fell to 850,000, but still account for 36% of Toyota’s total sales, which is impressive compared to where sedan sales are at GM, Ford, and FCA.
Some other Toyota standouts:
- Toyota SUV sales ticked up 0.8% to 882,162 units. Within the group, the RAV4 sales rose 4.9% to 448,071 units
- Lexus SUV sales rose 5.6% to 217,139 units.
- Pickup truck sales fell 0.8% to 360,474 units.
FCA: Sales at the fourth-largest automaker in the US fell 1.4% to 2.204 million units in 2019 and were 2.7% below the peak in 2015.
Of the top four automakers, FCA was the only one to book an increase in its pickup truck sales, following the redesign of its Ram trucks, whose sales jumped 18% in 2019 to a record 703,023 trucks, accounting for 32% of FCA’s total sales. The success of the redesigned RAM clearly ate into the sales of pickups at Ford, GM, and Toyota.
Also on the positive side at FCA:
- Grand Cherokee sales rose to a record 242,969 vehicles.
- FCA’s muscle car, the Dodge Charger, booked 96,935 sales in 2019, “the best since 2013.”
Honda: Sales at the fifth-largest automaker in US ticked down 0.2% in 2019 to 1.60 million vehicles, and were down 2.5% from the peak in 2017:
Nissan: Sales at the now deeply troubled automaker dropped 9.9% in 2019 to 1.35 million units and were down 15.5% from the peak in 2017, and were below 2014 levels.
The other Japanese brands:
- Subaru’s sales rose 2.9% to a record 700,117 units in 2019, one of the few automakers to book a sales gain in the US ever year over the past five years.
- Mazda sales fell 7.2% to 278,552 vehicles in 2019, and were down 13% from 2015.
- Mitsubishi sales rose 2.5% to a record 121,046 units, having nearly doubled since 2013. The company was acquired by Nissan in 2016.
For all six Japanese automakers combined, total sales fell 2.9% in 2019 and were down 4.1% from the peak in 2017, and below their 2015 level. With 6.43 million cars and trucks sold in 2019, the Japanese automakers had a market share of 38%. Many of these vehicles are assembled in the US or Mexico.
The German automakers.
BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen Group all booked sales gains in 2019 in the US, with their combined sales rising 1.9% to 1.37 million units, but remain down 1.3% from their peak in 2015. They’re small: Their combined market share in the US is just 8%:
By automaker in 2019:
- Volkswagen Group sales – Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, and Porsche – rose 2.4% to 653,813 but were down 4.6% from their peak in 2017. Within the group, Porsche sales fell 7.1% to 57,202.
- BMW sales increased 1.8% to 362,238 units but were down 10.6% from their peak in 2016.
- Mercedes-Benz sales ticked up 0.8% to 358,409 units, but were down 5.9% from their peak in 2016.
- In the eternal battle over being the number-one luxury brand, BMW was ahead by a tad of Mercedes-Benz once again.
The Korean automakers:
Hyundai and Kia, which are affiliated, went upscale and ran into a buzz saw of problems in 2017 and 2018 from which they’re now trying to recover.
- Hyundai sales rose 4.7% to 710,004 in 2019 but remain down 8.4% from the peak in 2016.
- Kia sales rose 4.4% to 615,338, but remain down 5.0% from their peak in 2016.
- Their combined sales rose 4.6% to 1.33 million units, but remain down 6.8% from their peak in 2016:
The Niche automakers:
Tesla does not disclose US deliveries. It only discloses global deliveries. So the industry guesses as to how many Teslas were sold in the US. Automotive News estimates that Tesla deliveries in the US surged 34% to 223,000 units in 2019. This gives Tesla a market share of 1.3% in the US.
Tesla is also the only automaker that went downscale. Its Model S and X could easily run over $100,000 each. But the Model 3 generally runs less than half that amount. Model X and S sales have plunged and Model 3 sales have surged. This has shown up in Tesla’s revenues, which declined over the 12-month period through Q3, even as total deliveries grew.
Sales of Tata-owned Jaguar Land Rover rose 2.6% to 125,787 units. Sales of Geely-owned Volvo rose 10.1% to 108,234 units. It was a record year for both of them.
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