10 things I think I know from June's auto sales
Scott Burgess/ The Detroit News
We're halfway there. June sales numbers have rolled in; they're up 7.1
percent compared with the same month last year, but what does all of
it mean? We're starting to see some of the residual effects of the
parts supply problems in Japan as some carmakers are having trouble
getting all of the pieces needed from suppliers to build their cars =97
you need all of them.
And as carmakers close the book on the second quarter, some
expectations were met, and others were not.
Here are the 10 things I think I know after going through the June
sales figures, provided by AutoData Corp.
1. We're driving through a tough economy.
You don't need me to tell you that the U.S. economy is still feeble at
best. All the talk in the media of teetering on the financial abyss
hasn't scared many people away from buying new cars and trucks. Even
if people are holding off on a big purchase, many are buying vehicles.
And why not? It's starting to look like the residual values on our
cars are better than some of our homes. Through June, carmakers have
sold 6.3 million vehicles; that's 12.8 percent better than last year.
I still don't know if we'll pass 12 million units for the year, but
these numbers provide a good start.
2. Lincoln is lingering on the vine.
Ford Motor Co. has said its luxury brand, Lincoln, is getting an
overhaul soon. By the numbers, it's not soon enough. Even with a sales
spike of 16.5 percent in June, that number pulls down Ford's overall
growth. The Ford badge saw sales jump 19.9 percent. In fact, Ford sold
more Econoline vans, 7,952, than Lincoln sold vehicles, 7,361. Through
June, Kia sold more compact Forte cars, 43,022, for the year than
Lincoln has sold total vehicles, 42,003, during the same time frame.
3. Nissan Leaf outperforming the Chevy Volt.
What's going on in Hamtramck? The birthplace of the Chevrolet Volt
seems to be stuck in neutral, with a few hundred vehicles selling each
month. In June, Chevy sold 561 Volts =97 and that number is sitting at
2,745 units for the year. Meanwhile, the Nissan Leaf is starting to
take off, with 1,708 cars sold in June alone and 3,875 for the year.
Some are blaming it on supply issues, much like the ones Japanese
carmakers are facing. Hopefully, those can be resolved soon. Many
promises were made on the hood of the Chevy Volt, and no one will
remember the excuses for why those lofty goals were not reached;
they'll only remember General Motors Co. not meeting them.
4. Minivans might stall, but they'll start up again.
While I have never owned =97 and most likely never will own =97 a minivan,
that doesn't stop me from believing these boxy utilitarian vehicles
are still some of the most practical things with wheels. Consumers,
however, don't seem to agree.
Minivan sales fell 7.7 percent in June and are up only 3.4 percent for
the year. There has never been a better time to buy a minivan. The
four top-selling models have been overhauled, and all of them are very
good rides. The Dodge Caravan pulled ahead for the year, selling
56,970, while Toyota Sienna sales are up 27.5 percent through June,
and it has moved into a solid second place for the year with 54,945
units. The Honda Odyssey is right on its liftgate with 52,968 minivans
sold this year. Only the Chrysler Town & Country seems to be wavering,
with its sales falling 29 percent in June compared with June last year
and dropping 24.2 percent for the year.
But don't count these vehicles out completely. I wouldn't be surprised
if sales pick up and the entire segment pushes beyond 500,000 for the
year. The new school year is right around the corner.
5. A German offensive is a good thing for consumers.
Volkswagen Group of America is on fire.
Sales at VW are up 35.1 percent for the year, making this the best
first half of a year since 2002. The compact Jetta, redesigned last
year, had its best month in America =97 ever. Sales were up 88.3
percent. The new Passat is getting ready to roll out, and that's going
to go gangbusters on the American public.
Meanwhile, Audi keeps humming along in Quattro drive, with sales up
16.9 percent for the month and 15.4 percent for the year. By the end
of the year, it, too, will set another sales record in America, just
like it did last year. Even VW's ultra-luxury brand Bentley saw sales
jump 53.4 percent in June =97 though that was with just 178 total
Of course, before anyone unfurls a white flag, a little numerical
perspective is needed with VW's growth. In June, VW sold a total of
38,696 cars and trucks. During the same month, GM sold 44,956 Chevy
Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups.
6. There's another juggernaut, one with Soul.
Hyundai Motor America and Kia Motors America have also been creating
quite a wave. Hyundai has steadily grown with a full complement of
excellent cars and crossovers. The compact Hyundai Elantra was the
10th-best selling vehicle in June, and the midsize Sonata was the
13th. The all-new subcompact Accent is on its way and likely will
start stealing someone's market share in that segment as well.
Kia continues to see its lineup chosen by more and more people. In
June, sales were up 41.2 percent. And it's No. 1 selling vehicle? The
hamster-driven Soul, with sales up 92 percent for the year =97 though
it's the midsize Optima that has seen the largest percentage growth.
Sales were up 572.9 percent for June and 134.3 percent for the year.
Hyundai sales have jumped 26.2 percent for the year, and Kia sales are
up 44.1 percent for the year.
Combined, Hyundai/Kia sold 104,253 vehicles in June. That would make
it the fourth-largest brand in America, a few thousand units behind
Toyota, which, no doubt, is checking its rearview mirror a little more
7. An American Top 10.
Yes, the devastation in Japan has held some vehicles back. There just
aren't the parts available.
But following that logic would suggest car sales should be down for
the month. But they're not.
What's happening now is American carmakers are building top-notch
vehicles consumers are jumping into.
Eight of the top 10 vehicles sold in June belonged to Detroit's
carmakers. The two top-selling cars were made by Chevrolet (the Cruze
and the Malibu). Meanwhile, the top-selling small crossover was the
Ford Escape, and the second-best selling compact car behind the Cruze
was the Ford Focus.
Consumers now have a real choice when it comes to cars.
8. Truck buyers are not worried about gasoline.
In 2008, the first time gas prices jumped to more than $4 in some
places, pickup sales plummeted.
In June, we saw gas prices steadily fall =97 though they have risen
recently. The full-size pickup market, however, just seems to be
cruising along. Overall for the month, sales were up 8.8 percent. For
the year, sales are up 11.8 percent.
One might think volatile gas prices would keep sales of these big
trucks down. But that's just not the case. The pent-up demand is too
much, and a lot of people need a truck. Try hauling a cement mixer in
a Nissan Versa or towing a fishing boat with a Toyota Prius.
Pickups serve a real purpose and are driven by the hardest working
group of people in America. Period. And of the six major pickups sold
today, only one saw its sales fall for the month and year: the Toyota
Tundra. The reason is easy to understand: the Tundra is not as good as
the other pickups. This year, Toyota has sold 39,848 pickups. Ford
sells that many in 31/2 weeks.
9. Ford will be the No. 1 brand in 2011.
While we're six months away from the end of the year, it's already
time to call which brand will hold the No. 1 spot. It's an easy call
for me: Ford. Through June, Ford was the only brand to sell more than
1 million vehicles and is more than 100,000 units ahead of the No. 2
brand in America, Chevrolet. Toyota is a distant third at 724,778
10. A real Saab story.
Saab is hanging in there, despite all of the problems the Swedish
carmaker seems to be having. Technically, sales are up 49.5 percent
for the month and 155.3 percent for the year. At the same time, Saab
sold a total of 323 vehicles in America =97 losing to Smart USA by seven
vehicles in a race to irrelevance. Porsche sold more 911 Carrera/GT3s
=97 at 497 cars =97 than Saab did vehicles.
I've always liked the quirkiness of Saab and the Ikea-ness of its
vehicles. But it doesn't appear anyone else does. My guess: Saab is
going to win this race with Smart. But there won't be any victory
- posted 9 years ago