After a record year in 2015, the auto industry escaped January’s gloomy weather with stable sales as several manufacturers posted managed to eke out modest gains, bolstering the outlook for 2016.
Fiat Chrysler, General Motors, Audi and Nissan all reported sales increases, while Mazda, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen said their monthly sales declined during January.
FCA U.S. managed a 7% increase compared with sales in January 2015. It was the group’s best January sales in nine years as the Jeep, Ram and Dodge brands all reported sales increases and FCA extended its streak of year-over-year sales gains to 70 consecutive months.
“Mother Nature was no match for our Jeep brand last month as we recorded our best January Jeep sales ever,” said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. Sales for FCA, which wasn’t the only Detroit-based maker to report an increase.
General Motors’ total sales were up 0.5% with Chevrolet posting its best retail passenger car sales in nearly 20 years, GM reported.
“GM began 2016 in very strong competitive position,” said Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. vice president of sales operations. “We built on that momentum in January, with Chevrolet, Buick and GMC outperforming the retail industry by a wide margin. In fact, Chevrolet continues to grow faster than any other full-line brand.”
In all, 10 Chevrolet models gained retail share in their respective segments: Silverado, Suburban, Tahoe, Colorado, Camaro, Impala, Malibu, Cruze, Sonic and Traverse, pushing the brand to a stellar result.
However, Ford Motor Co.’s total U.S. sales declined 3% last month versus a year ago. More worrisome for Ford was the 5% drop in sales of the Ford F-150. Bright spots for Ford in January included industry-leading transaction price increases for the month, the best start since 2004 for Ford-brand SUV sales and an 8% gain in sales for Lincoln.
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“For Ford, overall transaction prices were up $1,800 in January – almost three times more than the overall industry average – driven largely by strong customer demand, especially for our SUVs and F-Series pickups,” said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service.
Nissan said it posted record sales during January, led by its trio of sport-utility/crossover vehicles, for an increase of 2%.
“2016 is off to a strong start as the sales momentum we saw last year continued into January with a record for the Nissan division,” said Judy Wheeler, vice president, Sales, Nissan Division U.S. “Strong demand for our crossover products, such as Rogue, Pathfinder and Murano drove Nissan’s overall light truck sales up 18%, setting a January record.”
However, its luxury division, Infiniti didn’t fare as well, despite strong results from its new QX50 crossover, it was down 11.8%. The loss can be traced directly to its non-truck offerings.
After surpassing 200,000 annual sales for the first time, marking a sixth consecutive year of record sales in the U.S., Audi continued that momentum in January as sales increased. Volkswagen, however, continued to feel the effects of diesel-scandal hangover as sales dropped 14.5% in January.
Toyota also posted a 4.7% sales decline but noted there were two fewer selling day in January 2016 than in January 2015 and as result when measured on a daily sales rate sales actually increased by 3.3%, Toyota said.
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Other brand results include:
- Honda division up 8.4%
- Acura down 7.3%
- Mercedes-Benz up 1.3%
- BMW down 4.7%
- Mini up 0.3%
- Lexus down 9.5%
- Porsche up 10.6%
- Hyundai up 1%
- Kia up six vehicles: 38,305 v. 38,299
Despite the uneven results for makers in January, the overall tone is one of optimism for the year going forward.
“We believe industry fundamentals such as the age of the vehicle fleet, well managed inventory levels, firm used car pricing, good credit availability and low fuel prices will support higher industry sales in 2016,” said Mustafa Mohatarem, GM’s chief economist. “In addition, household balance sheets are strong and the labor market continues to improve,” he said.
Analysts from TrueCar Inc. in Santa Monica, California, noted that revenue from new vehicle sales reached a record high for the month of January of $38 billion, up 1.4% from a year ago. January also marked the auto industry’s 25th consecutive month of year-over-year revenue expansion.
Higher average transaction prices helped automakers post a $520 million gain in revenue versus January 2015, despite a likely increase in incentive spending and somewhat lower sales compared with a year ago. As previously announced, TrueCar projects sales of new cars and light trucks contracted 0.3% last month.
TrueCar estimates the average transaction price (ATP) for a new light vehicle was $33,155 in January, up 1.7% from a year ago. Average incentive spending per unit rose by $346 to $2,932. The ratio of incentive spending to ATP was 8.8%, up from 7.9% a year ago.
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“We continue to see a trajectory in new vehicle transaction prices,” said Stacey Doyle, TrueCar’s senior industry analyst. “Non-premium utility vehicles will help spur the growth this year, with a 4.3% increase, bringing full-year industry ATP to the $34,000-level for the first time.”