An increase in sales by Hyundai, Kia and Subaru as well as gains by brands such as Tesla, Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover and even Mitsubishi helped the U.S. auto industry set a new sales record – again – in 2016.
The sales tally from Autodata showed that, despite widespread expectations that it would hard for the industry to beat the 2015 record of 17.47 million units, sales increased by 0.4% to 17.55 million units in 2016 breaking the year-old record.
Of the 17.55 million units, 10.45 million were trucks, according to Autodata, as sales of passenger cars dropped by more than 600,000 units, putting pressure on passenger car production plants in the U.S. and Mexico.
The sales record also fell even though the three of the largest manufacturers, including General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Toyota, all reported their sales dropped as did BMW, long a favorite of some of the most affluent American car buyers.
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Sales of the Volkswagen brand dropped again for the second consecutive year, but the luxury brands in VW Group operating in the U.S., Audi and Porsche, both chalked up handsome sales increases for the year, more than offsetting the sales losses by Volkswagen.
Overall, the two biggest winners were Jaguar Land Rover, which posted a 24% increase in sales, as its new models such as the XE and F-Pace caught on with Americans. “It involved a lot of hard work but it’s thrilling to see it pay off,” said JLR spokesman Stuart Schorr.
Volvo also made an imprint on the U.S. market with an 18% increase in sales.
“We were just recently named one of the top five most googled automotive brands of the year, a clear testament to both our brand and product success,” said Lex Kerssemakers, president and CEO, Volvo Car USA. Ferrari posted a 6.2% increase and Maserati sales increased by 7.1%. Porsche also increased sales by 4.9%.
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Subaru continued to win market share posting a 5.6% jump, but Nissan also posted a 5.4% sales increase, while Kia sales increased by 3.5% and Honda sales increased by 3.2% and Hyundai sales, despite the year-end turmoil reflected in the dismissal of top U.S. executive Dave Zuchowski, also saw its sales rise 1.7% in 2016.
Overall, sales were so strong that every manufacturer operating the U.S. could celebrate as the strong sales numbers from December rolled in and showed Americans purchased 3.1% more vehicles last month than they did at the end of 2015.
Tom Libby, manager, loyalty and industry analysis for IHS Markit, noted with 2016 sales surpassing those of 2015, it marks the first time in history that sales of new vehicle in the U.S. have increased for seven consecutive years.
However, the biggest loser in 2016 was BMW, which saw its sales tumble by 9.7% last year. Part of the decline was due to the 11% drop in sales of the Mini, which has suffered as small cars of fell out of fashion. But sales of BMW-branded vehicles also dropped by 9.5% as the luster of the ultimate driving machine continued to erode in 2016.
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Archrival Mercedes-Benz easily walked away with luxury sales crown as outsold BMW by more than 60,000 units and bested Lexus by nearly 30,000 units.