The Detroit 3 in the First Half
Before the U.S. sales numbers were reported for June there was a bit of trepidation regarding how things would turn out. The wide consensus is that 2018 sales will be off compared to 2017’s 17.2-million—perhaps, in IHS Markit’s (ihsmarkit.com) estimate, 16.9-million. But when you look at the first half sales for FCA, Ford and General Motors, the numbers are good—at least in two out of the three.
That is, FCA had first-half sales of 1,115,476 units, which is five percent better than its performance during the first half of 2017.
Ford sold 1,277,691 vehicles in the first six months of this year, but that’s off by 1.8 percent compared with last year.
General Motors, with sales of 1,474,170 units from January to June is up 4.2 percent compared with its sales during the first six months of 2017.
Here’s a look at some of the vehicles with notable numbers—and notable doesn’t always mean “good.”
It is evident that people, in considerable numbers, what to go anywhere and do anything—at least anything that might (or might not) be related to deploying four-wheel-drive capability. Or maybe they just like things that are more like trucks than cars.
In June Jeep sales were up 19 percent compared to the same month last year. There were 86,989 vehicles sold, of which 23,110, the single highest number, were Wranglers, the most Jeep-like of all Jeeps. Coming in second, with a volume change of 89 percent compared with June ’17, was the Cherokee. (The Wrangler sales volume increase compared with June ’17 was 23 percent, but still. . . .)
Ram saw an increase of 6 percent compared with last June. But an important factor was the ProMaster Van, the Class 2 full-size van, as its sales increased 88 percent, to 6,996. Sales of the ProMaster City, the smaller van (Class 1), were down 35 percent to 1,191 vehicles. And the pickup only picked up one percent compared with last June, to 43,542.
What can be said about the Chrysler brand? The less the better. Its sales were down 32 percent, to 13,484. To be fair, it is essentially a two-vehicle brand, with the 300 full-size sedan, which dropped 19 percent, and the Pacifica minivan, which was down 26 percent.
At Dodge, there are a couple notable things, one seemingly coincident, the other amazing. The two muscle cars—the Charger and the Challenger—saw their sales increase by 4 and 3 percent, respectively. There were 6,640 Chargers sold in June and 6,822 Challengers. The former has two doors and the latter four. There must be something to that. But the remarkable vehicle is the Dodge Journey. That has essentially been on the market, little changed, since 2007. Yet its sales in June were up 86 percent compared to last year when it was still old, but a year younger.
Inchiostro rosso. Which is Italian for “red ink.” Which is what Fiat is drenched in, with sales down 36 percent June ‘18 compared with June ‘17 (and 44 percent for the first half of 2018 compared with 2017). There were just 1,426 Fiats sold in June.
Meanwhile, Alfa Romeo sales were booming, with a 121 percent increase compared with last June, driven primarily by the addition of the Stelvio crossover. Last June, when it was still fresh off the boat, there were two sold. This past June there were 1,231 sold.
When it comes to running the numbers, Ford has to love the F-Series because it is essentially a company onto itself. Look at it this way: in June there were 79,204 F-Series trucks sold. The number of Ford cars sold, all in: 42,965. Which probably says something about why Ford will be essentially be turning the car space within its dealerships to boutiques. With products like the EcoSport on one end and the Expedition on the other, and with plenty in between, Ford’s SUVs did well in June, up 8.1 percent compared to June ’17. Yet all of its SUVs were also fewer than the F-Series: 77,453.
At Lincoln, sales were up 2.8 percent in June compared with last June, but the numbers really are quite small. Consider: it sold a total of 2,370 cars. That’s the MKZ and Continental combined. Over at Ford, they sold nearly as many Flexes, 2,328, and that’s a vehicle that has long been considered nonexistent. As for SUV sales, things were more robust, but even there the total was just 7,164, and that is for four vehicles. (It is worth noting that the winner of the Truck category for the 2018 North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) Awards, the Lincoln Navigator, was up 68.4 percent compared to last June and it is up 82.4 percent for the year—probably worth noting because I am one of the NACTOY judges.)
Here the metric is somewhat different. GM had decided that it would no longer do monthly sales reports but that they would do them quarterly, presumably thinking that it would cause a better reflection of longer-term trends. So here it is the second quarter of 2018 compared with the second quarter of 2017. And maybe this works for them.
At Buick, things aren’t going particularly well as the division is down 12 percent for the quarter. Not surprisingly, the crossovers did well, or at least the Enclave was up by 25.4 percent to `12,551 units for Q2 ’18 and the Encore 4.1 percent to 23,167, but the Envision was down 48.1 percent, to 7,118 units. The Regal is powering back to relevance, with its sales up 42 percent, albeit to a small 4,507 for three months’ worth of sales.
Cadillac’s sales are perking up, thanks largely to the performance of the XT5 crossover, which alone accounts for some 43 percent of Cadillac’s sales in the second quarter, with 17,045 units delivered. The other SUV in the lineup, the Escalade, is also up, but only fractionally (i.e., 0.8 percent compared with Q2 ’17). But the vehicle that has the strongest growth percentage-wise in the Cadillac showroom, a car that my friend Peter DeLorenzo of Autoextremist.com and I both agree has the most fundamental ‘Cadillacness’ to it, is the XTS. Its percent of change from last year’s second quarter to this is 36.1. The XT5 comes in second, at 4.3 percent. There were 3,665 XTS sedans sold in Q2 ’18. And that means it outsold the CTS (2,640) and the CT6 (2,427) and it came in just behind the ATS (3,785) in the car-side of the business.
At Chevy, things for Q2 were solid. Even though the Silverado will be replaced by a new version, the existing model is doing well, with Q2 deliveries of 155,529, which is up 15.7 percent compared to ’17. The new Traverse is doing quite well, with sales of 35,892, up 30 percent, as is the diminutive Trax, with sales of 26,507 units for the quarter, a 42.7 percent rise. And while in the category of big increases, the Colorado, with sales of 41,016, was up 46.8 percent from Q2 ’17.
One of the arguments for the quarterly reporting is that things would seem somewhat smoother, but there seems to be a bit of an aberration, at least as regards the Chevy Impala. Although its sales are down 11.7 percent for the first half of 2018 compared with 2017; there were 27,662 Impalas delivered during the first half of 2018. However, for Q2 2018, Impala sales were up 46.3 percent from Q2 ’17, at 13,595 deliveries.
Although the Chevy Bolt is holding its own for the first half of 2018, with sales of 7,858, or a 3.5 percent increase compared with the first half of 2017, it cooled considerably in the second quarter of 2018, with a decrease of 22.6 percent, or 3,483 units.
And at GMC, what is surprising is that the Acadia midsize SUV, which was introduced but a couple of years ago, shows a 25.2 percent decrease for Q2, to 20,108 units. And it is down for the first half of the year, as well, to 50,008 vehicles, or a 10.7 percent decline. Perhaps this has something to do with the sibling vehicle, the Terrain, which is both smaller (compact) and younger (the second-generation vehicle came out last year) than the Acadia.
Although the RAV4 has plenty of heritage in the small crossover segment, competition has gotten a whole lot tougher, so Toyota has made significant changes to the fourth-generation model.
When Suzuki developed the GSX1300R, it set out to build the fastest mass-production motorcycle on the market. As competitors gained ground and stringent emission regulations were set, Suzuki set out to reinvent the bike.
According to Sandor Piszar, Chevrolet truck marketing director, “We engineer and build our trucks with customers’ expectations in mind.”