2018 Auto Sales: Unexpected Gains

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Despite predictions for 3% declines for 2018, sales increased slightly last year as automakers continued to push trucks, SUVs, and crossovers as car numbers fell.

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February 5, 2019

2018 AUTO SALES: UNEXPECTED GAINS

Despite predictions for 3% declines for 2018, sales increased slightly last year as automakers continued to push trucks, SUVs, and crossovers as car numbers fell.

Instead of dropping to lower than 17 million units for the first time since 2014, the industry posted its fourth best year ever. The seven largest producers, representing about 85% of the industry, had mixed results as they dealt with changing consumer tastes.

8.5% Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA): 2,235,204

While GM and Ford made headlines in 2018 for plans to drop most cars from their lineups, FCA did that in 2017 and reaped the benefits last year. Jeep sales jumped 17%, commercial vehicle sales boomed, and Dodge managed 3% growth thanks to minivans and SUVs. 

-0.3% Toyota: 2,426,672

Traditionally, Toyota succeeded or failed on the strength of the Camry sedan and Corolla compact car. Those combined for 647,171 units, down 10% from 2017. Toyota’s RAV4 SUV and Highlander crossover combined for 671,681 sales, up 25%. Overall, cars fell 12% while trucks and SUVs rose 8%.

-0.6% Hyundai/Kia: 1,267,619

The largest Korean automaker maintained flat sales (down 1% for Hyundai, up slightly for Kia). Following a miserable 2017 (sales down more than 10%), SUV and crossover sales increased, making up for continued car declines. Kia Sportage sales, for example, rose 14%. Hyundai’s Tucson was up 24%.

-1.6% General Motors: 2,954,037

Still the nation’s best-selling vehicle producer, GM announced plans in November to discontinue cars from Chevrolet, Buick, and Cadillac. Combined, those vehicles were down 23% in 2018. Trucks and commercial vehicles rose slightly while crossovers jumped 7%, crossing the 1 million sales mark.

-2.2% Honda: 1,604,828

In 2017, the CR-V crossover squeaked past the Civic compact car by 609 units to become Honda’s best seller. The 2018 margin was 53,253 vehicles. The Clarity all-electric, plug-in hybrid (PHEV), or fuel-cell vehicle was the only car to gain, outselling the Chevy Volt to become the most-popular PHEV in 2018.

-3.5% Ford: 2,497,318

F-Series truck sales topped 900,000 units, up 1.4% for the year, and the company’s crossovers and SUVs were flat. Those solid numbers for its core profit centers failed to overcome weak car sales, but Ford is responding by discontinuing the Focus, Fusion, and Taurus cars soon.

-6.2% Nissan: 1,493,877

Japan’s third-largest carmaker was 2017’s fastest grower (up 1.9% in a declining market), but it couldn’t maintain that momentum in 2018. The Rogue small crossover had been responsible for much of the company’s growth in recent years, and it hit capacity in 2018, growing only 2.1% while car sales dropped 17%.

137.9% Tesla: 245,200
Tesla Motors’ breakout year: Though it failed to hit internal production targets and analysts’ estimates for the fourth quarter, the world’s largest electric car company achieved mass-production volumes in 2018 and could more than double sales again in 2019.