Cleveland, Ohio – No qualifications this time.
No best-since some bygone day comparison.
No best-since the Great Recession, sales-look-good-compared-to-2008’s-miserable-results.
Automakers sold 17.5 million cars in 2015, the industry’s best results ever, breaking the 17.4 million auto sales record set in 2000.
December sales, helped by good weather, heavy advertising, and general improvements in the economy, came in at about a 17.8 million-vehicle seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), down from the 18 million+ SAARs from October and November, but a healthy clip that has automakers excited for 2016.
“The U.S. economy continues to expand, and the most important factors that drive demand for new vehicles are in place, so we expect to see a second consecutive year of record industry sales in 2016,” says Mustafa Mohatarem, General Motor’s chief economist. “The single most important pieces are the ongoing gains in employment and the growth in personal income. When you add in lower energy prices, it’s easy to see why consumer spending is strong.”
Breaking down the December results:
- General Motors – 290,230, 5.7%. Chevy had its best sales since 2006 and its best retail December since 2005. Newer vehicles such as the Chevy Trax small crossover and GMC Canyon small pickup posted most of the growth while cars stagnated or fell.
- Ford Motor Co. – 239,242,794, 8.4%. Work vehicles drove Ford’s gain with a 14.6% jump for the F-Series pickup line and 6.1% bump for commercial vans (Transit was up 25.1%, offsetting double-digit declines for the E-Series it replaces). Lincoln also had a good month, up 12.1% as a brand.
- Toyota Motor Co. – 238,350, 10.8%. Following a lackluster year, Camry sedan sales spiked 18% in December, bringing the company into positive territory (0.2%) for the year. Most of the company’s growth came from the Rav4 crossover (up 38.6%) and 4Runner SUV (up 22.2%).
- FCA US LLC – 217,527, 12.6%. One word – Jeep. In 2014, Jeep accounted for less than one in every three Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sold (32.7%). Last year, Jeep had 41.2% of FCA’s sales. Put another way, the 26,380-vehicle sales increase for Jeep in 2014 was higher than all sales for Chrylser-brand vehicles (24,292).
- American Honda Co. – 150,893, 9.9%. At Toyota, it was the Camry that came back to life in December. At Honda, it was the Civic (up 29.4%). With Accord sales up 3% as well, Honda’s cars grew 11.8%, beating the 8.0% bump posted by Honda trucks.
- Nissan Group – 139,300, 18.7%. A dominant hit all year, Nissan’s Rogue small crossover continued to boom in December, up 78.0%. Most small crossovers fit more into the low-volume, niche sales world, but at 287,190 sold in 2015, the Rogue is a high-volume leader for Nissan.
- Hyundai/Kia – 117,749, 7.0%. At Hyundai, the Tucson small crossover dominated sales growth (up 166.9%). At Kia, growth came from the mid-sized Sportage crossover (83.3% growth) and the Sorento SUV (32.9%). The K900 luxury car, hawked by basketball star LeBron James, posted a 74.2% gain, but that’s a low-volume car (162 sold, up from 193).
- Volkswagen – 51,355, -3.6%. With diesel sales off the table as Volkswagen deals with regulators, sales were down for almost every vehicle. The Golf subcompact continued to offer some hope for the company (up 29.7%), and sales of the Tiguan small crossover more than doubled. Those gains couldn’t offset declines for the Jetta and other mainstream VW vehicles.