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USA March 2018: Largest gain in over 2 years, Jeep beats volume record

Jeep improves its monthly record by 8.000 sales and is now just 1.600 units off 100.000.

* See the Top 15 groups, Top 40 brands and Top 280 models by clicking on the title *

Updated with amended Tesla figures

In March, new light vehicle sales in the U.S. post a sturdy 6.4% year-on-year gain – the largest since February 2016 – to 1.655.864 registrations, lifted by heavy discounts, strong fleet deliveries and one additional weekend of sales. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Sales Rate (SAAR) rallies back up to 17.49 million, the highest so far in 2018, vs. 16.82 in March 2017, 17.12m in February of this year and 17.18m in January. The Q1 2018 volume is up 2% on the same period in 2017 to 4.117.766 units. Light trucks sales continue all guns blazing with a 16.3% year-on-year surge in March to a new all time record 1.116.280 units or 67% share vs. a steep 9.2% decline to 539.584 passenger cars at 32% share, with light trucks now outselling passenger cars almost 2 to 1. Year-to-date, light trucks are up 9.8% to 2.736.038 whereas passenger cars are down 10.8% to 1.374.507. Looking into the detail of light truck segments, it’s once again crossovers that pull the market up with an outstanding 27% uptick to 572.829 and up 18.2% YTD to 1.415.954 – alone outselling passenger cars for the third month in a row – while pickups are up 7.9% this month to 260.949 and up 2.8% YTD to 653.891 and SUVs up 6.6% to 747.837 in March and up 1.2% YTD to 436.587.

Despite the up-trend over Q1, 2018 sales are still expected to drop on 2017 over the Full Year, potentially hampered by a rise in interest rates. According to Edmunds, average interest rates on new vehicle loans are at their highest since 2009 at 5.7% vs. 5.2% in February and 5% in January. The continuous shift from cars to light trucks is lifting the average transaction price to $35.285 in March according to Kelley Blue Book, up 2% or $703 year-on-year but down $23 on last month. According to ALG, average incentives are up 8% year-on-year to $3.750 or 10.6% of the average sticker price, the 20th time it matches or exceeds the 10% benchmark in the past 21 months. The most generous manufacturers are BMW at $5.324 per car (+18%), General Motors at $5.082 (+12%), Daimler at $4.997 (+13%), FCA at $4.424 (+4%), Nissan at $4.206 (+6%), Ford at $4.150 (+1%), Kia at $3.886 (+15%) while carmakers below the market average are Subaru at $1.390 (+55%), Honda at $1.884 (-13%), Toyota at $2.510 (+16%), Hyundai at $2.760 (+27%) and Volkswagen at $3.681 (+6%).

The Ford F-Series sees its average transaction price climb to $46.800.

Group-wise, General Motors (+15.7%), FCA (+12.1%) and the Volkswagen Group (+12%) post the only double-digit gains in the Top 10. This is GM’s last sales report until July as the company announced this week it would switch to quarterly reports. According to Automotive News, “GM will also no longer report monthly sales in China or Brazil. The company will provide monthly sales data to the U.S. Federal Reserve, other government agencies and industry associations across the globe but that data will not be made public.” This is a major and surprising hit to the transparency of U.S. new vehicle sales reporting setting us back to the 1980s which could have a ripple effect throughout the entire industry. In this context, GM retail sales are up 14%, fleet share is 22% vs. 20.7% a year ago, crossover sales are up 41%, light truck sales up 15% and car sales down 11%. GM has achieved strong results this month thanks to incentives soaring up 12% to 15% of its average transaction price (ATP) of $34.912, itself down 3.8% year-on-year.

As for FCA, this is its first year-on-year gain since August 2016, putting an end to 18 straight months of decline, with retail volumes up 11% and fleet accounting for 25% of its March total vs 23% a year ago. Here too incentives are above average at 13% of its ATP of $34.240 (+3.5%). Subaru is up 5.9% to post a new March volume record and extend its sales streak to 76 consecutive months of year-on-year gains. Despite a 55% hike, Subaru still manages to keep its incentives to the lowest in market at $1.390 or less than 5% of its ATP of $27.877. Honda Motor is up 3.8% with incentives at a low 7% of its ATP of $27.784. Ford Motor (+3.5%) posts its first gain of 2018 and boasts the highest average transaction price or all high volume brands at $37.197 (+3.3%) with incentives at 11% of this ATP. Toyota Motor is also up 3.5% with low incentives at 8% of its ATP of $32.085, hitting its highest Q1 volume in a decade at 507.000 units.

The Nissan Rogue breaks its all-time volume record at 42.151 units.

Hyundai-Kia is the hardest hit at -5.5%, the company’s 16th consecutive month of decline, and this despite generous incentives: Hyundai is at 12% of its ATP of $22.581 (-1.2%) and Kia is at a whopping 17% of its ATP of $23.033 (+1.3%). Nissan Motor has also spent a lot on incentives this month at 15% of its ATP of $27.438 (-0.5%) but drops 2.1% while luxury marques Daimler (-2.7%) and the BMW Group (-0.4%) also lose ground. Further down, Tesla (+61.6%), Volvo (+53.7%) and Mazda (+35.7%) all post spectacular gains with Jaguar Land Rover (+10.2%) also in great shape. Brand-wise, Ford (+3.7%) distances Chevrolet (+15.6%), Toyota (+4.5%), Nissan (-3.6%) and Honda (+2.6%), reflecting their respective groups’ results.

Jeep gallops ahead to a new all-time monthly record volume thanks to a 44.7% surge to 98.382 units, it’s not quite the six-digit figure that FCA hastily announced earlier this week, but still an almost 8.000 unit-improvement on the previous record of 90.545 set back in May 2016, at the time the 6th all-time record in the previous 18 months after March 2015 (71.584), April 2015 (71.759), May 2015 (79.652), August 2015 (80.804), December 2015 (89.654) and May 2016 (90.545). In other words, despite a hiatus of almost two years, Jeep’s U.S. sales record has improved by 37% in three years, and the much-awaited six-digit result should com with the arrival of the pickup variant of the Wrangler expected for 2019.

Audi has now been growing for 101 consecutive months (since December 2007)…

Among other brands posting very strong results this month, Alfa Romeo is up 364.1% with the arrival of the Giulia and Stelvio, Land Rover is up 37.8%, Buick up 28%, Mitsubishi up 21.7%, Acura up 15.7%, Chrysler up 14.9%, Cadillac up 12.7% and GMC up 11.4%. At the other end of the scale, Smart (-71.7%), Fiat (-47.2%), Jaguar (-34.2%), Bentley (-33.7%), Maserati (-32.5%), Genesis (-21%), Ram (-13.3%), Mercedes (-11.1%) and Hyundai (-10.9%) endure the most painful falls. We’ll end on the most impressive streak of year-on-year gains in market: Audi, thanks to deliveries up another 7.4%, has now been growing for an uninterrupted 101 months…

Model-wise, the Ford F-Series is up a solid 7% year-on-year to post its best March score since 2000, seeing its average transaction price grow by $1.700 per vehicle vs. March 2017 to reach $46.800. This means Ford U.S. banked $4 billion worth of revenue just on this nameplate in March. The Chevrolet Silverado impresses with a 24% gain in 2nd place while the Nissan Rogue is up 7% to break its all-time volume record at 42.151 including the Rogue Sport aka Qashqai. The Ram Pickup (-11%) is stuck in 4th place ahead of the Toyota Camry (-1%), RAV4 (+9%) and Honda Civic (+3%). Over the First Quarter of 2018, the Rogue leads the SUV race with an almost unsurmountable 25.000 unit-advantage over the RAV4. The Chevrolet Equinox (+41%) crosses the 30.000 monthly sales milestone for only the second time in the nameplate’s career at 31.940, 2nd best-ever below the 32.784 of last December.

Record Crosstrek sales help Subaru to a 76th consecutive year-on-year gain.

Partly justifying Jeep’s all-time record in March, the new Wrangler smashes its volume record thanks to a 70% year-on-year surge to 27.829 units vs. a previous best of 22.615 in March 2015. The Wrangler is up 11 spots on February to #11, also believed to be the nameplate’s highest U.S. ranking, beating the #17 reached in June 2016 and 2017. The Jeep Cherokee (+63%), Toyota Tacoma (+21%), Jeep Compass (+553%), Mazda CX-5 (+91%), GMC Terrain (+99%), Buick Encore (+82%) reaching an all-time best, Chevrolet Traverse (+41%), Honda Pilot (+42%), Subaru Crosstrek (+88%) beating its volume record, Chrysler Pacifica (+40%), Chevrolet Colorado (+52%), Hyundai Tucson (+31%) and Honda Odyssey (+28%) also impress in the Top 50: that’s not a single passenger car, 9 SUVs, 2 MPVs and 2 pickups. The best-selling recent launches are the VW Atlas (#77), Toyota C-HR (#83) and Tesla Model 3 (#113) selling a record 3.820 in March and 8.180 in Q1 according to official Tesla reports. The Hyundai Kona is up 97 spots on its inaugural month in February to #142 and the BMW X2 (#197) as this month’s new arrival.

Tesla Model 3.

Tesla says it sold 8.180 units of the Model 3 in the U.S. over Q1 2018, making it the brand’s best-seller for the first time. All Model 3 produced were sold in the U.S., with worldwide deliveries of the Model S at 11.730 and of the Model X at 10.070. 4.060 Model S and X vehicles were in transit to customers at the end of Q1, 68% higher than at the end of Q4 2017. An additional 2,040 Model 3 vehicles were also in transit to customers. Tesla Q1 production totals 34.494 units, up 40% on Q4 2017 and the largest volume in Tesla history. 24.728 were Model S and Model X, and 9.766 were Model 3. Tesla announced on April 3 that in the past seven days 2.020 Model 3 were produced and 2.000 more would be produced in the following seven days, matching the amount of Model S and X combined. As of mid-April 2018, Model 3 volume now exceeds Model S and Model X combined.

Previous post: USA Full Year 2017: Exclusive State by State rankings now available

Previous month: USA February 2017: Toyota & VW Group stay afloat in market down 2.4%

Previous year: USA Full Year 2017: First decline since 2009, RAV4 & Rogue outsell all passenger cars

Full March 2018 Top 15 groups, Top 40 brands and Top 280 models below.

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