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USA First Quarter 2019: Market endures weakest start in five years

Ram (+20.6%) ignores the surrounding gloom with the largest gain in the Top 20.

Down -3.2% to 3.989.468 units, the U.S. new light vehicle market endures its slowest start of the year and its first quarter below 4m since 2014 (3.74m). Accordingly, most analysts including myself anticipate 2019 to be the first year to drop below 17 million annual units since… 2014. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualised Selling Rate (SAAR) was down on 2018 in January (16.90m) and February (16.61m) but encouragingly up in March (17.42m). A larger drop has been avoided thanks to strong rental fleet sales, up 6% to 550.000 units over the period, with Nissan (33%), FCA (22%) and Ford (19%) the most dynamic in this artificial segment. The biggest five groups all lose share year-on-year, with General Motors (-7%) distances Ford Motor (-3.2%), Toyota Motor (-5%), FCA (-3.5%) and Nissan Motor (-9.7%) all falling faster than the market. Reversely, Subaru (+4.7%) on a 87-month streak of year-on-year gains, Hyundai-Kia (+4.7%) benefitting from an extended crossover lineup, Honda (+2%) and the VW Group (+0.6%) all return positive scorecards. Both Daimler AG (-9.3%) and the BMW Group (-1.8%) recede but Jaguar Land Rover (+9.2%) is strong. Note all groups, brands and models sales figures in this reports are actuals, with GM and Ford now reporting quarterly.

Subaru’s streak of consecutive monthly gains now stands at 87 months, partly thanks to the new Ascent, the most popular new launch in the US.

Brand-wise, Ford (-2.2%) outsells Toyota (-6.1%) and Chevrolet (-8%) in an unchanged podium but Honda (+1.3%) overtakes Nissan (-11.6%) handicapped by its healthier mix of less fleet sales, to reach #4 with Jeep (-6.7%) posting a rare degrowth. Helped by strong incentives and a new pickup, Ram (+20.6%) scores the largest and one of only two double-digit gains in the Top 20 while Kia (+7.6%), Subaru (+4.7%) and Hyundai (+2.1%) also shine in the remainder of the Top 10. McLaren (+108.1%), Lamborghini (+85.6%), Tesla (+70.2%), Mitsubishi (+17.6%), Jaguar (+27%) and Lincoln (+11.2%) impress further down while at the other end of the scale Fiat (-44.8%), Chrysler (-31.7%), Smart (-28%), Alfa Romeo (-26%), Buick (-17.8%), Infiniti (-16.1%), Mazda (-15.7%) and Mini (-15.5%) all struggle.

The Nissan Kicks is one of only two new launches in the Q1 Top 100.

If the Ford F-Series (+0.2%) edges up in pole position, the rest of the U.S. Top 10 models is completely reshuffled this year. First, the Ram Pickup (+15.4%) leapfrogs past both the Chevrolet Silverado (-15.7%) and Nissan Rogue (-19.4%) to reach a 2nd place that would be a historic first if maintained until the end of 2019. In turn that means the Rogue holds onto the #1 SUV spot that was his a year ago in Q1, while the Chevrolet Equinox (+7.4%) and Honda CR-V (+6.4%) both overtake the Toyota RAV4 (-8.4%). In the passenger car order, the Toyota Camry (-10%) manages to maintain the lead while the Toyota Corolla (+1%) now tops its segment above the Honda Civic (-4.8%) with the Honda Accord (+4.6%) stuck outside the Top 10. There are only two additional gainers in the Top 22: the Toyota Tacoma (+8.2%) and Jeep Grand Cherokee (+8%).

The Ford Ranger has finally returned to U.S. charts.

Below, the Dodge Journey (+30.3%), Chevrolet Trax (+20%), Kia Soul (+19.3%), Chevrolet Colorado (+16.1%) and Kia Sorento (+10.4%) are the only nameplates scoring a double-digit uptick in the remainder of the Top 50. Just outside, notice also the Tesla Model 3 (+174.1%), Ford Expedition (+61.9%) and VW Jetta (+57.7%) pushing up strongly. The newcomer segment (<12 months) is unusually crowded in this start of 2019: led by the Subaru Ascent (#65) above the Nissan Kicks (#92), the much anticipated Ford Ranger (#108), Cadillac XT4 (#125), Honda Insight (#149), Kia Telluride (#153), Honda Passport (#159), Lexus UX (#172), Audi Q8 (#188) and Chevrolet Blazer (#192). Next are the Genesis G70 (#204), BMW X7 (#207), Mercedes A Class (#230), Jaguar i-Pace (#244), BMW 8 Series (#245), Jeep Gladiator (#267) and Hyundai Nexo (#273). It’s worthwhile noting that 13 out of 17 are light trucks and 3 are green cars.

Previous post: USA March 2019: Ram (+15.5%), VW (+14.8%), Kia (+10.2%) defy market down 3.1%

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

Full Q1 2019 Top 15 groups, Top 40 brands and Top 295 models below.

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