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USA April 2019: Nissan (+10.7%) rebounds, Ram (+25.2%) stuns in 4th straight market decline (-2.6%)

Nissan Altima sales are up a whopping 59% year-on-year in April.

This article has been updated with correct data for Audi models and refined estimates for Buick, Cadillac and GMC models.

April marks the 4th straight month of year-on-year decline for U.S. new light vehicles, still chasing their first gain of the year at -1.5% to 1.336.853, leading to a year-to-date tally down -2.6% to 5.330.035. If last month a bright spot was the Seasonally Adjusted Annualised Selling Rate (SAAR) up to 17.42m, this time it’s in an awful spot at just 16.41m, down 4.9% year-on-year but more worryingly reaching its lowest point in over 5 years, since February 2014 (15.54m). As it has been the case so far this year, the U.S. market is artificially kept from plunging further down by commercial and rental fleet sales estimated by J.D. Power to gain 2.6% to 325.000 or 24.3% share vs. 23.3% a year ago. This rise is expected to continue through 2019 after having gained a cool 8% in 2018 in a market down 1% and up 6% in a merit down 4% in Q1. One reason behind this continued uptrend, apart from conveniently padding depressed private sales, is U.S. tax reform signed into law in late 2017 where companies can accelerate depreciation allowances for business fleets.

However record-high vehicle prices and high interests are hampering demand, whereas incentives are, bizarrely, down. ALG estimates average incentives at $3,488 per vehicle, down 4.2% year-on-year (see detail by brand below), while the average transaction price is up 2.9% to $34,319 and interest rates are above 6% for the 4th straight month at a 6.28% average vs. 5.58% last year and 4.40% five years ago. Cars continues to tumble down at -7.9% while trucks managed a slim +0.3% uptick. As it has been the case for 12 months now, General Motors have only published results quarterly. Ford started doing the same in January this year and now FCA has announced it will no longer report U.S. and Canada sales on a monthly basis, with the change taking effect after midyear. It’s an extremely disappointing move from the 3 main U.S. manufacturers (a pattern that was originally started by Tesla) but a clear illustration that the U.S. climate is now one of hiding and secrecy instead of full transparency. The U.S. new vehicle market is now less transparent than roughly 60 markets worldwide that publish official data monthly, among them China, Russia or Kazakhstan. We will continue to provide exclusive estimates for all brands and models that are not reported monthly in the U.S.

Ram sales surge 24.9%, the largest gain in the Top 25.

The Top 4 groups in the country are all in negative, with 3 of them falling faster than the market. Leader General Motors (-2.5%) remains in the lead and matches the market evolution, but Ford Motor (-4.7%), Toyota Motor (-4.4%) and FCA (-6.1%) are all in difficulty. In contrast, American Honda (+0.1%), Hyundai-Kia (+1.7%) and Nissan Motor (+7.2%) all manage various levels of happiness/growth while Subaru (+7.7%) extends its streak of year-over-year monthly gains to 89 but the BMW Group (-2.4%) and most strikingly Daimler AG (-14.5%) recede. Brand-wise, below Ford (-4.7%), Toyota (-4.8%) and Chevrolet (-3.4%), Honda (+0.2%) edges up but it’s Nissan (+10.7%) that finally puts a brilliant end to months of skidding due to its move away from high-volume, low-margin fleet sales. The only other double-digit gainer in the Top 20 is Ram (+24.9%) posts the largest gain around. Further down, Tesla (+93.9%), Genesis (+56.1%) and Land Rover (+11.1%) stand out while among smaller carmakers Lamborghini (+172.9%), McLaren (+44%) and Rolls Royce (+10%) shine in a month definitely more clement for luxury carmakers.

First Top 100 finish for the new Ford Ranger.

Over in the models ranking, the Ford F-Series (-4.2%) endures a 7th year-on-year decline in the past 8 months but remains leader by far even though the Ram Pickup (+25.1%) shoots up to take a commanding 10.000-unit advantage over the Chevrolet Silverado (-11.6%), cementing its #2 YTD spot. The Toyota RAV4 (+10.1%) reclaims the #1 SUV spot it held in 2018 for the first time since last November, distancing the Chevrolet Equinox (+12.6%) also in excellent, market-defying shape. The Toyota Camry (-2.1%) is back above the Honda Civic (+0.1%) atop the cars order while SUVs complete the April Top 10 with the Honda CR-V (+0.1%), Nissan Rogue (+3.5%) and Jeep Wrangler (-24.7%), the latter signing its first Top 10 finish since a year ago in April 2018 when it ranked at a record #6. Among recent launches (<12 months), the Subaru Ascent remains in the lead at #67 (-3 on last month) but is being caught up by the Ford Ranger at #75 (+27) scoring its first Top 100 finish since its return in market last January. The Kia Telluride continues to impress at #78 (+16).

Previous post (1): USA Full Year 2018: Exclusive State by State rankings now available

Previous post (2): USA First Quarter 2019: Market endures weakest start in five years

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

One year ago: USA April 2018: Jeep (+20%) and Tesla (+60%) impress, Nissan (-29%) implodes in market down 4.8%

Full April 2019 Top 15 groups, Top 40 All-brands and Top 290 All-models below.

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