US Car Sales Plummet in February. Trucks Gain Again

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US auto sales weakened in February with car sales driving off a cliff, down-12%. AutoData says the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for February was 17.08 million units versus 17.45 million units a year ago. Total industry unit deliveries, including all brands un-adjusted for business days, decreased -2.4% compared to last February. Sales were down -12.7% compared to January 2018. International nameplate sales – and potential Trump Trade Wars collateral damage – were essentially flat, up just 0.2% from February 2017. (Trump Tantrum on Trade Kills Jobs, Distracts from Expanding Russian Collusion Investigations and Criminal Indictments; Largest US Auto Exporter – BMW Manufacturing; Trump versus Auto Industry – Outcome Could be Ugly; Collision Course – Trump, Mexico, NAFTA)

The smoking tire and news wheel spin of the month  – given Trump’s ongoing trade tirades amidst a complete collapse of White House staff support and an ongoing exodus, as well as growing criminal charges – came from the American International Automobile Dealers Association: “Auto sales have been steady for the start of 2018,” claimed AIADA President Cody Lusk as they drifted down. “At around 17 million units a year, that’s a healthy place to be. Our dealer members are focused on what they do best: selling quality products at competitive prices with excellent customer service.”

Offshore brands finished February with 55.4% of the market, down from the 57.4% share they held in January, up slightly from 53.9% in February 2017. Overall, they sold 720,982 vehicles for the month, up from 662,412 vehicles in January, and up slightly from 719,376 vehicles in February 2017.

Not surprisingly, Asian brands held the highest share of the U.S. auto market at 46.1%, down from 47.6% in January, but up from the 45.5% share Orientals held in January 2017. Sales of 600,402 vehicles for the month were an improvement over January when they sold 549,805 vehicles but were down 1% from February 2017 at 606,706 vehicles.

European brands occupied 9.3% of the market and sold 120,580 vehicles. While their market share was lower than January, overall sales were an improvement compared to the 112,607 vehicles sold last month. With dirty diesel Volkswagen leading, European brands saw an 8.4% improvement compared to February 2017 sales figures when they sold 112,670 vehicles and occupied 8.4% of the market.

Detroit Three brands finished the month with 44.6% of the market and sales of 581,146 vehicles – down 5.4% from February 2017 when they held 44.6% of the market and sold 614,134 vehicles. In January, they held 42.6% of the market and sold 492,473 vehicles.

Trucks, SUVs Remain Top Choices

Seven of the top ten selling vehicles in February fell into the truck or SUV category, a seemingly endless trend. The Ford F-Series and Chevrolet Silverado pickups remained on top, although sales for the Silverado fell by 16.3% from last February.

In third place, the Nissan Rogue remained the top selling SUV for the month, with sales up 15% over last February. The Toyota RAV4 also saw strong sales, taking sixth place for the month with sales up 13.3%. The Honda CR-V took seventh place, but sales for the model were down 19%. In ninth place, the Chevrolet Equinox saw a sales improvement of 7.1%.

Cars were down, for the count, but not out yet. The Toyota Camry saw sales up 12.2% and finished the month in fifth place. The Honda Civic was down 4.5%, an eighth-place finish, while the Toyota Corolla finished in tenth and saw sales slide 7.3%.

Manufacturing Big in Vehicle Supply?

NAFTA negotiations continue with a diminishing pulse rate, but North American vehicle manufacturing – tell soon to be staff-less Trump –  with plants located in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico supplied 451,463 vehicles for U.S. dealer pavement. Asian automakers built 421,807 vehicles, including 201,042 cars and 220,764 trucks. European automakers built 29,656 vehicles in North America. These included 10,400 cars and – note – 19,256 trucks, many of them not saleable elsewhere.

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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