Thu | Oct 18, 2018

Honda, Toyota, Nissan car sales plunge, but SUVs rise

Published:Sunday | September 16, 2018 | 12:00 AM
The 2018 Toyota Avalon, an example of a full-size sedan that can be a less expensive alternative to a Toyota Highlander SUV. The Avalon is not moving fast at dealerships, so it could be a good deal for bargain shoppers.
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Americans continued to flock to crossovers, SUVs and pickup trucks and abandon passenger cars in August, likely resulting in a slight increase in overall US auto sales.

Forecasters at Edmunds.com and Cox Automotive predicted industry sales increases of 1.2 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively.

The results showed that the auto industry remains healthy as shoppers buy more profitable vehicles.

But it's not all great news. For one thing, rising interest rates are scaring off some buyers. Zero-per cent loans are drying up, and discounts are hard to find as automakers preserve profits.

"That means monthly payments for car buyers are going to get that much more difficult to meet," said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist for Cox Automotive. "The buying conditions are expected to deteriorate, which may cause consumers to get into the market today rather than wait."

What's more, passenger-car sales continue to plunge. Japanese automakers Toyota, Nissan and Honda - all known for their stalwart sedans - each reported dismal car sales for August.

Passenger cars dropped below 30 per cent of the market in August for the first month ever, according to Cox Automotive. A few years ago, they made up half of the industry.

Overall, sales of mid-size cars and compact cars fell 15.6 per cent and 13.6 per cent to 130,000 and 160,000 vehicles, respectively, according to Cox Automotive. Passenger cars are flailing as shoppers choose roomier rides amid relatively low gasoline prices.

But average vehicle prices continue to rise largely because customers are buying more expensive types of vehicles: crossovers, SUVs and pickups.

The average vehicle price for the month, before discounts, was $35,541, according to Cox Automotive. That was up 1.8 per cent from a year earlier.

Sales of compact crossovers and SUVs rose about 14.8 per cent to about 285,000 vehicles, easily making it the largest segment in the market, Cox projected.

The next biggest, mid-size SUVs and crossovers, rose 9.7 per cent to 220,000.

Here's how the major automakers fared in August:

 

General Motors

 

- Edmunds forecast: -8.5 per cent

- Cox Automotive forecast: -7.5 per cent

- Actual results: GM no longer reports monthly sales results.

 

 

Ford Motor

 

- Edmunds forecast: -1.8 per cent

- Cox Automotive forecast: -3.4 per cent

- Actual results: 4.1 per cent (218,504 vehicles)

 

Ford surprised analysts with an overall sales increase despite abysmal sales of passenger cars, many of which the company is poised to discontinue altogether.

The namesake Ford brand was up 4.2 per cent, while the luxury Lincoln lineup increased 2.7 per cent.

The company's Ford F-series pickup truck lineup, which qualifies as the best-selling vehicle in the US, rose 6.3 per cent to 81,839 units for the month.

Overall, Ford's SUVs posed a 20.1 per cent sales increase, while car sales declined 21.3 per cent.

 

Fiat Chrysler

 

- Edmunds forecast: 15 per cent

- Cox Automotive forecast: 10.8 per cent

- Actual results: 10 per cent (193,718 vehicles)

 

Fiat Chrysler's Jeep brand continues to lift the automaker, increasing 19.6 per cent for the month to 87,502. That included whopping 85 per cent and 76 per cent increases for the Cherokee and Compass SUVs, respectively.

The Ram truck and van brand enjoyed a 26.5 per cent sales increase. But the Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat brands were down 3.4 per cent, 18.4 per cent and 35.2 per cent, respectively. The fledgling Alfa Romeo brand nearly doubled to 2,240 units.

 

Toyota

 

- Edmunds forecast: 0.5 per cent

- Cox Automotive forecast: 1 per cent

- Actual results: -2 per cent (223,055 vehicles)

- The Japanese automaker's stalwart passenger cars struggled mightily for the month, falling 15.6 per cent.

 

But it's SUVs, crossovers and pickups increased 7.4 per cent.

The Camry sedan plummeted 18.6 per cent. But the 4Runner, Highlander and Land Crusier SUVs rocketed up 24.2 per cent, 23.6 per cent and 22.4 per cent, respectively.

Overall, the namesake Toyota brand fell 1.2 per cent, while the luxury Lexus lineup declined 7.1 per cent.

 

Nissan

 

- Edmunds forecast: 11.1 per cent

- Cox Automotive forecast: 6.2 per cent

- Actual results: 3.7 per cent (101,580 vehicles)

 

Like its Japanese automaker counterparts, Nissan's passenger car sales went one day, while its crossovers, SUVs and pickups went the other day.

Sales of the automaker's cars plunged 16.2 per cent, but the rest of its lineup was up 18.9 per cent.

The Rogue crossover increased 11.9 per cent to 33,400 units, more than doubling the next-closest model for the company.

And the Titan pickup was up 32.4 per cent. But the Versa and Sentra small cars fell 53.5 per cent and 12.9 per cent, respectively.

Overall, the namesake Nissan brand increased 4.4 per cent, while the Infiniti luxury lineup declined 1.7 per cent.

 

Honda

 

- Edmunds forecast: 2.5 per cent

- Cox Automotive forecast: -0.7 per cent

- Actual results: 1.3 per cent (147,903 vehicles)

 

The fates of Honda's trucks and cars have diverged considerably.

The Japanese automaker's US car sales fell 15.3 per cent, but its sales of crossovers, SUVs and pickups increased 18.9 per cent.

The company's stalwart Accord and Civic sedans suffered badly in August, with sales down 11 per cent and 24.1 per cent, respectively.

The CR-V crossover was easily the brand's best-seller as sales rose 11.8 per cent to 34,610.

Overall, the namesake Honda brand fell 0.1 per cent, while the much-smaller luxury Acura brand increased 14.8 per cent.

 

Hyundai-Kia

 

- Edmunds forecast: 3 per cent

- Cox Automotive forecast: 3.1 per cent

- Actual results: Hyundai was up 6 per cent. Kia had not yet reported.

 

 

Subaru

 

- Edmunds forecast: Not provided

- Cox Automotive forecast: -0.3 per cent

- Actual results: 1.4 per cent (64,088 vehicles)

 

The Japanese automotive brand scored its 81st consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases.

 

Volkswagen Group

 

- Edmunds forecast: 3.1 per cent (does not include Porsche)

- Cox Automotive forecast: 4.4 per cent

- Actual results: The Volkswagen brand was up 0.7 per cent to 32,255, powered mostly by the brand's SUVs.