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December and 2017 year-end sales: The dust settles

December and 2017 year-end sales: The dust settles

by Byron Hurd

2017's sales story ends flat.

December delivered an as-expected finish to a sales year that saw its share of drama. The stagnation that reared its head near the end of the 2016 sales year carried into 2017 without much fanfare, but any hope of recovery was met with setbacks, be they natural disasters or consumer reaction to global economic and political shenanigans.

December
Ford finished the year much the way it passed it, but relatively stagnant sales from its core brand weren't offset in December by a bump from Lincoln, which had a pretty solid year but simply couldn't carry it into the final month.

On the FCA front, the bad news was slightly more widespread. With the exception of Alfa (which didn't so much introduce new models in 2017 as it introduced the entire concept of volume), only Ram improved its sales vs. 2016. Even FCA's truck brand trailed off a bit in the second half of the year, preventing it from capitalizing on early gains that could have put it ahead of GMC in year-end volume. Jeep, which seemed poised to eclipse the one-million-unit mark in 2017 based on the prior year's performance, fell 11 percent (nearly 100,000 units) behind its high-water mark.

GM's results were a bit more mixed. GMC and Buick both had strong Decembers, while Chevrolet remained stagnant while Buick and Cadillac remained down. Caddy finished the year down nearly nine percent. Poor ATS and CTS sales were partially offset by volume from the XT5, but not enough. Buick's stronger year-end position was largely thanks to very strong sales from the Encore and Envision.

Both Toyota divisions reported dips in December, but the volume brand was able to keep its head above water for the full year, though barely. Lexus, however, dipped nearly eight percent compared to 2016, keeping it well out of the running for the luxury volume crown. Honda's finish was similar, though Acura's 2017 dip was a bit smaller than Lexus'. Nissan managed to flip this script, posting a one-percent increase vs. 2016 from its core brand and a nearly 11-percent bump for Infiniti. Mazda, which saw excellent volume from its CX-5 and CX-9 crossovers, just couldn't quite get ahead of its 2016 numbers.

Subaru continues to Subaru, putting up a 5.3-percent improvement for the year on an essentially flat (though positively tilted) December. It was enough of a gain to usurp Kia, in fact, who closed the year below 600,000 units (In fact, Subaru's 2017 numbers beat Kia's from 2016.).

Unfortunately, Subaru's record-setting year wasn't quite enough to overtake Hyundai, who managed more than 61,000 sales in its core brand for a year-end finish of nearly 665,000--17,000 units ahead of Subaru.

Audi, being Audi, was up again in December. Contain your shock. Volkswagen's December was unspectacular compared to last year's, but it remained up just a hair above five percent for the year. Mercedes-Benz finished 2017 with more than 337,000 units sold on a strong December, which guaranteed it the first-place finish in the luxury segment. If there's a footnote there, it's smart's catastrophic December. An 86-percent decline caps off a year-end drop of more than 50 percent.

Notes
We are waiting on numbers from Volvo's U.S. division.

All in all, 2017 wasn't a horrible year for the industry. Incentive spending crept up, especially on slow-selling sedans and compacts. Loan terms continued to extend as credit markets further expanded into subprime territory. Both contributed to keeping sales from crashing after years of post-recession recovery. What 2018 has in store remains to be seen, but we expect the industry's natural inclination toward contraction to continue toward a more reasonable equilibrium. Where exactly that will be is beyond our ability to forecast, but we know a tenuous situation when we see it.


December
year-over-year:

- Acura down 12.2%, 15,062
- Alfa up 3,812%, 2,034
- Audi up 16.3%,
- Bentley down 26.8%, 298
- BMW up 4.3%, 34,253
- Buick up 4.7%, 22,285
- Cadillac down 28.6%, 15,304
- Chevrolet down 2.9%, 206,804
- Chrysler up 3%, 17,208
- Dodge down 23%, 27,885
- Fiat down 33%, 1,738
- Ford up 1.9%, 231,430
- Genesis up 12.4%, 1,948
- GMC up 1.2%, 64,146
- Honda down 6.3%, 134,255
- Hyundai up 1.8%, 61,646
- Infiniti down 10%, 16,379
- Jaguar down 20%, 3,414
- Jeep down 12%, 73,205
- Kia down 20.8%, 43,039
- * Lamborghini up 1.1%, 88
- Land Rover down 4%, 7,980
- Lexus down 10.6%, 35,461
- Lincoln down 17%, 10,619
- Maserati down 15.8%, 1,427
- Mazda down 6.5%, 26,893
- **Mercedes-Benz up 10%, 35,203
- MINI down 1%, 4,611
- Mitsubishi up 15.1%, 8,501
- Nissan down 9.4%, 121,847
- Porsche down 2.5%, 3,913
- Ram down 7%, 49,876
- smart down 86%, 166
- Subaru up 0.3%, 63,342
- * Tesla up 55.9%, 5,300
- Toyota down 3.6%, 187,524
- Volkswagen down 18.7%, 30,281
- Volvo

2017 year-end:

- Acura down 4.2%, 154,602
- Alfa up 2,232%,
- Audi up 7.8%, 226,511
- Bentley down 6.8%, 2,405
- BMW down 2.4%, 305,685
- Buick down 4.5%, 219,231
- Cadillac down 8%, 156,440
- Chevrolet down 1.5%, 2,065,883
- Chrysler down 19%, 188,545
- Dodge down 12%, 446,996
- Fiat down 19%, 26,492
- Ford down 1.1%, 2,475,556
- Genesis up 296.4%, 20,594
- GMC up 2.6%, 560,687
- Honda up 0.7%, 1,486,827
- Hyundai down 13.4%, 664,961
- Infiniti up 10.9%, 153,415
- Jaguar up 27%, 39,594
- Jeep down 11%, 828,522
- Kia down 9%, 589,668
- *Lamborghini up 1.4%, 1,056
- Land Rover up 1%, 74,739
- Lexus down 7.6%, 305,132
- Lincoln down 0.5%, 111,159
- Maserati up 9.3%, 13,697
- Mazda down 2.8%, 289,470
- **Mercedes-Benz down 1%, 337,246
- MINI down 9.5%, 47,105
- Mitsubishi up 7.7%, 103,686
- Nissan up 1%, 1,440,049
- Porsche up 2.1%, 55,420
- Ram up 2%, 556,790
- smart down 50.6%, 3,071
- Subaru up 5.3%, 647,956
- *Tesla up 35.1%, 55,120
- Toyota up 0.8%, 2,129,383
- Volkswagen up 5.2%, 339,676
- Volvo

*Based on estimates from Automotive News.
** NOT including Sprinter