March sales: finally marking the end of winter?

March sales: finally marking the end of winter?

by Byron Hurd

Automakers release March sales as the East Coast digs out yet again.

Note: As we reported earlier, this will be the final time GM reports its monthly sales. Going forward, all of its brand sales data will be released on a quarterly basis.

Some of America's biggest population centers are brushing their cars off for what will hopefully be the final time this year as the U.S. auto industry similarly dusts itself off and readies itself for the second quarter.

FCA was first to report this morning, with both good overall numbers for the company as well as some good news in critical areas. For starters, Chrysler is up on the strength of Pacifica (up 40 percent by itself) and Jeep has put the brakes on its late-2017/early-2018 slide thanks to available volumes of Compass.

GM's results were also positive, with increases across the board. Buick had the biggest surge, with a 28 percent bump compared to a year ago, but no brand slipped vs. last March. The increases were enough to wipe out most of GM's deficit vs. 2017, with the sole exception of GMC, which is still down just a hair. We expect its sales picture to remain somewhat turbulent until 2019 Sierra production is fully on-line.

The only real loser on the domestic front appears to be Ford, whose 3.4-percent corporate bump in March wasn't enough to overcome its mild 2018 slump. It remains down 2.9 percent overall for the year. Honda's core brand is still relatively stagnant as well, off 1.3 percent compared to 2017. Acura, however, remains above water.

Toyota also had good news, with a corporate bump for the month on strong sales from the core brand. Lexus fell off a bit from last year, but not dramatically. Like Honda, Nissan was down for the month but remains just ahead of its 2017 YTD numbers.

Speaking of luxury vehicles, we also have BMW's figures. With more than 31,000 sold, it slots in above Lexus for March and (and for the year, too). Mercedes-Benz managed to hold off Lexus, but BMW carried the month. Benz remains ahead year-to-date, however.

As an added note, we're getting close to the point where it will be worthwhile to include Audi as a regular player in this segment. By year's end, the VW Group brand might just have one or two months where it finishes ahead of a competitor. Only time will tell.

And then there's Mazda. We don't know what is in the water over there, but we suspect they've hired Subaru's sports doctor, if you catch our drift. Mazda is outselling Volkswagen year-to-date, despite the latter's also-strong performance so far in 2018.

On the Korean front, Hyundai continues to sit a good bit behind its 2017 numbers, while Kia is relatively flat.

March, 2018

2018 YTD