April Results Belie Worrisome New DynamicsBy Dale Buss May 3, 2011
U.S. automakers sold 1.17 million vehicles in April, up 18 percent from their performance a year earlier. And the Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate of sales for the month, 13.2 million units, fell right in line with industry projections that sales will total between 13 million and 13.5 million units for the entire year. But in April, the top line wasnt the meaningful one. The determinative new dynamics of the U.S. auto market were unfolding in all sorts of sub-plots during the month, setting the market off on new trajectories that could leave the industry looking way different at the end of May than it did at the end of April.
In April gasoline prices took control of purchasers motivations as they neared the $4-a-gallon mark, producing huge gains in sales of small cars and fuel-efficient crossover utility vehicles compared with a year earlier. Sales were up, but transaction prices were rising as well because of developing shortages of small cars; and incentives industry-wide were dwindling quickly. Thousands more Americans apparently wanted to buy new small cars in April than the number who could find them.
Towards the end of April, Japanese brands began to feel the effects of inventory depletion in their small cars in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in March. And in a rarity that may well have been unique in history, each major Japanese automaker produced relative sales results that trailed the relative performance of each of the American Big Three. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler benefited from being able to offer enough fuel-efficient models to take advantage of consumers rising interest in mileage, in strong contrast to the last gas-price spike three years ago. And it wasnt just their small cars that benefited: Half of the F-150 trucks sold by Ford were equipped with six-cylinder engines, which the company didnt even offer as recently as December.
Hyundai continued its rocket ride to glory in the U.S. market, leveraging its robust lineup of small cars and rising brand reputation to its second-best sales month ever. Its all-new 2012 Elantra compact, for example, sold 20,000 units for the first time. Similarly, Kia had its best month ever.
Point of Reckoning
Because each of these trends proved so intense during April, industry executives and analysts believe a turning point is upon the market. Generally, they now expect sales to sputter during the second and third quarters perhaps down to a SAAR as low as 11 million units as availability of Japanese models is severely pinched and more car buyers sit on the sidelines rather than purchase something they really dont want. Inventories will continue to be very tight, said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.coms director industry analysis. From a volume perspective, May and June are the industrys highest-selling months. This lack of inventory could be difficult, especially when fuel efficiency is so important.
Meanwhile, Caldwell said, automakers and dealers will continue to let prices rise and remaining incentives melt away on much of their fleets. In that case, discouragement about higher prices could start to kill consumer interest, she said. Consumers could become scared away from the marketplace until prices become more normal and production comes back and opens up the martketplace again.
Even if automakers can manage to strike the right balance among pricing, profitability and vehicle availability to keep consumers engaged, will they be able to stoke enough continuing momentum in the market to ramp up sales again late in the year when Japanese supplies are expected to be restored? And even if pent-up demand is still there, will the overall U.S. economy still be in position to power a re-recovery of the automotive business?
Small is Beautiful
Fast-rising gasoline prices have become the auto markets driving force these days. Pump prices approaching $4 a gallon, now commonplace across America, seemed to create a tipping point with consumers, said Al Castignetti, Nissan Division vice president and general manager. In April, we finally saw the shift from body-on-frame vehicles into more fuel-efficient ones, he said.
Ken Czubay, Fords vice president of U.S. sales and marketing, said, "Obviously, the market has shifted. Its the first month for our new Focus, and dealers were selling them right off the convoy trucks."
Subcompact and compact cars overall accounted for 24 percent of industry sales in April, about the same percentages as March, when fuel prices began taking hold in the consumer consciousness but three percentage points ahead of a year ago. If the industry had an unlimited supply of small cars, that percentage may have gotten to 28 percent or 30 percent in April, said George Pipas, Fordes head of U.S. industry analysis.
And while the industry typically is comfortable with a 60-day supply of vehicles, inventories of small cars were in the 20-days-plus range, Pipas said. Youre in a situation where there was such a rapid run-up in gasoline prices, that you get [supply-]constrained, and consumers will just defer their purchases sometimes, Pipas said. Or theyre ordering a [car] for future delivery rather than being able to purchase it out of stock.
Meanwhile, Japanese executives could only try to spin the realities in their U.S. dealerships, where shortages of small cars began to bite in April. Well have enough cars to take care of our loyal customers, said Mark Templin, head of the Lexus Division, whose supply constraints on its mostly Japan-built vehicles helped lead to a 17-percent decline in April sales. And at Honda, While our current dealer supply of vehicles remains adequate, said John Mendel, executive vice president of sales for American Honda, we know that production constraints may start to affect sales into the summer months.
After an interim where the unavailability of Japanese small cars will throttle sales over the next few months, industry executives such as Don Johnson, GMs head of U.S. sales, expect the American consumer basically to pick up right where they left off later in the year and still produce more than 13 million sales for the year. Pent-up demand has been building for the last few years, he said, as Americans pared back the size of the typical households automotive fleet in the teeth of the Great Recession. But recent data, he said, shows consumer willingness to rethink spending on discretionary items. The most dramatic reduction in household fleets is at an end."
General Motors: Cruzing Along
GM reported sales of 232,538 vehicles in April, up 27 percent from a year earlier, on the strength of strong demand for its most fuel-efficient vehicles. Consumers began to re-think their transportation needs in April, Johnson said, from which we benefited. Retail sales for GM rose 25 percent over a year earlier, led by a 49-percent increase for passenger cars and a 28-percent gain for CUVs. Retail sales were 4 percent higher than for March even though GM cut its overall incentive levels by more than 10 percent.
Chevrolet Cruze led the hit parade for GM, with the highest monthly sales since the launch of the compact, and retail sales that lodged 180 percent higher than its predecessor model, Cobalt, a year ago. The just-introduced Eco version, a manual-transmission, high-mileage model, notched 13 percent of Cruze retail sales. Cruze outsold the entire Buick brand and the Cadillac brand and even the Chevrolet Malibu, noted Caldwell. So it shows a lot of promise for GM and it will continue to do so. Cruze is positioned to capture some displaced Japanese buyers who arent willing to wait, or to pay higher prices for, Honda, Toyota or Nissan models.
Cruze sold 25,160 units in April compared to Cobalt sales of 13,701 units a year earlier. Johnson said that each Cruze sold tends to be much more highly contented than Cobalts were and that Cruze, with an average transaction price around $19,000, maintains a typical premium of $2,000 compared with the prices of Japanese competitors such as Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. Chevrolet Equinox sales rose by 37 percent, largely a reflection of its fuel-efficiency credentials, and sales of the Chevrolet Malibu soon to be replaced by a new world-car version still notched an increase of nearly 44 percent over a year ago.
Chevrolet Volt sales were only 483 during the month, as GM emphasizes ramping up distribution of demonstration models of the extended-range hybrid to dealers instead of making them more available to the general public just yet. GM sold 608 Volts in March. Given Americans fast-rising attention to fuel efficiency, this doesnt seem to be a delay that will hurt Volts prospects in the long run.
In general, four-cylinder engines are proving increasingly popular for GM models as for the industry. In April, 39 percent of GM sales were powerd by four-cylinder engines, Johnson said, compared with just 27 percent a year earlier, with sales coming about equally out of six- and eight-cylinder powertrains.
Buick sales rose by 51 percent over a year earlier on the strength of its new models, including the Regal sedan. Cadillac sales rose only eicddeles GMs fleet sales were up 31 percent compared with a year ago, comprising about 33 percent of April sales. Thats above GMs desired level. Year to date, fleets accounted for about 26 percent of GM sales.
Buick sales rose by 51 percent over a year earlier on the strength of its new models, including the Regal sedan. Cadillac sales rose only by 11 percent during the month. But GM executives defended that relatively anemic result, noting that Cadillac retail sales rose 25 percent during April and that the company has been deliberately dialing down its fleet business for Cadillac as part of a long-term repositioning of the brand away from the fleet segment and more toward the fleet approach taken by German luxury makes. Sales of SRX, Cadillacs highest-volume model, rose only 8 percent during April. But SRX tallied a 20-percent gain in retail sales. The dealer body is still screaming for more, and were looking for ways to produce them, said Kurt McNeil, chief of the Cadillac division.
Meanwhile, sales of the Chevrolet Silverado, GMs single-largest model, were down 5 percent in April, part of a general strain on the pickup-truck segment across the industry as personal buyers flock toward more fuel-efficient types of vehicles. We saw pickup sales soften overall, but they are up year-to-year to commercial customers, Johnson said. The market for commercial-use pickup trucks will continue to grow with the economy." GMs fleet sales were up 31 percent compared with a year ago, comprising about 33 percent of April sales. Thats above GMs desired level. Year to date, fleets accounted for about 26 percent of GM sales.
Ford: Balanced Portfolio
Ford reported April sales of 189,778 units, up 16 percent from a year earlier. And if it werent for tight supplies of its small cars, company executives said, they would have sold even more. The availability of small cars is putting a cap on the segment, Pipas said. Ford has been able to sell its year-old Fiesta, and its new 2012 Focus, at a breathless clip. Fiesta transaction prices are the highest of any vehicle in its segment, Pipas said, and the model sold more than 9,000 units for the second month in a row. Focus experienced a ramp-up month during April, Czubay said. Availability will continue to be lean because the producdt is in such high demand.
Combined, Fiesta and Focus with the new version still in limited supply accounted for 15 percent of Fords retail sales in April, six percentage points higher than realized by Fiesta and th previous version of Focus a year ago. Sales of Ford Fusion, a compact, were 12 percent ahead of a year ago. Taurus, Fords mid-size sedan, was 2 percent ahead of last years pace. Even Mustang sold 59 percent more units than a year earlier, largely because of an increase in fleet sales this year compared with last year, Pipas said.
Over half of Mustangs were sold with a V6 engine that yields 305 horsepower and 31mpg on the highway. People are saying, I can get everything in that category I want with this six-cylinder engine, Czubay said. The model that propelled Ford sales more than any other, however, was the new Explorer, whose 25 mpg on the highway is a 25-percent improvement over the fuel economy of the old version. And Ford wont begin production of a four-cylinder EcoBoost version of Edge until later this year, which promises even better mileage.
Already, Its the fastest-turning vehicle in the Ford showroom, Czubay said, indicating that Ford also could sell more Explorer as well as Focus and Fiesta units if they were available. Czubay mentioned Fords overall positioning for the times. Ive never seen a company better positioned for a market shift than Ford, he said. No matter where the consumer wants to go, Ford is lined up to give them the fuel efficiency they want.
The best example of that may be whats happened with buyers approach to the F series trucks. Ford just began in January offering a couple of six-cylinder engine alternatives to its previous offerings of only eight-cylinder versions of the F150, and in April the two smaller engines accounted already for half of the models retail sales. Thats the most startling number of the month, Czubay said. Thats a high-volume model. What consumers are saying is that theyre willing to go with a six-cylinder engine if it meets their performance standards. Overall, F Series sales were up 11 percent in April.
Lincolns problems have been much discussed, and that wont stop after the brand registered a 1-percent decline in April sales compared with a year ago.
Ford reduced its incentive spending in April by more than $600 per vehicle compared with March levels, Pipas said, while the overall industry registered an incentive reduction averaging only about $300 a vehicle. Fleet sales in April were 36 percent of the total for Ford, on the high end of its desired range. Year-to-date, the figure was 34 percent.
Toyota: Pain Is Coming
Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. managed a 1.3-percent gain for April although one gets the sense the industry-trailing April performance is an indicator of worse things to come as parts shortages from the Japan disaster eat away the remnants of the companys inventory reserves.
Not so, insists Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager, Toyota division, who in a conference call with reporters and analysts maintained a positive posture and would not yet project any significant impact on the companys full-year sales volumes. Carter said production has resumed in all of Toyotas Japan plants, they will proceed at about a 50-percent run rate and that Toyota expects all production to be restored to normal levels before the end of 2011, with the hope that several plants will return to full production well before the end of the year.
The company sold 159,540 vehicles in April and executives expressed confidence inventories will hold up nicely for at least another month. Toyota appears, though, to be disadvantaged for whatever the reason, if only the customer perception that supplies are scarce. With gasoline prices rising and consumers clearly migrating to smaller and more fuel-efficient models, there is a 10-day supply of the Prius hybrid-electric vehicle and sales were off 4.3 percent in April. Also lagging were the Corolla, down 16.5 percent compared with last April and sales for the Yaris subcompact, which should be sailing out of showrooms, plunged 50.5 percent.
Several fuel-saving models from the Scion division were up markedly for the month, however: the tC coupe leaped 119.9 percent to 2,674 sales and the xD was up 52.1 percent. The Camry shouldered its way to a 5-percent gain and a healthy 30,443 total sales, but total Toyota-brand car sales nonetheless declined by 5.1 percent. Toyota has fewer than we would like, of the Corolla and Camry, Carter allowed, but said supplies of Toyotas volume sellers remains a very manageable situation.
Sales at the Lexus premium unit were off 17.8 percent compared with last April, including a huge 75-percent decline for the HS 250h hybrid and a 36.8-percent dive for the LS flagship. The entry-level ES sedan declined by 23.5 percent and every Lexus nameplate except for the RX crossover and LX SUV now has declined in year-to-date sales. Toyotas light-truck sales held up in the face of high gasoline prices, led by a 27-percent gain for the Sienna minivan and a 21.9-percent climb for the Highlander crossover, although the Tundra fullsize pickup declined 10.6 percent to 8,312 sales compared with April, 2010.
Honda: Gains Modestly For Now
Think consumers arent concerned about the gasoline-price situation? Honda said several of its most popular fuel-efficient models the CR-V crossover, the Fit subcompact and the Insight hybrid posted record April sales. The Fit improved by 66.3 percent and the Insight had a 25.4-percent gain, although to a still underwhelming volume of 2,644 units. The figure nonetheless is a marked improvement for the much-criticized Insight and its newfound popularity almost certainly can be interpreted as a response to fuel prices.
The gains for these popular vehicles delivered an overall gain of 9.8 percent for the month, but as is the case with Toyota, supply-constraints predicted for coming months seemingly are already evident in Hondas relatively mild April performance. Although the new-generation 2012 model was only trickling into showrooms in April, the Civics 26,777 sales (+3 percent) gave the larger Accord a run for its money, the 30,310 Accords sold in April being an 8.1-percent decline from last year. Given the markets gas-price pressure and the fact that the Civic is redesigned, if it werent for the constrained production Honda has confirmed for the Civic assembly plant in Ohio, seeing the Civic overtake the Accord in sales would not be an outlandish possibility as the year progresses.
Hondas reputation as a go-to brand for fuel-efficient cars was supported by the decline in the companys light-truck sales, including an uncharacteristic 9.8-percent slide for the still relatively new Odyssey minivan. The Pilot midsize crossover slid by 2 percent in April to 9,954 sales and the fading Ridgeline midsize pickup dropped 47.1 percent to 952 sales. Along with the CR-V, Hondas only other gainer on the light-truck side of the showroom was the Element, up 13.1 percent.
Sales at Hondas Acura premium-vehicle unit were up 4.2 percent, led by the entry-level TSX, which recently added a station-wagon bodystyle. Acuras RL flagship gained by 13.2 percent, while the month for Acuras crossovers was a mixed bag: the MDX improved sales by 1.4 percent and the compact RDX jumped 10.7 percent to 1,343 sales but the maligned ZDX slid 27.6 percent to just 176 sales.
Chrysler: More Traction
Chrysler reported April sales of 117,225 units, a 22-percent increase from a year earlier, and the companys best April sales since 2008. It came one day after the company reported its first quarterly net profit since emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection two years ago. The new 2011 Chrysler 200 and the new 2011 Dodge Avenger mid-size sedans helped drive a significant increase in car sales during the month, enabling the best sales month for the company in that segment since March 2008.
Meanwhile, sales of the new Fiat 500 were up 76 percent compared with March, as Chrysler is broadening the cars heretofore-limited availability just in time to address consumers rising concerns about gas prices. Our new product lineup is resonating quite well with consumers, said Fred Diaz, Chryslers lead executive for U.S. sales. He noted that each Jeep and Ram model experienced a year-over-year sales gain in the month and that overall truck and SUV sales remained quite strong ... even in the face of rising gas prices.
Jeep sales increased by 65 percent in April, led by the new Compass, with a 181-percent gain. The all-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, the brands volume leader, posted a 189-percent gain over year-earlier sales of the old model. Ram trucks posted a 29-percent sales increase for April. One reason Chrysler cited was a bit of a counter to the fuel-efficiency concerns that are overwhelming the market: the brands unveiling of a new Ram 1500 Express in April, targeting younger consumers and first-time buyers. It offers a standard Hemi V8 engine with a 20mpg mileage rating for a price comparable to competitors offerings with a six-cylinder engine. Chrysler also plans to make lots of personalization accessories available for the 1500 Express model.
Dodge posted a 14-percent sales increase in April, driven in part by sales of the new Avenger mid-size sedan. The all-new 2011 Durango SUV posted a 15-percent increased compared with a year ago. Sales of the 200 the Sebring replacement featured in Chryslers iconic Imported from Detroit Super Bowl ad finally reached some volume, selling 8,200 units in the month, a 23-percent increase over March levels.
Nissan: Seeing Fuel-Efficiency Shift
Nissan North America, which includes the Nissan and Infinit brands, reported sales increased 12.2 percent to 71,526 vehicles. Nissan Division sales were up 14.5 percent to 64,765 vehicles. Infiniti sales decreased 6.2 percent to 6,761 vehicles. After months of not seeing rising gas prices triggering a shift to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, Nissan executives relented. In April, we finally saw the first shift from body-on-frame vehicles into more fuel efficient ones, said Al Castignetti, Nissan Division vice president and general manager, noting gas prices approaching $4 a gallon seem to be the number that prompts change in buying patterns.
And Nissan, as it has for some time, capitalized on that shift. The Nissan Leaf had its best month to date with 573 sold in April, more than half the entire 1,044 sold since its December 2010 launch. Rogue sales set a new April record of 8,432 units sold, up 28.1 percent from a year ago. Sentra sales increased 42.2 percent to 9,367 units. Bucking the small, fuel-economy trend, however, the Nissan GT-R sports car, which recently got a bump in horsepower, saw a sales increase of 143.4 percent to 258 units, setting a new April record.
Continued strong sales of the Rogue, Sentra and Versa, which have been healthy for the past several months, may slow because of inventory issues, however,. Castignetti said Nissans days supply of vehicles stands at 64 days across all of its lines five days more than a year ago at this time -- but are tight on small vehicles. Sentra inventories are at a scant 20-day supply, Versa at 30 and Rogue at 35. Thats against a backdrop of gas prices that Nissan is predicting will hit $4 a gallon or more by Memorial Day and possibly hold through the summer.
In contrast to hefty sales increases in its smaller vehicles, Nissan saw sales of its body-on-frame Titan pickup truck, Xterra SUV and large Armada SUV drop by double digits from a year ago. Sales of the Murano also fell, but the new Quest minivan kicked in nearly 1,000 units in April.
At Infiniti, the comparisons to a year ago or even a month ago were tough. Infiniti reported April sales of 6,761 vehicles, down 6.2 percent from a year earlier. April 2010 saw a 46 percent hike in Infiniti sales from April 2009, and the luxury brand had a record market share in March. Then Infiniti turned down the tap on incentives going into this April. So the year-over-year sales comparisons are tough, said Poore. He added that Infiniti is well stocked with more than 80 days supply of vehicles. Poore also noted Infiniti is not seeing the consumer behavior shift to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Customers with household incomes averaging $240,000 a year are less concerned with fuel consumption and fuel economy. If they want a vehicle, thats it. To that point, the huge Infiniti QX56 SUV had another good month with sales of 976 units, an increase of 73.7 percent over prior year, marking utes best April since 2005. The Infiniti G Coupe had a slight sales increase. So far, Nissan and Infiniti have sold 356,884 vehicles, up 22.2 percent from a year ago. Nissan has delivered 322,387 vehicles, up 23.4 percent; Infiniti has sold 34,597 vehicles, up 11.9 percent.
Hyundai: Closing In On Nissan
South Korean automakers like Hyundai are capitalizing on the production disruptions suffered by the Japanese automakers, especially in terms of fuel-efficient models. Hyundai set an April sales record with 61,754 vehicles sold, a 40-percent hike from a year ago. As a result, Hyundai is gaining on the Nissan Division, which had a decent month; only 3,000 units separated the two companies, compared with 48,000 in March. All but 11 percent of Hyundais sales were to retail customers, as Hyundai cut its fleet sales nearly in half.
April was another outstanding month for Hyundai," said Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai Motor America's executive vice president of national sales. "Our unwavering commitment as the industry leader in fuel efficiency with four vehicles achieving 40 MPG standard this year has helped overcome escalating fuel prices and drive our continued growth.
Following in the tracks of newly introduced Hyundai models of the past, the Elantra, the most recently revamped Hyundai, set the pace with sales soaring 129 percent to 22,100 units, making it the best-selling model in Hyundais line. That made the Elantra the fourth best-selling compact car behind the Honda Civic, Chevrolet Cruze and Toyota Corolla, respectively. Looking at the Elantras success in another way: it outsold Nissans Leaf, Versa, Sentra, Cube and Juke combined.
Sales of the Sonata continued to climb as well. Sales climbed 17 percent to 21,738 vehicles; it was the fourth best-selling mid-size sedan behind Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Chevrolet Malibu, respectively. Both built in Alabama, the Elantra and Sonata combined accounted for 71 percent of Hyundais April sales volume. April marked the first time ever that Hyundai had two vehicles that sold 20,000 plus units in the same month.
"The 40-MPG Sonata Hybrid is now shipping in volume, and we're seeing terrific demand for it," said John Krafcik, Hyundai Motor America president and CEO. "Combined with record-setting demand for the 40-MPG Elantra sedan, which is outselling all other 40-MPG compacts by a margin of six-to-one, we've got confidence our approach of delivering large volumes of high-value, ultra-high fuel-efficiency vehicles is the best long-term solution to hit our national CO2 and fuel economy objectives."
Other Hyundai models pitched in as well. The soon-to-be-revamped Accent had a 44-percent increase in sales of 4,390 units. Genesis sales rose 17 percent to 2,648 vehicles sold, its 22nd consecutive month of year-over-year sales increase. The Equus had sales of 222 vehicles. The Tucson and Veracruz also gained from a year ago. Only the Santa Fe and Azera had lower sales. Hyundai is on track for another record-breaking year. Sales so far in 2011 have totaled 204,374 vehicles, up 31 percent from the first four months of 2010.
Kia: All-Time Record Month
Kia set an all-time record for monthly sales of 47,074, a 56.7-percent increase from April 2010, and a 6.6-percent increase over the previous record set this March. "More and more car shoppers are being drawn to Kia as a result of our commitment to offering stylish, fuel efficient and high quality vehicles, such as the Sorento and Soul, said Byung Mo Ahn, group president and CEO of Kia Motors America and Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia.
The Sorento was Kia's best-selling vehicle for the 16th consecutive month, marking its best-ever sales of 12,001 units, an increase of TK percent. Sales of the Soul surpassed 10,000 for the second consecutive month, making it the best-seller again among automakers box cars that include the Scion xB and Nissan Cube. Soul sales doubled from a year ago to 10,459 units sold. Sales of the redesigned Optima soared to 6,533, a 124-percent increase the previous version sold a year ago. "Demand for the new Optima has outpaced supply since its launch last year and with gas prices continuing to rise, the upcoming launch of Kia's first-ever hybrid vehicle couldn't be coming at a better time, noted Ahn.
Other Kia models, including the Forte, Sportage and Sedona had sales increases. Only the Rio, which is being phased out to make room for the new version, had a decline. Like Hyundai, Kia is on its way to a record-breaking year. Sales so far this year stand at 151,848, a 42-percent increase over the first four months of last year.
Volkswagen: Best Since November 2003
Volkswagen of America posted its best sales month since November 2003 on the strength of its Jetta. Volkswagen sold 28,542 vehicles in April, a 23-percent increase from a year ago. "We are gaining traction in the U.S. market," said Jonathan Browning, President and CEO, Volkswagen of America, Inc. "With our Jetta model continuing to lead the way, the numbers show our product line up is responding to consumers needs for performance, precision engineering and smart fuel economy."
Jetta sales soared 74 percent over last year to 16,955 units sold. Sport utility vehicles Touareg and Tiguan posted 62 percent and 47 percent sales increases, respectively. CC sales increased 39 percent over prior year. Diesel-powered models accounted for more than 23 percent of April sales. Golf and GTI sales were up as well. Only Eos and Routan saw drops. Volkswagens strong performance sets the stage for the next-generation Beetle, which generated big buzz at the recent New York auto show, and the upcoming Passat, which will be built at the German automakers new Chattanooga, Tenn., plant.
"The enthusiasm and demand for our products is unmistakable and we see this trend continuing when the new Beetle and U.S.-built Passat hit showroom floors this fall," said Browning. Year-to-date sales are up 17 percent.
BMW : April Luxury Leader
BMW captured luxury car leadership in the U.S. in April. Sales for the BMW Group, including its Mini compact-car brand, totaled 25,247 in April, a 19.6-percent gain compared with April, 2010. The BMW brand moved 18,801 vehicles, an 8.9-percent increase and the Mini lineup accounted for 6,446 sales and an outsized 67.7-percent leap compared with last year. Sales for BMWs all-new X3 compact crossover skyrocketed to a 253-percent gain at 2,277 sales for the month and sales for the new-generation crossover are up almost 300 percent year-to-date. The companys X5 crossover was up by 12.5 percent and the X6 gained by 36.3 percent to 522 sales.
The brands best-selling line, the 3-Series, didnt fare so well in April, however: sales declined 14.5 percent to 7,542 units and sales are off 12.4 percent year-to-date. The midsize 5-Series picked up the slack, however, shooting up 77.5 percent to 3,668 sales compared to last April, when the new-generation 5-Series was only beginning to trickle into the U.S. market. Sales for the 6-Series were up by 32.3 percent as well, although the 7-Series flagship dropped by 51.1 percent to just 760 sales. In all, BMW passenger-car sales declined by 3.5 percent but the loss was offset by a 65.5-percent climb for its crossover models.
At Mini, the latest consumer reaction to a new cycle of high gasoline prices seemed evident in the brands prodigious 67.7-percent improvement compared with April, 2010, sales. The brands overall gain was delivered exclusively by the standard Cooper coupe, however, with its 43.7-percent increase, combined with the 1,709 incremental sales delivered by the new Countryman crossover, the only Mini model available with all-wheel-drive. Sales for the Cooper convertible lineup dropped by 15.8 percent and sales for the Clubman body style slipped by 2.9 percent.
Subaru: Best April Ever
Following its best sales quarter, Subaru of America recorded its best April sales in company history, with sales of 24,762 units, 14-percent increase from a year ago. "We're very pleased with another month of record breaking sales," said Timothy M. Colbeck, senior vice president of sales, Subaru of America, Inc. April marked eight consecutive months of record sales for the Subaru Legacy sedan, which recorded sales of 3,975 units, up 3 percent from a year ago. April also marked 10 consecutive record months for the Outback, Subarus bestseller, which had sales of 9,465 vehicles, a 23 percent increase.
Impreza sales increased 20 percent to 4,367 units sold -- a record for the line. Within Imprezas results, WRX/STI sales volume more than doubled. Tribeca sales eked out an increase. Only the Forester, now the oldest model of the recently freshened portfolio, had a sales decline of 12 percent to 6,714 vehicles. Provided the Japanese automaker doesnt suffer inventory shortages, Subaru, which has set sales records for the past two years, is on its way to another with sales so far this year at 92,219 vehicles, a 14-percent boost from a year ago.
Mazda: Record April for SUVs
Mazda reported a 9-percent rise in sales to 20,638 vehicles, on the strength of record April sales for its SUVs. The CX-7 and CX-9 posted best-ever April sales; CX-7 sales were 2,873 vehicles, up 28.4 percent; and CX-9 sales were up 23.9 percent at 2,750 vehicles sold. Mazda6 posted an increase of 3.8 percent with sales of 2,734 vehicles. MX-5 Miata were up 14.2 percent with 659 units. Through the first four months of the year, Mazda's sales are up 13.8 percent to 85,197 vehicles sold.
Through the first four months of 2011, Audi sales increased 15.6% to 35,401 vehicles. The record April 2011 results follow the best first quarter in company history as the automaker enjoyed a steady quarter-over-quarter sales increase of nearly 20%, compared to the previous period in 2010. April 2011 sales not only marked the fourth-straight monthly record for 2011, but also the third time in company history where vehicles sales exceeded 10,000 units in a given month.
Daimler: Mercedes Gains Modestly in April
Sales for Mercedes-Benz USA were up 5.1 percent in April to a total of 19,157 vehicles, making it the companys best April since the U.S. recession that began in late 2008. The monthly total includes 1,115 sales of the Sprinter commercial van, otherwise, Mercedes-Benz passenger-vehicle sales were up 2.3 percent compared with April, 2010. Other than the low-volume G-Class SUV, Mercedes biggest gainer was the E-Class midsize sedan, its sales of 5,342 representing a 17.9-percent gain compared with last April. The C-Class entry-level line was up 13.1 percent to 5,232 sales and the GLK compact crossover improved to sales of 1,927 sales, a gain of 7.1 percent.
But sales were off for several Mercedes models, led by a 62.4-percent plunge for the R-Class wagon to just 195, as well as a 12.3-percent loss for the M-Class and 11.8-percent drop for the GL-Class crossovers, a slide perhaps precipitated by rising fuel prices, both gasoline and diesel. Sales for the SL and SLK roadsters also declined, by 27.2 percent and 18.7 percent, respectively.
Audi: Best-Ever April
Audi of America posted a record-setting April with sales of 10.018 vehicles, up 7.5 percent from April 2010, the previous record holder for the month. It was Audis fourth consecutive month of record-setting sales, and April sales were up from March. April marked the third time in company history that monthly sales topped 10,000. Six of Audis nine models that existed last year posted year-over-year gains. Since the A7 just came to market, there were no year-to-year comparisons.
The six gainers were: A3, up 1.2 percent; the volume-leading A4, up 3.8 percent to 12,000 plus units; A8, up more than 500 percent, to 502 units; Q5, up 1.8 percent; Q7, up 24.2 percent; R8, up 178 percent to a monthly record of 114 vehicles on the strength of the Spyder. Only sales of the A5, A6 and TT were down. Diesels represented 47 percent of Q7 sales. For the year so far, which includes the German automakers best first quarter in its U.S. history, Audi sales have increased 15.6 percent to 35,401 vehicles sold.
Mitsubishi: Sales Doubled
Mitsubishi Motors North America doubled sales in April compared with last April. The Japanese automaker sold 8,081 vehicles in April for a 106-percent increase. April also marked Mitsubishis largest month of sales in more than two years August 2008 -- and the eighth consecutive month that it achieved a year-over-year sales increase. Outlander Sport sales continued to grow, with 1,402 units sold in April, marking the seventh consecutive month of sales growth since its October introduction. Were particularly pleased that were showing increases month after month. Sustained progress is very important, said MMNA President & CEO Yoichi Yokozawa. We will launch a new advertising campaign for Outlander and Outlander Sport this month to increase this tremendous momentum.
Mitsubishi has received more than 300 pre-orders for its electric i since the process launched April 22. Were experiencing wonderful response to our exciting, all-new, all-electric Mitsubishi i which will go on sale later this year. Also in April, Outlander and Outlander Sport combined sales were up more than 110 percent for the month and are up more than 98 percent year-to-date; Lancer sales increased more than 40 percent and are up 6.5 percent year to date; and Lancer Evolution sales were up more than 12 percent in April and more than 15 percent for the year. For the year to date, Mitsubishi sales are up 60.9 percent and sales of the Normal, Ill.,-built models are up more than 76 percent, including Galant, up more than 80 percent; Endeavor, up 107 percent; and Eclipse Spyder, up 206 percent.
Volvo: Best Month since June 2009
Volvo Cars of North America reported a 40.9-percent gain in sales to 6,404 units sold in April, the highest monthly sales volume for the Swedish marquee since June 2009. North American sales are at their highest monthly volume since June 2009. Sales of the award-winning S60 sports sedan continue to increase each month in the U.S. with 1,972 units sold in April. The award-winning XC60 finished the month right behind, with 1,220 units sold, up 49.3 percent (versus April 2010). Year-to-date sales are up 17.7 percent over the first four months of 2010.
Jaguar Land Rover: Both Brands Up
Jaguar Land Rover North America posted sales of 4,231 vehicles, up 16 percent from a year ago. Land Rover brand sales rose 8 percent to 2,982 units; Jaguar sales were up 39 percent to 1,249 units. The Range Rover Sport was the volume leader with 1,327 units sold, a 7-percent increase. LR4 sales increased 10 percent to 666 units. Range Rover sales of 763 units were up 21 percent. "This April is a strong kickoff to the spring selling season," said Chris Marchand, Executive Vice President, Operations, Jaguar Land Rover North America. "It was our best month of the year so far with strong volume and percentage increases for both Jaguar and Land Rover in the United States."
Jaguar had its best month of 2011 in both volume, at 1,249 units, and percent increase at 39 percent. The new Jaguar XJ hit 578 units, the Jaguar XF hit 522 units and the Jaguar XK added 149 units. Year-to-date, Jaguar Land Rover North America sales are up 18 percent to 14,999 units, with Land Rover sales up 19 percent to 11,249 units and Jaguar sales up 15 percent to 3,750 units.
Porsche: Best Month Since March 2007
Porsche Cars North America, Inc. sold 3,172 sports cars and SUVs in April, up 82 percent from a year ago, for the German automakers best April since 2006 and best monthly sales since March 2007. Sales totals so far for 2011 are 10,179 vehicles, a 46 percent year-to-date increase from 2010 (6,969). Cayenne sales continue to lead Porsches sales rebound, up 384 percent for the month (1,578 units) and 141 percent for the year. The 911 also saw improved sales growth, up 66 percent for the month with 645 unit sales, followed by Panamera (597 units).
Suzuki: Kizashi Gaining
American Suzuki reported sales of 2,132 units, for a 9 percent increase from last April and its seventh consecutive year-over-year increase. Kizashi set the pace with sales of 577, up 42 percent. Suzukis volume leading SX4 hit 1,000 sales for a 2 percent hike. Equator sales rose 11 percent to 168 units while grand Vitara sales rose 3 percent to 383 units. For the year, Suzuki has sold 8,834 vehicles, up 16 percent, led by the Kizashi, which has more than doubled sales for the period.
Saab: Back in Business - Again
Saab sold 696 vehicles in April, a substantial increase from the 215 sold in April last year when its factories were just getting back on stream. Of the total, 573 sales were of the 9-3; 123 were the new 9-5. Early Tuesday, Saab announced it had made a deal with a partner to provide it with desperately needed cash and an entrée into the Chinese market. Saab Automobile AB and its parent company, Spyker Cars N.V., signed a strategic agreement with Chinas Hawtai Motor Group Co. to form joint ventures on manufacturing, technology and the distribution of Saabs in China. Hawtai will invest $221 million and acquire a 29.9-percent stake in Spyker.