December 2013 Car Sales: Ringing In A Big New Year?

January 3, 2014

Car sales fell short of expectations, but still climbed at most of the Big Six brands in December 2013. Most major automakers posted strong gains for the year as a whole.

Ford, Chrysler, and Nissan had a good month, and a good year, while Toyota sales remained stable for December, according to preliminary information. GM's monthly sales fell, while it was up for the year.

At brands where sales chiefs were replaced last month, the results were mixed. Hyundai--which just lost former CEO John Krafcik--saw record sales for the month and the year, while Volkswagen's dips for both the month and year added background to the departure of former sales chief Jonathan Browning.

A 16-million year?

December sales were accompanied by stability in pricing. Kelley Blue Book reports the average price for a new car is now $32,890, up slightly from November, but off slightly ($159) from a year ago.

As long as interest rates stay low and the economy doesn't backslide, say analysts, the gains in sales will continue. Predictions for the year ahead remain lofty as automakers prepare for this month's 2014 Detroit Auto Show.

According to J.D. Power and LMC Automotive, December sales will come in at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 15.3 million vehicles, down from November's 16.4 million units but up slightly from a year ago. LMC predicts sales to settle in at 15.6 million units for the month of December, and at 16.2 million vehicles for next year.

"The budget deal in Washington is helping fuel a higher level of optimism for the economy and auto sales in 2014,"said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive.

Here are the figures, automaker by automaker:

General Motors: GM [NYSE:GM] sold 230,157 units in December, a drop of 6 percent, with all four brands posting decreases. For the year, however, GM's 2,786,078 sales rose 10.8 percent.

In December, Chevrolet was off 8.1 percent to 153,493 units; GMC was off 2.1 percent to 43,120 vehicles; Buick fell 6.6 percent to 15,379 units; and Cadillac was down 0.5 percent to 18,165 vehicles.

Among various GM vehicles, the Cadillac ATS was up 30.5 percent, but the XTS was off 9.2 percent. Chevy's Corvette had its best month in more than 6 years, and the Malibu was up 33.2 percent, but the Silverado was off 16 percent, and the Volt was off 9.2 percent. Buick's Regal was up 14.5 percent while all other models were down in the double digits. GMC's Acadia sales were up 53 percent, while its Sierra pickup was off 4.6 percent.

Ford: Ford Motor Co. [NYSE:F] sales of 218,058 vehicles in December 2013 were up 2 percent from the year prior. In 2013, the company sold 2,493,918 vehicles, a gain of 10 percent. The Ford Fusion set a new record of 295,280 total sales, while the Escape crossover moved 295,993 vehicles. The F-Series pickups accounted for 763,402 sales in 2013. On the month, Ford's Fiesta was off 20.2 percent in December, and C-Max was off 52.9 percent, while Focus was down 31.1 percent. Lincoln MKZ's sales increased 73 percent in December, with 2,823 cars sold, providing the Lincoln brand with an overall increase of 8 percent.

Toyota / Lexus / Scion: The Toyota Motor Company [NYSE:TM] sold 190,843 units in December 2013, up 2.2 percent from last year on an adjusted basis, but down 1.7 percent, unadjusted. Lexus sold 34,757 units, up 18.1 percent adjusted, while Scion's 4,323 sales were off by about the same amount. Lagging the numbers were Venza, off 51.4 percent, and the Lexus LS, off 17.3 percent, as well as the Sienna, off 13.8 percent--but RAV4 was up 46.1 percent and the Lexus IS, up 116.8 percent. On the year, Toyota sold 2,236,042 vehicles in the U.S., up 7.4 percent, with Lexus finishing up 12.2 percent at 273,847 units.

Chrysler: Chrysler sold 161,007 vehicles in December, up 6 percent; Jeep was up 34 percent to 53,275 units; Ram's pickups accounted for 36,028 units sold, up 11 percent for the truck itself while the Ram brand was up 17 percent. Fiat sales rose 1 percent to 3,745 vehicles--but Dodge was off 9 percent to 47,689 vehicles sold and Chrysler brand was down 21 percent to 20,270 units. With the Jeep Patriot up 35 percent and the Dodge Charger up 29 percent, Chrysler had some real highlights--but both the Chrysler 200 and 300 were off in the double digits, while the Grand Cherokee was off 4 percent and the Dodge Dart, 11 percent. On the year, Chrysler sales were up 9 percent over 2012 totals.

Honda / Acura: American Honda Motor Co. [NYSE:HMC] says it sold 135,255 vehicles in December, up 5.9 percent on an adjusted basis, 1.9 percent unadjusted. Honda accounted for 119,504 units, up 2.4 percent; Acura's 15,751 sales were down 1.8 percent. For the year, the company sold 1,525,312 vehicles, up 7.2 percent and its second-best year in history. The Accord, Civic, and CR-V each sold more than 300,000 units in the calendar year.

Nissan / Infiniti: Nissan Motor Company [NASDAQ:NSANY] sold 109,758 units in December, for an increase of 10.5 percent. On the year Nissan sales were up 9.4 percent to 1,248,420 vehicles in the U.S. Nissan-brand vehicles accounted for 96,526 units, up 11.4 percent; Leaf electric-car sales were up 70 percent to 2,529 units. For the year, Nissan sold 22,610 Leafs. Infiniti sold 13,232 units in December, up slightly from last month’s 13,152 units.

2014 Jaguar XFR-S - First Drive - August 2013

2014 Jaguar XFR-S - First Drive - August 2013

Hyundai: The Korean car company confirmed its best-ever December sales of 63,005, and a yearly total of 720,783 sales. Sales of the Sonata sedan were down to 14,479 units, but the Elantra rose to 21,692, and the Santa Fe, to 8,249 units.

Kia: Kia sold 33,631 units in December, down from last year's 39,178 total. For the year, Kia sold 535,179 vehicles, also down slightly from 2012's 557,599 units.

Subaru: Subaru sold 40,172 vehicles in December for a gain of 9.6 percent over the year-prior period. For all of 2013, the company sold 424,683 vehicles, up 26.2 percent from 2012.

BMW / MINI: BMW/MINI sold a combined 43,981 vehicles in December, up 0.3 percent from a year ago. The two brands tallied 375,782 sales in 2013, up 8.1 percent. Last month the BMW brand accounted for 37,389 units, with MINI selling 6,592 units. For the year, BMW-branded vehicles totaled 309,280 units; MINI tallied 66,502 units.

Mercedes-Benz: Mercedes says it sold 312,534 units in the U.S. for 2013, up 14 percent on the strong performance of its new CLA-Class sedan. December numbers hit 33,007 units, up 17.3 percent.

Volkswagen: Volkswagen sales in December were down 22.7 percent, to 34,015 units; on the year VW sold 407,704 units, a drop of 6.9 percent.

Mazda: Mazda sold 22,964 vehicles in December, off 15.7 percent. For the year, it posted a 2.5-percent gain, to 283,947 units. Last month all its model lines except the CX-5 lost ground; the crossover SUV saw its sales climb 12.8 percent.

Audi: Audi sales of 158,061 units in 2013 rose 13.5 percent; in December, Audi sold 17,013 vehicles, up 14.6 percent.

Jaguar / Land Rover: Jaguar Land Rover sales of 7,308 vehicles in December were up 17 percent; Jaguar rose 47 to 1,544 units, while Land Rover was up 11 percent to 5,764 units. For all of 2013, Land Rover sales reached 50,010 vehicles, up 15 percent; Jaguar hit 16,952 units, up 41 percent. Combined, the British brands sold 66,962 vehicles, up 20 percent.

Mitsubishi: Mitsubishi sold 6,423 vehicles in December, up 56.2 percent for the month. In 2013, Mitsubishi sales climbed 7.7 percent.

Volvo: Volvo sold 4,888 vehicles in December, a 20.5-percent drop from the year prior. In 2013 the maker sold 61,233 vehicles in the U.S.

Porsche: Porsche sold 3,246 vehicles in December, up 10 percent; in 2013 Porsche sold 42,323 vehicles, up 21 percent, a new annual record.


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