The automotive industry experienced sluggish sales and low declines in the first two months of 2018. Many were beginning to wonder how the rest of the year would shape up as analyst projected lower sales numbers for the whole year. However, if March is any indicator of what is to come, then automakers may not have much to worry about. According to Autodata, in comparison to the previous year, auto sales of new vehicles increased by six percent. This data flew past the projections of Edmonds and Cox Automotive which estimated an increase of three percent and a little over two percent respectively. Here are five takeaways from March’s auto sales.
The Detroit Three Had a Strong Showing
While General Motors and Ford have always seemed to stay toward positive gains or minimal losses, both automakers blew past estimates in March. GM saw almost a 16 percent increase, while Ford also saw a lift of 3.7 percent. However, the most surprising story of the month is Chrysler. The automaker experienced gains of 13.6 percent. The magic ingredient for success for this group was their considerable number of SUV, crossover, and pickup truck sales. Automobiles that considerably raked in the sales for GM were the Chevy Equinox and Silverado, while Ford saw success with the F-Series and Dodge Challenger.
Chrysler’s Success Story in Jeep
The hero for Chrysler’s 13.6 percent gain is none other than the Jeep Wrangler. The automobile sales rose 44.7 percent within the month for 98,382 units sold. The Jeep Cherokee also accounted for a significant boost in Chrysler’s sales numbers with a 62.9 percent gain for 23,764 units sold. Regardless of the rising gas prices, consumers are still interested in driving larger vehicles, and the Jeep brand has seemed to catch their eye. This brand is the bestseller of the month for Chrysler and only trails the Ram pickup truck for the title of the automaker’s best-selling model.
Japanese Automakers Stay Steady
Toyota, Honda, and Subaru continue with their consistent positive sales performances with sales increases of 3.5, 3.8, and 5.9 percent respectively. Subaru continues its astonishing streak of positive sales and does not look to be slowing down soon; as the automaker continues to push its “Love” advertising message with the company’s crossover fleet. Toyota’s RAV4 and Tacoma, Honda’s Pilot, and Subaru’s Outback and Crosstrek are all responsible for the sale increases of each brand.
The Winner and Loser of the Month
While the Volkswagen had an impressive showing at 17.8 percent, Mazda shined with massive gains of 35.7 percent. The Mazda CX-5 is nearly entirely responsible for the automaker’s profits with sales of the vehicle up 90.5 percent. On the other hand, while most of the Japanese automakers saw increases in sales, Nissan saw a sales decline of 3.7 percent. Nissan’s Rogue saw a seven percent increase, but it was not enough to make up for the Infiniti’s 4.6 sales decrease.
A Lasting Sales Surge?
While many are likely excited about widespread sales lifts, some analysts are cautious about celebrating too soon. Rebecca Lindland, the executive analyst for Cox Automotive, felt consumers could be purchasing cars earlier in the year to prepare for the likely interest rate hike that looks to be taking place later in the year. This could represent the calm before the storm of shaky auto sales and declining consumer confidence in the latter part of 2018.
March was definitely a benchmark month for automakers. All of the major automakers except for two (Nissan at 3.7 percent and BMW at 0.4 percent) did not see positive gains in auto sales. While this bypassed analyst’s projections, the auto industry is not out of the woods yet. It is likely that car interest rates will continue to rise as gas prices could also see increases later in the year. The rest of the year will reveal how consumers react to these changes and if 2018 does turn out to bring lower returns than 2017.