Industry Report

GM, Ford Sales Down in 2018 as FCA Makes Gains

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A late-year surge in sales pushed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles into gains for the year, while General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. continued off pace in the fourth quarter of 2018, mirroring an industry-wide trend of slipping sales.

In the final quarter of 2018, General Motors reported a 2.7% drop in sales as 785,229 vehicles were sold across its four brands. For the full year, sales were down 1.6% from 2017 as 2,954,037 cars, trucks and SUVs were sold.

The only GM brand to see a gain in sales in the final quarter was GMC, which saw a 3.5% climb to 160,525. The brand was 0.8% off pace from the year before, with 556,449 sold in 2018.

For Chevrolet, sales were down 3.2% to 531,985 in the quarter, led by the Silverado, of which 161,178 were sold. The Lordstown-built Cruze, meanwhile, saw sales dip 7.2% to 32,955 sold. When looking at the whole year, Cruze sales fell 22.8% from the year prior, with 142,617 delivered nationwide in 2018. For the brand as a whole, 2018 sales totaled 2,036,023, down 1.4% from 2017.

GM’s other two brands, Buick and Cadillac, both saw year-over-year declines in sales in the quarter, with Buick dropping 13.7% to 51,257 and Cadillac slipping 2.7% to 41,462. Full-year sales for both also lagged behind 2017’s numbers, as Buick was down 5.6% with 206,863 sold and Cadillac fell 1.1% with 154,702 sold.

Across all GM platforms, it was large vehicles that drove sales, especially with the launches of the redesigned Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra and Cadillac XT4, said GM’s Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of sales operations, in the company’s quarterly sales release.

“We feel confident heading into 2019 because we have more major truck and crossover launches coming during the year and the U.S. economy is strong,” he continued.

Ford Motor Co. posted a year-over-year drop in sales each month in the fourth quarter, ending with a total of 609,693 vehicles delivered. The Ford brand was also down each month – December was the best-selling month at 209,248 vehicles delivered, a 9.6% drop from the year before – while Lincoln gains in November and December, up 3.3% to 9,207 and 8.5% to 11,526 respectively, couldn’t offset October’s 15% slip to 7,574.

For the full year, the company saw sales for both its brands, Ford and Lincoln, dip. Ford was down 3.3% in 2018, finishing at 2,393,731 cars, trucks and SUVs sold, while Lincoln was down 6.8% with 103,587 sold.

“December capped another strong year for Ford and the industry,” said Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president for U.S. marketing, sales and service, in the most recent sales report. “Ford sold more than 900,000 F-Series trucks in 2018 to extend our leadership position to 42 consecutive years as America’s best-selling pickup; our commercial vans mark 40 straight years of leadership and we had a record year for Ford SUVs, all of which helped us post our ninth straight year as America’s best-selling brand.”

For the four American brands of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, fourth-quarter sales were largely ahead of 2017’s pace, as only Chrysler posted year-over-year drops in sales, doing so in November and December. The brands combined to deliver 555,221 vehicles in the final quarter of 2018, putting FCA well ahead of 2017’s numbers. In 2018, the company sold 2,235,204 vehicles, a 9% gain from the year before.

Jeep was the company’s top-selling brand, with 227,033 delivered over the final three months of 2018. In the No. 2 spot was the Ram pickup line with 181,707 delivered, followed by Dodge with 99,596 and Chrysler in a distant fourth place with 38,808.

Full-year, the top three brands posted gains over 2017 – Jeep was up 17% to 973,227, Ram up 7% to 597,368 and Dodge up 3% to 459,324 – while Chrysler was off 12%, with 165,964 sold.

FCA’s other two brands sold in the United States were a mix of news, as Fiat sales were down 41% in 2018 with 15,521 sold and Alfa Romeo was up 98% to 23,820.

While sales were largely down for the year, the continued emphasis on large vehicles is proving a boon for the industry, analysts report.

“While 2018 marks the second consecutive year of sales declines, strong revenue and lower spending are helping to maintain profitability,” said J.D. Power’s Thomas King, vice president of data analytics, in the group’s December sales forecast. “Looking ahead to 2019, a record number of truck and SUV launches will help manufacturers better align portfolios with overall demand.”

Industry analysis group Edmunds, however, reported that there are some concerns for the auto industry heading into 2019.

“Automakers continue to rely heavily on upping fleet sales to mask eroding retail demand, and that’s not a sustainable place to be,” said Edmunds’ manager of industry analysis, Jeremy Acevedo in the site’s December sales forecast. “A record number of lessees returning to the market should help give dealers a boost in the New Year, but rising interest rates and vehicle costs are going to continue to give car shoppers pause and create uncertainty in the market.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.