Pickup Demand Fails to Lift US Auto Sales in 2019

Automakers’ U.S. sales in the fourth quarter were down compared to sales in the same period a year ago. With a couple of exceptions, the declines were small.

For the full year, the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of sales fell from 17.3 million in 2018 to 17.1 million, according to Automotive News. Since reaching a peak of 17.5 million in 2016, total U.S. sales have declined by 2.5%

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) reported fourth-quarter truck sales jumped 15.9% to 330,075 units and full-year truck sales are up 9.1% at 1.24 million units. That’s the highest fourth-quarter total in 18 years. F-Series pickup sales increased by 1.6% for the quarter but were down 1.4% for the year. The all-new Ranger midsize pickup sold 33,059 units in the quarter, which brought total sales for the F-Series and Ranger to a quarterly total of 267,011 units sold (2019 was the first year of Ranger sales) and a year-to-date total of 986,097.

Sport utility vehicle sales dropped by 4.1% compared to the fourth quarter of last year based on a drop of 7.9% in Ford-brand SUV sales and an increase of 30.9% in Lincoln-brand SUVs. For the full year, Ford-brand SUV sales were down 7.9% while Lincoln-brand sales are up 17.2%. Overall sales were down 1.3% year over year for the quarter and down 3% for the year. Ford sold 2.42 million vehicles in 2019 compared with sales of 2.5 million in 2018.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) reported that fourth-quarter sales slipped by 2% year over year to 542,519 vehicles. Sales of the company’s top-selling Jeep brand also dipped by 2% to 221,536 units, while sales of Ram trucks improved by 6% to 190,655 for the quarter. For the full year, Ram sales rose 18% to 703,023 units, while sales in the company’s other divisions fell in a range of 5% (Jeep) to 41% (Fiat). For the year, total FCA sales were down 1% to 2.2 million vehicles.

General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) reported fourth-quarter sales of 735,909 vehicles, a year-over-year decline of 6.3%. Fourth-quarter production fell by about 25%, the company said, due to the 40-day UAW strike. Production of the company’s new light trucks was down approximately 17%. For the full year, sales fell by 2.3% to 2.89 million vehicles. Of that total, nearly a million were light trucks and more than a million were crossovers like the Chevy Equinox (346,048), Traverse (147,122) and Trax (116,816). Combined sales of the company’s two full-size pickups, the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, totaled 802,962 for the year, down just 0.2% year over year bolstered by strong sales of the GMC Sierra LD half-ton model (up 8.3%).

Citing data from J.D. Power, the company’s average transaction price for the quarter was $37,558 and $36,844 for the year, both record highs. GM incentives totaled 14.1% of the quarterly average price and 13.4% of the annual average.

Here are a few other calendar year comparisons:

Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) reported full-year sales of 2.43 million units, down 1.8% year over year.

Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (NYSE: HMC) posted a rise of 0.2% with sales of 1.61 million units.

Nissan brand sales tumbled 9.9% to 1.35 million units.

Subaru sales rose 3% to 700,117 units for the year.

Volkswagen brand annual sales rose 2.6% to 363,322 units, not including sales of Porsche, Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini brands.

Mercedes-Benz brand sales rose by 1% to 357,729 units, and BMW sales rose 4.4% to 324,826 units.

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