Auto Industry Begins 2017 with a Steady Pace

Market Watch 02/02/17

International automakers continued to perform well with U.S. vehicle shoppers in January—a month traditionally recognized as the slowest of the year. Honda’s sales rose 7.7 percent from last January; Nissan’s sales were up 3.6 percent; and Volkswagen saw an improvement of 17.1 percent. Toyota, coming off a record December, saw sales slip 9.2 percent while its luxury division Lexus had a 25.6 percent dip. Subaru, meanwhile, enjoyed its best January ever on the strength of its crossovers with 43,879 units sold, a 6.8 percent improvement from a year ago.

“International nameplates led the field in January, exceeding expectations in what is normally considered the industry’s slowest sales month,” said AIADA President Cody Lusk. “Dealers and manufacturers both have a reason to smile as 2017 begins at a healthy pace.”

International Brands Maintain Lead in U.S. Market

International brands wrapped up the first month of 2017 with a 54.4 percent share of the market. The figure compares to the 55.6 percent share they held in December 2016 and 53 percent in January 2016. Overall sales totaled 622,600 units, down from 751,105 in December, but up from 617,044 sold last January.

For Asian brands, January sales totaled 515,914 units, earning them a market share of 45.1 percent, down from 45.7 percent in December, but up from 44.5 percent last January. Sales totals were down from 772,421 vehicles sold last month and 517,898 sold January of last year. European brands logged a 9.3 percent share of the January U.S. auto market with sales of 106,686 units. The numbers were a decline from December 2016 sales figures when they sold 166,903 vehicles and occupied a 9.9 percent share of the market, but were up 7.6 percent over last January when they sold 99,146 vehicles to U.S. consumers and held a 8.5 percent market share.

Domestic brands finished the month with 45.6 percent of the U.S. auto market and sales of 520,949 units. Although domestic market share improved from the 44.4 percent share of the market they held in December, sales were down overall—these brands sold 751,105 vehicles in January. Sales figures for domestics also declined from January 2016 figures when they occupied a 47 percent share of the U.S. market and sold 547,328 vehicles.

Trucks and SUVs Top January Auto Market While Cars Slide

International nameplates represented six of January’s top ten selling vehicles. Demand for trucks continued to surge with the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, and Ram pickups dominating the top three spots on the month’s top ten list. International brands had multiple SUVs at the top of the charts for the month, led by the newly redesigned Honda CR-V, which finished the month in fourth place. Sales for the vehicle were up 52.5 percent over last January. In fifth place, the Nissan Rogue saw a sales increase of 45.5 percent, while the Toyota RAV4 was also a contender for Americans looking for a small SUV; it finished the month in seventh place with sales up 2.8 percent over last January.

Although trucks and SUVs are currently leading the U.S. market, cars like the Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, and Toyota Corolla were leading options for U.S. shoppers. Although overall sales were down 13.6 percent from last January, the Honda Civic was the most popular car in America for the month, followed by the Toyota Camry in ninth place—with sales down 24.3 percent—and the Toyota Corolla in tenth—which saw sales slide by 10.1 percent.

American Vehicle Lots Powered By N. American Manufacturing

North American production units continued to churn out vehicles for U.S. consumers in January, with international automakers sourcing 393,377 vehicles from their facilities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. These included 194,957 cars and 198,420 trucks. Asian brands in particular sourced 177,458 cars (representing 41.5 percent of all cars sold in the U.S.) from these facilities as well as 184,646 trucks (representing 25.8 percent of all trucks sold on U.S. dealer lots). European brands also sourced 17,499 cars (4.1 percent of all cars sold in the U.S.) and 13,774 trucks (1.9 percent of all trucks sold in the U.S.) from similar facilities in North America.


AutoData Corp. reports that the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) in January 2017 is 17.61 million units, exceeding expectations, and falling just slightly from 17.89 million units a year ago. Industrywide, 1,143,549 light vehicles were sold in January, down from 1,690,429 units sold in December and 1,164,372 units sold in January 2016. Unadjusted for business days, sales for all brands were down 1.8 percent from a year ago. International brands as a group bucked that trend, rising 0.9 percent from a year ago.