Auto Industry Enjoyed Record Sales in 2016

Market Watch 01/05/17

In 2016 automakers sold a record high of 17,550,351 vehicles to beat analysts’ expectations and mark the seventh consecutive year of gains. Honda’s sales rose 6.9 percent; Nissan’s sales were up 8.3 percent; and Toyota saw an improvement of 2.6 percent. The brands with the biggest improvements for the year were Audi, up 4 percent; Honda, up 4.8 percent; Nissan, up 5.5 percent; and Volvo, up 18.1 percent. Sales last year were driven in large part by low gas prices and interest rates, as well as increased consumer demand to replace an aging national fleet (currently averaging 11 years old).

“The industry outperformed expectations in 2016, and international brands outperformed the industry as a whole,” said AIADA President Cody Lusk. “Dealers are feeling confident going into 2017 that they have the vehicles and service consumers want.”

International Brands Dominate U.S. Auto Market in 2016

International brands ended 2016 with sales of 9,657,687 vehicles and held a 55.1 percent share of the U.S. auto market during the year. July was the high point of the year in terms of market share as they held 56.4 percent of the market, while February was the lowest month with 53.4 percent. Asian automakers ended 2016 with sales of 8,083,727 units and 46.1 percent of the market up from 45.5 percent in 2015, while European automakers finished with sales of 1,573,960 units and 9 percent, down from 9.2 percent in 2015.

For December in particular, international automakers held a 55.6 percent share of the auto market, down slightly from 55.7 percent in November. Overall, they sold 939,324 units, up significantly from the 768,754 vehicles they sold in November.

Asian brand sales improved 4.4 percent over December 2015, capturing a 45.7 percent share of the market versus 45.1 percent in the same month last year with sales of 772,421 units. They were also up from November when they held 44.6 percent of the market. European brands completed December with a 9.9 percent share and sales of 166,903 vehicles. Market share for these brands was down from the 10 percent portion they held last month, but up 4 percent from December 2015 when they held a 9.8 percent share.

Domestic brands finished the month with sales of 751,105 vehicles and a 44.4 percent share of the U.S. market, up from 44.3 percent last month. Sales for domestics were up 1.6 percent over December 2015 when they held a 45.1 percent share of the market and sold 739,105 vehicles.

Internationals Sell Most Popular Vehicles on U.S. Roads

In 2016, international brands sold some of the most popular vehicles on U.S. roads—dominated by the Toyota Camry, which remained the best-selling car overall for the year with sales of 388,616 reported units. The Honda Accord followed with sales of 345,225 units. Despite the Camry’s popularity, trucks dominated for the year overall as the Ford F-Series took the top spot for the year with sales of 820,799 units for the year. SUVs were a hit with buyers, led by favorites like the Honda CR-V, which ended the year up 3.4 percent; the Toyota RAV4, which ended the year up 11.6 percent; and the Nissan Rogue, which was up 14.9 percent at year-end.

In December, U.S. shoppers also displayed a strong preference for trucks and SUVs. The Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, and Ram pickups continued their lead, while the Nissan Rogue jumped to fourth place with sales up 52.9 percent. In fifth, the Honda CR-V saw sales jump 21.1 percent over last December, while the Toyota RAV4 took sixth place with sales up 16.8 percent. The Honda Accord was the top-selling car for the month, but landed in seventh place, followed by the Toyota Camry in eighth place, the Honda Civic in ninth, and the Toyota Corolla in tenth.

North American Manufacturing Remains Strong Heading Into 2017

North American manufacturing units, including many located in the United States, supplied 6,158,882 vehicles on dealer lots in 2016. Asian automakers sourced 5,714,760 vehicles overall from these facilities, including 2,998,728 cars and 2,716,032 trucks. European automakers sourced 444,122 vehicles from North America, including 251,962 cars and 192,160 trucks. For December, international automakers produced 595,193 vehicles at these facilities, including 256,562 Asian brand cars, 289,398 Asian brand trucks, 27,150 European brand cars, and 22,083 European brand trucks.


AutoData Corp. reports that the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) in December was 18.43 million units, the highest of the year, versus 17.52 million units in December 2015. Total industry unit deliveries increased three percent compared to last December. Industrywide, 1,690,429 light vehicles were sold in December, compared to 1,380,558 in November. Unadjusted for business days, sales for all brands were up 3.1 percent from December 2015 and 0.4 percent year-to-date. International brands were up 4.3 percent from 2015 and one percent for the year.