International Nameplate Auto Sales Up in March

Market Watch 04/04/18

The spring selling season was in full swing in March, with Americans driving up auto sales at dealerships across the U.S. International brands were led last month by Acura (up 15.7 percent from last March), Mitsubishi (up 21.7 percent), and Volkswagen (up 17.8 percent). In contrast, Hyundai’s sales slipped 10.9 percent, due in part to the lack of SUVs and crossovers in its lineup. Throughout the industry, light trucks continued to drive sales demand last month, rising 16.3 percent as a segment, while cars lagged, slipping 9.2 percent.

“The spring selling season has started off strong,” said AIADA President Cody Lusk. “Solid auto sales are the result of a robust economy and a healthy jobs market. Today’s numbers are also driven by the fact that American consumers are finding the products and the deals they want at their local dealership. ”

International Brands See March Sales Lift

International brands finished March with 54.3 percent of the U.S. auto market, down from 55.4 percent in February and 56.2 percent in March 2017. However, sales of 898,377 vehicles represented an improvement over February auto sales of 720,982 vehicles. They were also a 2.77 percent improvement over 874,130 vehicles in March 2017.

Asian brands occupied 45.1 percent of the U.S. auto market, a decline from the 46.1 percent share they held in February and down from 47 percent in March 2017. However, sales totals of 745,612 units were up from February when they sold 600,402 vehicles. They were also up 2 percent over last February when they sold 731,163 vehicles.

European brands saw sales in March jump 6.9 percent from the same month in 2017 as they occupied 9.2 percent of the overall market and sold 152,765 vehicles to American consumers. Although their share of the U.S. market fell slightly from the 9.3 percent share they held in February, European automakers experienced a similar bounce in sales from February when they sold 112,670 vehicles.

Domestic brands occupied 45.7 percent of the U.S. market in March, selling 755,152 vehicles – with 612,052 of these falling into the light truck category. The numbers represented a 10.8 percent lift from March 2017 when domestic brands held 43.8 percent of the U.S. auto market and sold 681,729 vehicles, as well as February when they occupied 44.6 percent of the market and sold 581,146 vehicles.

Top Ten List Reflects Shopper Preference for Trucks, SUVs

March’s list of top ten selling vehicles reflects the reality that trucks and SUVs are the most popular item on dealer lots. Seven of the month’s top ten selling vehicles fell into one of these segments, with the Ford F-Series and Chevrolet Silverado pickups once again dominating in first and second place, respectively. The Ford F-Series was up 7 percent from March 2017, while the Chevrolet Silverado saw sales increase 23.9 percent. The Ram pickup finished the month in fourth place with sales down 10.9 percent.

In the SUV category, the Nissan Rogue once again led among shoppers. The crossover logged a third place finish for the month with sales up 6.7 percent. It was joined in sixth place by the Toyota RAV4, with sales up 9.1 percent; the Chevrolet Equinox in eighth place, which saw sales jump 40.9 percent; and the Honda CR-V in ninth place, with sales down 3.1 percent.

A few cars still made the cut among the month’s top sellers, led by the Toyota Camry in fifth place. Sales for the sedan were down 1.1 percent from a year ago. In seventh, the Honda Civic saw sales increase 3.4 percent, while the Toyota Corolla finished March in tenth place, with sales down 4.4 percent.

N. America Remains Vehicle Production Hub

A majority of the vehicles on international nameplate dealer lots in March continued to be sourced from North American production facilities – many of which are located in the U.S. and employ U.S. workers. Out of the 745,612 vehicles sold by Asian brands in March, 515,189 were produced in North America. These included 251,685 cars and 263,504 trucks. European brands sold 152,765 vehicles to U.S. shoppers in March, including 13,906 cars and 23,891 trucks produced in North America.  


AutoData Corp. reports that the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for March was 17.48 million units versus 16.82 million units a year ago. Total industry unit deliveries, including all brands and unadjusted for business days, increased six percent compared to last March. Sales were up 27 percent compared to February 2018.