The good and not so good about 2012 sales
John K. Teahen Jr. is senior editor of Automotive News
This year has seen a succession of good months and better months for sales of new cars and light trucks.
June was a good month. Dealers delivered 1,285,499 new vehicles. May was a better month, with 1,334,642. June sales were a smashing 22 percent better than those of the year-ago month.
Naturally, there were poor months, too. Like April, when sales plunged 16 percent from March.
In June, cars outsold trucks by 53,111 units, and the Detroit 3 were up 13 percent from a year ago. But import-badged cars and trucks more than doubled that gain. They were up 31 percent.
Six-month sales totaled 7,272,096, keeping the industry on the fast track to exceed 14 million for the year. I'm a bit more optimistic. I'm guessing that the 2012 total will be close to 14.5 million. (See this month's SalesTales column.)
In June, the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate was 14.07 million, up from 13.75 million a month earlier. Domestic cars and domestic trucks accounted for the gain.
Although the Detroit 3's June sales were 13 percent better than last year's, the domestic makes took a shellacking in the market-share column. They had just 46.4 percent of the June market, which means that foreign makes captured 53.6 percent. The Detroiters were down 3.7 points from a year ago.
On the brighter side, every Detroit make sold more new vehicles in June than it did a year ago. On the other hand, so did every Japanese make except Mitsubishi. Jaguar was the only other brand to decline in June.
Chrysler Group led the Detroit 3 with a June increase of 20 percent, but that was chump change compared with the advances posted by Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. and American Honda. Toyota Motor was up 60 over last year, and Honda gained 49 percent.
It seems safe to say that the Japanese giants have recovered from the natural disasters (earthquake, tsunami) of last year.
In their knock-down, drag-out battle for luxury-car supremacy, Mercedes-Benz led BMW by 2,097 sales at the year's midway point. Lexus trailed Mercedes by 20,469 and BMW by 18,372.
But keep your eye on Lexus. The Japanese luxury line has put last year's troubles behind it and has its sights set firmly on first place in the luxury segment, the position it has occupied for most of the past decade.
Keep an eye on VW
Volkswagen has kind of been overlooked in the auto stratosphere this year, and that is a mistake. The VW brand and its parent, Volkswagen Group of America, are writing one of 2012's biggest success stories.
VW Group means Volkswagen and Audi. The group now owns all of Audi.
For six months, the VW brand was up 35 percent over last year, and Audi was up 17 percent. The VW Group (it also includes Bentley) had a pleasant 30 percent increase.
Hopes are high -- very, very high. The group anticipates selling 800,000 VWs and 200,000 Audis annually in the United States by 2018. That is double the current rate of travel for each brand. VW currently is building cars in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Mexico, and Audi plans to build vehicles in Mexico.
Sales of 800,000 would be considerably higher than the numbers VW brand enjoyed during its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, when VW was No. 1 and just about the only import worth talking about. Its sales high point was 569,182 in 1970.
Pie in the sky? Let's wait and see. Remember, quite a few years ago a couple of unknown Japanese brands had big plans for the United States. No one paid much attention to them.
Their names were Toyota and Honda.
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