VW joins top 10 brand list; Chrysler and others gain
In a buoyant sales year that lifted volume for virtually all mainstream brands, it took a stellar performance to overtake a rival in 2012.
As U.S. light-vehicle sales jumped 13 percent, there were only a few changes among the 20 best-selling brands.
Volkswagen scored a 35 percent gain to replace GMC as No. 10. Chrysler sales soared 39 percent, moving to No. 13 from No. 17, passing Ram, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Mazda. And Acura's 27 percent surge pushed it up a notch, knocking Cadillac out of the top 20.
Every brand in the new top 20 had higher sales last year. And 13 of them retained or gained market share with double-digit growth.
Toyota brand sales jumped 26 percent and Honda rose 24 percent as they took back much of the market share they lost in 2011. Conversely, Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan and Hyundai brands gave back market share gained in 2011. All four posted single-digit sales increases.
As a result, Toyota remained the No. 3 U.S. brand last year, but its 1.76 million sales were only 86,813 units behind No. 2 Chevrolet, after trailing by 379,000 units in 2011. And if Scion is included as a Toyota subbrand instead of a separate brand, Chevy's 2012 lead was only 13,308.
Similarly, Honda was No. 4 both years but increased its 2012 lead over No. 5 Nissan to almost a quarter million units, from 79,913 in 2011.
Outside the top brands, there were several position changes.
Scion jumped three spots to No. 25 with a 49 percent sales increase, passing Volvo, Mini and Mitsubishi. Mini also moved up past slumping Mitsubishi, so it remains No. 27 instead of moving down.
Fiat more than doubled U.S. sales to 43,772 units, passing Land Rover, Porsche and Suzuki and cracking the top 30 (finishing 29th) for the first time.
Only five brands had lower volume in 2012, and most of those declines were small. Cadillac and Jaguar both fell 2 percent, and Lincoln dropped 4 percent.
Even after announcing its withdrawal from the U.S. market, Suzuki dropped only 5 percent, although most late-year volume came from liquidating remaining stock.
Foundering Mitsubishi posted an industry-worst 27 percent decline, selling just 57,790 vehicles last year, compared with 79,020 in 2011.
Volume comparisons to 2011 were skewed by the loss of its four U.S.-made models -- the Endeavor crossover, Galant sedan, Eclipse coupe and Spyder convertible. Meanwhile, the i-MiEV electric small car launched with a resounding thud.
Ryan Beene contributed to this report
You can reach Jesse Snyder at email@example.com.