Snowstorms drive sales down 0.4%; SAAR rises to 17.55 million

FCA, Nissan, Hyundai, Subaru rise; GM flat while Ford, VW, Toyota, Honda decline

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AutomakerJan. 2016Jan. 2015Pct. chng.1 month
1 month
Pct. chng.
BMW Group21,41722,304–4.0%21,41722,304–4.0%
  BMW Group21,41722,304–4.0%21,41722,304–4.0%
Daimler AG26,96226,6161.3%26,96226,6161.3%
    Smart USA399492–18.9%399492–18.9%
  Daimler AG26,96226,6161.3%26,96226,6161.3%
FCA US155,037145,0076.9%155,037145,0076.9%
    Alfa Romeo6797–30.9%6797–30.9%
  FCA US155,037145,0076.9%155,037145,0076.9%
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles155,742145,6366.9%155,742145,6366.9%
Ford Motor Co.172,478177,441–2.8%172,478177,441–2.8%
  Ford Motor Co.172,478177,441–2.8%172,478177,441–2.8%
General Motors203,745202,7860.5%203,745202,7860.5%
  General Motors203,745202,7860.5%203,745202,7860.5%
Honda (American)100,497102,184–1.7%100,497102,184–1.7%
  Honda (American)100,497102,184–1.7%100,497102,184–1.7%
Jaguar Land Rover N.A.7,0076,5477.0%7,0076,5477.0%
    Land Rover5,6555,2817.1%5,6555,2817.1%
  Jaguar Land Rover N.A.7,0076,5477.0%7,0076,5477.0%
Nissan North America105,734104,1071.6%105,734104,1071.6%
  Nissan North America105,734104,1071.6%105,734104,1071.6%
Toyota Motor Sales161,283169,194–4.7%161,283169,194–4.7%
  Toyota Motor Sales161,283169,194–4.7%161,283169,194–4.7%
VW Group of America36,42939,141–6.9%36,42939,141–6.9%
  VW Group of America36,42939,141–6.9%36,42939,141–6.9%
Volvo Cars N.A.4,2443,79411.9%4,2443,79411.9%
  Volvo Cars N.A.4,2443,79411.9%4,2443,79411.9%

Numbers in this table are calculated by Automotive News based on actual monthly sales reported by the manufacturers and may differ from numbers reported elsewhere.
Source: Automotive News Data Center
**Includes estimates for Aston Martin and Lotus

Fiat Chrysler reported its 70th consecutive monthly gain despite East Coast dealers being snowed in for a week.
UPDATED: 2/2/16 3:00 pm ET - adds final results

DETROIT -- U.S. auto sales declined 0.4 percent last month, as severe winter weather pushed some consumers to put off car shopping until February.

Automakers posted stronger results than many forecasts had predicted for a month that began with stocks taking a dive and ended with much of the East Coast buried in snow. Because the month had one weekend fewer than January 2015, the industry’s seasonally adjusted, annualized selling rate climbed to 17.55 million -- the highest level of any January since 2006.

The sales rate was 17.32 million in December and 16.71 million in January 2015. 

Nissan and Hyundai set January records, and Fiat Chrysler posted a 6.9 percent increase, its 70th consecutive monthly gain. Sales were essentially flat at General Motors and down slightly more at while Ford Motor Co., American Honda and Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

At GM, the Buick brand rose 45 percent. Chevrolet sales slipped 3.6 percent, and Cadillac was down 8 percent. GMC rose 3.5 percent. Overall, GM’s sales increased 0.5 percent, or just 959 units, though the company said retail sales were up 9 percent.

“We believe industry fundamentals such as the age of the vehicle fleet, well managed inventory levels, firm used car pricing, good credit availability and low fuel prices will support higher industry sales in 2016,” Mustafa Mohatarem, GM’s chief economist, said in a statement. “In addition, household balance sheets are strong and the labor market continues to improve.”

Sales by the Ford brand fell 3 percent, including a 5.2 percent decline for the F-series pickup. Ford brand SUVs and crossovers rose 3.3 percent, while its cars fell 13 percent. Lincoln achieved an 8 percent gain.

FCA said sales improved to 155,037 vehicles. The Dodge brand saw its sales rise 19 percent over a year ago, while Jeep sales climbed 15 percent. Ram sales rose 5 percent, but both the Chrysler and Fiat brands were down sharply.

GM said it cut car-rental deliveries by about 13,000 in January, offsetting its big gain in retail sales. GM was the only major automaker to post a retail increase or a fleet decrease last month, according to figures obtained by Automotive News.

Chevrolet sent 16,400 fewer vehicles to car-rental fleets than it did a year ago, more than accounting for the brand’s total decline of about 5,000 units. Chevy’s retail sales rose 12 percent, GM said.

On a retail basis, Chevy outsold the Ford brand by nearly 1,500 units. Ford's fleet sales jumped about 20 percent.

At Volkswagen, which is still grappling with the fallout from its U.S. emissions scandal, brand sales fell 15 percent to 20,079 vehicles. Passat midsize sedan sales plummeted 43.1 percent despite the arrival of an updated 2016 model late last year. The Tiguan compact crossover, one of VW’s two crossover models, was a lone bright spot for the brand, gaining 72 percent to 2,528 units. 

But at VW sister brand Audi, strong demand for the redesigned Q7 crossover boosted sales 2.7 percent and propelled the brand to its 61st straight month of record U.S. sales -- 11,850 units in January. 

Japanese declines

Among the Japanese, Toyota Motor Corp. fell 4.7 percent to 161,283 vehicles during the month. Car sales dropped 13 percent while trucks increased 4 percent. Prius sales fell 24 percent. Camry, with sales of 26,848 units, was the only Toyota brand car with a year-over-year gain -- 0.3 percent.

The Sienna minivan led the gains among trucks with a 23 percent improvement to 10,992 vehicles. 

Lexus, following expected troubles in the luxury segment, fell nearly 10 percent to 20,933 vehicles. Lexus car sales plunged 26 percent without a single model posting a gain. 

Honda Motor Co. said sales fell 1.7 percent because of the winter weather and two fewer selling days. Bucking industry trends, Honda said car sales improved almost 9 percent while truck/SUV sales fell almost 12 percent. The CR-V crossover led the decline with a 17 percent plunge from last year. Pilot sales fell 30 percent. 

Honda said Acura sales deteriorated 14 percent to 10,250 units. 

Nissan Motor Co. said its sales improved 2 percent to 105,734 vehicles. Sales of trucks, crossovers and SUVs surged 18 percent, led by the Murano's 46 percent gain. Car sales dropped 7 percent. Infiniti sales fell 12 percent to 8,514 vehicles.

Subaru, meanwhile, said sales gained 1 percent to 41,101 vehicles -- the company's 50th straight monthly sales gain. Forester, Legacy and Crosstrek sales all set January records. The Forester, Subaru's best-selling U.S. vehicle, gained 6 percent to 11,904 vehicles. 

Also Hyundai Motor Co. said it recorded its best January ever in the U.S. with 45,011 vehicles sold. That was a gain of 1 percent from 44,505 vehicles sold during the same month last year.

Luxury battle

Mercedes-Benz won the luxury segment battle easily, with sales rising 0.2 percent to 24,664 vehicles. Toyota's Lexus was a distant second.

BMW sales decreased 5 percent to 18,082 vehicles. The new X1 crossover was one of the few bright spots with sales reaching 1,937 vehicles compared with 518 during the same month last year.

"As expected, January suffered a bit from the strong storms that froze large parts of the country," Ludwig Willisch, CEO of BMW of North America, said in statement.  “In spite of the obstacles, the new BMW X1 showed extraordinary growth and our 7 Series and X3 set the momentum we expect to continue in the year ahead.”

Audi and Cadillac finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

At Mercedes, the C class, GLE and CLA model lines led the brand in volume for the month. Though C class was the brand’s top seller, its sales dropped 19 percent for the month. Mercedes sold 3,515 GLE midsize crossovers in January, about 12 percent more than the nameplate’s predecessor, the ML, sold in January 2014.

"On the heels of our highest volume sales year in MBUSA's history, January is continuing the momentum into 2016," Dietmar Exler, CEO of MBUSA, said in a statement. "Our new product offerings, including the new E-Class will continue to bring our customers the best in experience and innovation."

Mercedes will introduce a redesigned E-class sedan in early summer. In January, E-class sales dropped 42 percent to 2,503 vehicles.

Philip Nussel, Ryan Beene, Amy Wilson and Bloomberg contributed to this report.

You can reach Nick Bunkley at nbunkley@crain.com -- Follow Larry P. on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LarryVellequett