It took unprecedented supply interruptions and a global pandemic to do it, but 2021 will go down in history as the U.S. auto industry's Great Jostling.
Things that seemed as if they would always stay true fell by the wayside. Former industry upstarts hit their strides and rocked the status quo. Unmet demand for new and used vehicles jacked up prices to record highs and dragged down incentives to previously unthinkable levels.
Last year's U.S. sales largely came down to just one thing: who still had vehicles to sell.
- Toyota Motor North America finished 2021 as the top-selling automaker, ending a General Motors streak that began in 1931.
- Hyundai-Kia outperformed American Honda to move into fifth place for the first time, still trailing No. 3 Ford Motor Co. and No. 4 Stellantis, both of which, like GM, saw their sales decline in a year in which demand outstripped supply by a significant margin.
- Despite a difficult fourth quarter for most automakers, BMW of North America, American Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda North America, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors North America, Nissan Group, Tesla Motors, Toyota Motor North America, Volkswagen Group of America and Volvo Cars USA improved their full-year sales over COVID-19-stricken 2020.
- Tesla cemented its standing among top luxury brands, passing Lexus and Mercedes-Benz, and quickly gained on BMW. Audi was a distant fifth.
- Within various segments, the jostling resulted in some first-ever wins, including the Dodge Challenger besting the Ford Mustang and the Toyota Sienna outselling Stellantis' minivans.