It was a December and fourth quarter to forget for many automakers.
The month, usually a blowout for the industry, registered the steepest year over year sales decline -- 27 percent — of 2021, LMC Automotive said, with the seasonally adjusted, annualized sales rate — 12.4 million — nearly matching 2021's low mark of 12.38 million in September. Motor Intelligence pegged the December SAAR slightly higher at 12.71 million.
Fourth-quarter industry deliveries skidded 21 percent to 3.29 million cars and light trucks — making it the weakest quarter of 2021.
Helped by strong first-half volume, U.S. sales rose 3.3 percent to 15.06 million in 2021, compared with 14.575 million in 2020, when the pandemic upended volume. Yet the final tally for 2021 is still well below the 17 million or more the industry racked up in the five years before the pandemic struck.
Overall, 12 brands — Ford, Lincoln, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Jaguar, Infiniti, Alfa Romeo, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep and Subaru — reported lower sales last year, while BMW, Toyota, Lexus, Hyundai, Kia, Acura and Nissan generated healthy market share gains.
Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Hyundai and Kia posted lower U.S. sales in December for the fifth straight month, with tight inventories stemming from supply chain disruptions dealing a final blow as the auto industry closed out 2021 on a down note.
Ford Motor Co., after a 5.8 percent increase in November, closed the year down 17 percent in December, with sales sliding 15 percent at the Ford division and 51 percent at Lincoln. It finished 2021 with fourth-quarter deliveries of 504,138 — making it the best-selling automaker in the quarter.
The company said Wednesday it began 2022 with 247,000 vehicles in inventory – up 22,000 from November and what it called "the best stock position in the industry."
General Motors reported a 43 percent decline in fourth-quarter sales, with volume off 45 percent at Chevrolet, 38 percent at GMC, 35 percent at Buick and 48 percent at Cadillac. Nissan Motor Co.'s fourth-quarter deliveries dropped 20 percent, with the Nissan division down 17 percent and Infiniti off 47 percent.
Stellantis, citing "various supply chain issues," said fourth-quarter volume declined 18 percent to 411,513, with sales down 19 percent at Jeep, 16 percent at Ram, 36 percent at Dodge, 64 percent at Fiat and 33 percent at Alfa Romeo. Only the Chrysler brand, up 18 percent behind a 32 percent gain in Pacifica deliveries, saw an increase last quarter.
The company's 2021 sales slipped 2 percent on flat retail business. While fleet demand and orders were strong, Stellantis said it prioritized retail customer orders, resulting in a drop in fleet shipments of 8 percent in the fourth quarter and 13 percent year over year.
Toyota Motor, even with double-digit volume declines in recent months, surpassed GM, the market leader for decades dating to the Great Depression, in U.S. sales by nearly 130,000 units in 2021.
Toyota Motor's volume slid 30 percent last month, it's biggest decline of 2021, with sales down 29 percent at the Toyota division and 37 percent at Lexus. The Toyota division's car sales tumbled 37 percent while crossover and SUV volume dropped 21 percent and pickup truck deliveries skidded 26 percent.
Toyota said it ended December with a 20-day supply of vehicles, or 125,423 cars and light trucks in stock, most of which — 106,296 units — is at ports or in transit.