Auto dealers in the U.S. market sold 1.64 million light vehicles in December, up 2.2% compared to same month of 2017, which led to an overall volume rise of 0.6% in 2018, according to figures from AutoNews.
Seasonally adjusted, annualized rate of sales (SAARS) in December were of 17.72 million cars and light trucks, the highest figure for the year. Total sales throughout 2018 were of 17.33 million units, the fourth highest figure on record.
Robust discounts and steady economic growth, but also strong fleet sales were determinant to boost deliveries, analysts say.
The U.S. represents the main destination for Mexico automotive exports. From January through November 2018, auto plants in Mexico shipped 2,347,836 cars and light truck to that market, which is 74% of total.
Among the Big Detroit 3, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) was the only automaker to posts sales gains, due in great part to strong demand of SUVs from its Jeep brand, but also solid sales of its new generation of RAM pickup trucks. FCA sold 2,246,467 vehicles last year, which represents an 8.4% increase compared to sales of 2017.
On the other hand, Ford sold 2,485,222 cars and light trucks while General Motors’ deliveries were 2,954,037 units, representing decreases of 3.5% and 1.6% respectively.
Japanese automakers did not perform as well either, only Mazda and Subaru, the brands with the smallest market shares among them, managed to post gains. The first sold 300,325 vehicles in 2018 for a 3.8% increase while the latter totaled 680,135 deliveries, a 5% growth.
Meanwhile, 2018 sales were 1,493,877 units for Nissan, 1,604,828 for Honda and 2,426,672 for Toyota, representing decreases of 6.3%, 2.2% and 0.3% respectively.
Sales of Korean automakers KIA and Hyundai were also in line with those of their Japanese counterparts. The first reported a flat result totaling 589,673 units delivered in 2018, only five vehicles more than in 2017, while the latter reported a decrease of 1.1% with 677,945 vehicles sold.
Among foreign automakers, Volkswagen was the one who best performed throughout the year, posting a sales increase of 4.2% with 354,064 vehicles sold.
In the luxury market Mercedes-Benz was the best-selling brand with 355,413 units sold, including its Smart division, but those were 5.3% lower compared to 2017 figures. BMW followed with 311,014 vehicles sold, representing a 1.7% rise. If sales of BMW’s subsidiaries Mini and Rolls-Royce are taken into account, total sales of BMW Group were slightly higher than Mercedes’, totaling 355,778 units.
Volkswagen’s subsidiary Audi, third largest premium brand in the U.S. market posted a 1.4% sales decrease on deliveries of 223,323 units.
The Tesla factor
Another factor that undoubtedly was decisive for an increase in car sales in the U.S. market was the participation of Tesla, which in 2018 ramped up production and deliveries, in particular of its successful Model 3.
Tesla December sales were 31,700 vehicles, which compared to 4,200 units from same month of 2017 represents a skyrocketing 654.8% hike. Total 2018 sales of the all-electric automaker were 182,400, up 280% compared to 48,000 units in 2017.