What we’re learning from 2019 sales; and how GM, FCA fared against Toyota, Honda
2019 was an interesting year for the auto industry in the United States; for the most part, sales numbers kept pace with 2018, but there were major shifts from cars to crossovers and pickups, and the most successful cars (Camry, Corolla, and Civic) were loaded up with features—given invisible incentives, really.
GM came close to three million sales, and roughly one third of that was crossovers. More than one in five GM cars was sold to fleets (22%), not a pleasant thought. They sold a stunning 807,923 large trucks, nearly a million pickups if you include the Colorado’s 122,304 sales. Fiat Chrysler’s Ram came in behind GM but ahead of Chevrolet, with 633,694 pickups, but the best-selling division was Jeep, with over 900,000 SUV sales (including another 40,000 or so pickups). Toyota sold around a hundred thousand big, obsolete Tundras and a quarter-million midsize Tacomas. When Ford reports its roughly-million pickup sales on Monday, it will no doubt be a national record for sales of trucks which were a mere niche up until the 1990s.
The biggest seller of actual passenger cars, Toyota, managed to keep Corolla and Camry sales nearly identical to last year by completely replacing their platform and architecture, adding better engines, and replacing Scions and Priuses with Corolla models (there are still Prius-badged cars, but their sales fell another 20%). Toyota beat 300,000 for both Corolla and Camry, which is very impressive; either one beat all GM or FCA sedan-and-coupe sales combined.
Toyota was also very successful with its RAV4 small crossover, with a stunning 448,071 sales, which makes any Jeep look like a failure by comparison; its next best seller, the big Highlander, was far lower, at 239,438, which is where the popular Jeeps were as well. After that, though, there weren’t any really popular Toyotas; only the 4Runner (131,888) and RX (111,036) came in with six figures.
Most minivans fell by around the same amount, 16-20%, with the old Dodge Caravan beating everyone by a good margin, followed by the Honda Odyssey, which barely nudged out the Chrysler Pacifica for #2; the Sienna was a distant fourth, and the Sedona and even more distant fifth.
Fiat Chrysler beat 2 million sales for the year, roughly even with 2018; Honda hit 1.6 million, also roughly even with 2018, with Honda cars dropping by about the same volume as Honda crossovers gained. FCA’s most popular vehicles were the Ram series, followed, far behind, by four Jeeps: the Grand Cherokee (242,969), Wrangler (228,032, not counting 40,000 Gladiators), Cherokee (191,397, and down 20% despite a redesign), and Compass (143,934). Jeep was bigger in sales than Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Ferrari combined. The only non-Jeep/non-Ram to break 100,000 sales was the Caravan, at 122,648, though the Charger at least came close to six figures (96,935). It was trounced by the Camry and Malibu, but at least the Chrysler 300 (barely) beat the Toyota Avalon.
Ford, for whatever reason, won’t report until next week.
Clark Westfield grew up fixing up and driving past-their-prime American cars, including various GM and Mopar V8s. He has ghostwritten auto news for the last few years, and lives in Farmingdale, New York.