Large Pickups, Compact Crossovers Bolster April U.S. Auto Sales

14725154-car-dealership-woman-receiving-car-key-from-salesmanU.S. light-vehicle sales in April 2013 were set to reach 1.286 million unit sales, which would be up 4% from a year ago on a selling-day adjusted basis,* according to an update from J.D. Power and Associates and its strategic partner, LMC Automotive. The sales rate in April would translate to a slightly lower 14.9 million-unit seasonally-adjusted selling pace.

Early automaker reports indicate that sales (unadjusted) will rise about 9% from a year ago, partly due to higher demand for large pickups and compact crossovers.

The Detroit Three led sales gains with double-digit increases from April 2012. They outpaced two of their top-volume Japan-based rivals—Toyota and Honda Groups. In early results, the third major Japanese automaker, Nissan Group, reported one of the best year-over-year gains—sales were up 23% on an unadjusted basis from April 2012.

Demand was particularly strong for large pickups with improvement in the housing and construction markets. The resilience of the U.S. consumer’s pent-up demand also bolstered sales, according to Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. He said consumer spending remains remarkably stronger than the economy suggests it should be.

More early sales highlights:

Ford 2013 EscapeFord F-Series continued to reap higher sales that were the best for any April since 2006, according to the automaker. Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra sales also posted major increases, while Chrysler Group’s Ram large pickup sales were up by nearly one-half from a year ago.

• Compact crossovers (CUVs) were particularly strong sellers in April. Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4 achieved strong double-digit sales gains from a year ago. CR-V and Escape set April sales records and RAV4 was one of Toyota’s strongest performers in the past month.

• Ford Motor Co. reported an 18% gain with a strong 21% increase from its Lincoln luxury brand with deliveries of the new MKZ climbing exponentially, nearly doubling from a year ago thanks to better availability. The Ford brand celebrated record deliveries for the redesigned Fusion.

• General Motors and Chrysler Group each celebrated 11% sales gains on an unadjusted basis. All four of GM’s brands posted gains. Cadillac was the shining star for the company with sales up by nearly one-third from a year ago. Chrysler’s increase was buoyed by Dodge deliveries—especially the new Dart and redesigned Durango plus Challenger and Journey models.

2013 Avalon Hybird• Nissan Group reported that sales were up 23% from 2012 on an unadjusted basis. Just this week, Nissan announced plans to trim prices on as many as seven of its models. Products that bolstered Nissan brand deliveries in April were: Altima, Rogue, the redesigned Pathfinder, Sentra and the all-electric LEAF, which is now assembled in Tennessee and is offered at a lower price point.

• Toyota Group posted a small dip from a year ago, although sales of the new Avalon more than doubled from a year ago. RAV4 sales also climbed in double digits and Tundra truck sales rose from a year ago. Camry, the best-selling car in the U.S. market, ran second in April to the Honda Accord.

• Honda Group saw a 7% rise in deliveries with strength from its best performers: Odyssey and Civic.

• Hyundai Group posted a small gain with Hyundai brand sales up 2%. Although inventories are tight, especially for the Sonata, the Elantra, Azera and redesigned Santa Fe posted year-over-year sales gains.

• Volkswagen Group reported a small dip (-5%) in April, although its Audi and Porsche luxury brand sales were up in double digits. Porsche said it had its best sales month ever in the U.S. market, while the VW brand said Jetta and Passat sales slipped during the past month from a year ago.

• BMW Group posted an 8% increase and the BMW brand sales were up 10% from a year ago. Daimler Group sales rose 4% with a near 6% increase from Mercedes-Benz. Even without Sprinter Van sales, Mercedes likely regained the luxury sales lead for the month from its rival BMW.

Subaru was the only independent brand to post a year-over-year increase—sales were up 25% from April 2012. Mazda, Mitsubishi and Suzuki brands all posted lower sales in April 2013 than a year ago.

*There were 25 selling days in April 2013 and 24 in April 2012. The figures in this post are unadjusted and do not reflect the change based on one less selling day this year.

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