Auto Sales Get Decimated In October – A Sign Of Things To Come?

The month of October was not friendly to most car manufacturers, as overall sales in the United States dropped 6%. This sharp drop can be attributed to volume sellers who saw declines that haven’t been posted in quite sometime. Is this a reason for concern moving forward? Is a slowing auto market going to be the new reality that manufacturers will face for at least the short term? New car sales have been slowing over the past few months, but October’s sudden drop in overall sales is nothing that should be taken lightly.

It should be noted that October of 2016 had two fewer selling days than October of 2015, but with some of the percentages that were posted, not even two extra selling days could change the outcome of a bleak new car market.

Fiat-Chrysler Massacre

It has not been a good year for the Fiat-Chrysler group, and October magnifies the downward trend in sales for most of the brands. Chrysler posted a decline of 44.7%, Fiat down 24.3%, Dodge -16.4%, and Jeep -6.6%. Three out of the four brands listed are down on the year for new car sales, while Jeep is still maintaining an increase of 9.7%. With Dodge ending the Dart and Chrysler no longer producing the 200, sales figures being down was to be expected, but for the auto group as a whole, there’s not much excitement for any of the brands, besides Dodge which produces the Challenger and Charger.

BMW, Volkswagen, Volvo and Land Rover Experience Sales Decline

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Volvo and Land Rover, two manufacturers who are both up on the year in new car sales in the United States, saw sharp declines in the month of October. Volvo, a brand that has been revived thanks to the all new S90 and completely redesigned XC90, experienced a 14.6% drop in sales. Land Rover saw a decline of 23.2% in October. Despite the sharp drop in sales in the United States, Volvo and Land Rover are still having a fantastic year overall, and shouldn’t be too concerned about the final quarter of the year, unless lower sales figures overall in the automotive market becomes a trend.

BMW may be the biggest surprise for lower volumes in sales, not only for October, but for the year of 2016. Down 18.4% last month, and down 9% for the year, BMW is the only brand out of the big three luxury manufacturers in Germany that has experienced declines. Mercedes Benz and Audi are still strong, and while sales were flat in October, the loss of two sales days could be a contributing factor. Volkswagen on the other hand has not recovered from Diesel Gate, and with a loss of 13.5% on the year and another double-digit loss last month, it just continues to get worse for the German auto brand.

Bentley, Jaguar, Maserati, and Porsche Have Strong October

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Not everyone is reeling from the October blues, there are car brands that had a fantastic month with Bentley, Jaguar, Maserati, and Porsche having double and even triple digit increases in sales. The British are leading the way and Jaguar’s 226% sales increase can be attributed to the F-Pace and XE, which have both taken their respective markets by storm. The F-Pace is Jaguar’s first attempt at making an SUV, and so far it has been a great success, while the XE, which is the British’s answer to the BMW 3 Series, is seeing strong sales since it’s arrival to the market earlier this year.

Bentley’s impressive gain of 158% in sales last month is all thanks to the Benteyga, which is Bentley’s first ever SUV. In October, the Benteyga contributed more than 33% of sales for the Bentley brand. While the British luxury car maker is down on the year by 6.8%, the entrance into the luxury SUV market has yielded strong sales figures, with the Benteyga making up about 50% of Bentley’s sales in the US since it’s debut on the market in August.

Maserati, much like Bentley and Jaguar, has seen strong sales numbers since entering the SUV market as well. The Levante, which also brought in about 33% of sales in October for Maserati, has received raved reviewed by journalists and consumers. Maserati has hit a home run with their luxury SUV, and that is starting to trickle down to other cars in the lineup. The Ghibli had a strong month alongside the Levante, leading to Maserati’s 11.8% increase in sales for the month of October.

Porsche had the best month out of all German brands in October, with luxury SUV’s again being the main contributor for strong sale. Up 10.7% in October and 3.2% for the year of 2016, Porsche has seen tremendous sales figures and it’s the Cayenne and Macan that is carrying the once sports car dominated lineup.

Strong sales across the board for luxury brands could be a good sign, despite the slowing of overall sales in the market. While Fiat-Chrysler, BMW, Volvo, and many others struggled in October, there’s no reason to panic just yet. If the fourth quarter of 2016 continues a downward trend and that transitions into the new year, then there would be a legitimate reason for concern. As for right now, we can only hope that October isn’t the start of a trend, and that the holiday season and the incentives that come with it could motivate consumers to buy in November and December.

Cadillac Should Be Focusing On Dodge, Not The Germans

Cadillac’s President, Johan de Nysschen, has been very vocal the past few months after the unveiling of the new Cadillac ATS-V and CTS-V. He believes that the GM luxury brand will compete with the likes of BMW and Mercedes Benz, especially when it comes to performance. But is Nysschen getting too far ahead of himself, especially since the BMW M3/M4 and Mercedes Benz C63 are already on the market? Not only that, but is he also forgetting a domestic rival that hasn’t been part of the discussion when it comes to performance?

Nysschen has been emphasizing performance over luxury when it comes to the ATS-V and CTS-V, essentially stating that this is BMW and Mercedes Benz “fanboys'” worst nightmare. However, by pushing the performance aspect of his two new cars, is he blindly walking into the hands of Dodge? The Charger and Challenger Hellcat could certainly give Cadillac a run for it’s money, especially since they’re all in the same price range, with Dodge offering more horsepower than Cadillac.

Even Cadillac lovers acknowledge that when the debates start firing up between the M3/M4, C63, and the ATS-V/CTS-V, “German car fanboys” revert back to the luxury aspect of their favorite cars. Nysschen is creating a new perception for his company, that Cadillac is no longer the forgotten luxury brand and is now a force to be reckoned with thanks to its performance. But the ambiance that he’s trying to capture might backfire as consumers see Dodge as performance-driven cars, putting Cadillac’s new perception in line with their American counterparts.

The Dodge Charger Hellcat’s starting price is $62,295, while the ATS-V will start at $61,460. The Hellcat has 707 hp and the ATS-V will have a 3.6L twin turbo V-6 supplying 464 hp. While on paper both cars wouldn’t be seen in the same class or market, we are talking about two cars that are in the same price range, both offering performance. Dodge has been forgotten, hidden in the shadows while Nysschen only makes reference to German automakers. A luxury car that offers performance is one thing, but by solely marketing performance, Cadillac is going to find themselves in competition with another American car brand, which wasn’t Nysschen’s intent.

When it comes to cars, American consumers traditionally want performance, power, and speed. Hardcore car enthusiasts on the other hand have always looked across the Atlantic and Pacific for cars that could offer both power and luxury. Cadillac is playing a dangerous game targeting the German car enthusiasts, while they should be trying to acquire American consumers who fully want power. The Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcat are already satisfying those needs, whereas Cadillac is trying to target two completely different sides of the spectrum.

Cadillac will continue competing against their German rivals, but if they start overlooking the luxury aspect of their new performance luxury cars, they’ll find themselves in the same discussion with Dodge. Nysschen needs to cover all the bases, or the Hellcats will strike with force, putting them into the discussion that they can outperform Cadillacs.

Again, this isn’t Cadillac’s intent, and Dodge shouldn’t even be an afterthought. But when you enter the performance debate, it would be sacrilegious to forget about two muscle cars that are in the same price range, and can offer more horsepower.

Has Italian Ownership Changed The Chrysler Group For The Better?

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT (left) and Dodge Challenger SRT Supercharged (right)
Chrysler Group / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

When Italians and Americans come together the end result is usually awesome, and Fiat-Chrysler is no exception. What has transpired over the past few years for the American manufacturer is a combination of the first three Rocky films, as Chrysler was this beat-up, almost irrelevant company, and in a matter of a few short years has become a force to be reckoned with. While Chrysler is changing the definition of American luxury, Dodge has become the automotive world’s version of Rocky Balboa; two tons of Italian-American muscle that has redefined what muscle cars are.

Starting with the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, clearly Italian influence is making its impact as the new muscle car now has a 707 hp engine, which makes it the most powerful American muscle car ever manufactured. But Dodge didn’t stop there, they’re now Hellcatting the Charger, which just like it’s brother, will be the most powerful four-door sedan sports car to come out of America. While Dodge’s SRT department retains the credit for creating the two beasts, Italian ownership clearly had some input on the power. Seeing that Fiat owns Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, they’ve incorporated Italian engineering with American muscle which has spawned two sports cars that’s making the Dodge Viper obsolete and forgotten.

By 2016, we’ll also have an SRT Dodge Dart which is certainly going to draw some attention, as smaller, powerful four-door compacts are becoming a trend. Even though the company is still Dodge, you can’t help but feel that it’s becoming an Italian car more than American, which is a good thing. The Chrysler group needed a push in the right direction, and by having a luxury manufacturer in Chrysler, and now what appears to be the performance division in Dodge, there is the right balance that’s boosted sales throughout the year.

Jeep on the other hand is becoming Fiat’s extended arm, as the new Jeep Renegade will be based off the Fiat Panda, a vehicle we don’t get here in the United States. The Jeep Cherokee has definitely been Italian-ized with that new, European look. It’s been recently reported that Jeep claimed Trackhawk as their performance name, raising speculation that we might see a Hellcat-like SUV that may change the perception consumers have on SUV’s in general.

Right now things couldn’t be better for the Chrysler group. They’re producing vehicles consumers want, spanning across multiple age groups that’s reshaped their customer base, and becoming more like a European auto manufacturer than American. Their new image of being young, fun, with a dose of luxury has certainly changed how Americans see the Chrysler group, and they’re now seeing strong sales because of it.

Chrysler Sales Rise 17% in May as Jeep and Dodge are in Demand

Chrysler reported strong earnings in May, as Jeep, Fiat, and Dodge carried most of the momentum heading into June. Jeep sales alone rose 58%, Fiat up 18%, and Dodge Ram trucks up 17%. Surprisingly the Chrysler brand itself didn’t report any gains, in fact sales were down 22%. The hope is that the redesigned Chrysler 200 can reignite sales as it will be the first model to get a whole new makeover that will be present in all Chrysler vehicles.

The Dodge Journey and Dart both had a great month, putting together a 33% gain in May. The Challenger on the other hand barely managed a 4% increase in sales, as subtle changes to the body didn’t seem to phase consumers.

With GM having their own problems, this is great news for the Chrysler group as confidence in their brand appears to be growing. The Jeep Cherokee is a favorite among buyers as it brings it’s all-new design and reputation as being a strong and durable SUV.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the 2015 Dodge Charger will sell. After the Charger’s unveiling at the New York International Auto Show, it didn’t get a warm reception. Some consumers didn’t like the fact that Dodge basically put the body of the Dart on the chassis of a Charger, making the once fierce-looking four door sedan look tame.

Despite Chrysler being owned by Fiat for a few years now, the company is still evolving and making major changes to their lineups. If sales continue to grow, there will be a bright future for them as their five year plan heading into 2018 looks very promising.

What Has Dodge Done With the Charger? From Fierce to Tame

 

Last week at the New York International Auto Show, Dodge unveiled the new 2015 Charger, that ultimately got mixed reviews. What was once known as a proud muscle car in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, to a formidable sedan used by countless police forces in the United States, has now become a bigger version of the failing model, the Dodge Dart. The question that must be asked is, “Why did they do this?” With the Challenger remaining relatively the same, there was no need for Dodge to go the full nine yards and change the Charger. What do you think? Like the new changes or no?

The only reasonable explanation for the sudden and drastic change to the Charger was the failing sales numbers the Dodge Dart has been posting as of late. Unfortunately for the American automaker, the Dart isn’t selling, as it’s having difficulty contending with the Ford Focus and the Toyota Corolla, two compact sedans that are fighting for the top spot in most sold cars around the globe.

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Reading the comments on social media, people find the Dart a bit bland, which is why combining it with the body and looks of a Charger probably wasn’t the wisest move, but only time will tell.

This does however raise questions whether Dodge will continue the compact sedan past 2015 as sales are low, and putting the looks of the Dart with the Charger brand might help turn around the numbers. Needless to say, it will be interesting to see if anyone buys the new look Charger, especially police forces around the country. I don’t know about you, but seeing the 2008-2014 Charger as a police car is intimidating enough, but with the 2015 model, I just don’t get that same sense of fear.