Gary S. Vasilash
Gary S. Vasilash is the founding editor of Automotive Design & Production (AD&P) magazine, a publication established in 1997 by Gardner Publications with the cooperation of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). He is responsible for the editorial management and direction of the monthly magazine. Vasilash continues to write a monthly column for AD&P and contributes several stories to each issue.
Vasilash has more than 20 years of experience writing about the automotive industry, best practices and new technologies. His work has appeared in a variety of venues, ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Lightworks, a journal of contemporary art. He has made numerous presentations at a variety of venues ranging from the annual meeting of the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT) to the Center for Constructive alternatives at Hillsdale College.
Prior to his present position, Vasilash was editor-in-chief of both Automotive Production and Production magazines—predecessors to AD&P. He joined Cincinnati, Ohio-based Gardner Publications in 1987 as executive editor of Production magazine.
Prior to that, Vasilash had editorial positions with the Rockford Institute and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME).
He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism and a Master of Arts degree from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He is a member of the Automotive Press Association.
Honda Through June
29. July 2016
Often when there are vehicles that have ceased production and are in the process of being completely moved out of the system there are sales numbers that look like this:
Honda Insight: June 2016, 9; June 2015, 126; % change: 93.1%
Sometimes there is a vehicle that has just gone into production and it catches the sales at just the right time so that there are numbers that look like this:
Honda Ridgeline: June 2016, 2,472; June 2015, 7; % change: 33,856%
OK. The Ridgeline is a really nice, new truck. But a 33,856% change in volume nice?
Honda is something of an outlier. For the month of June Honda Division car sales (yes, including those 9 Insights) were up 7.7% compared to June 2015. What’s more, for the first six months of 2016, its car sales are also in positive territory, up 10.2% compared with 2015.
Those increases have everything to do with the Accord—now in its 40th year—and the Civic. There are also the Fit, which is up for June-over-June by 7.8% but down first six months by a considerable 23.1%, and the CR-Z and the Insight, which are fairly insignificant.
Yes, Honda is able to sell cars. Lots of cars. Something that many in the industry can’t manage to do.
And it also sells trucks. Honda Division truck sales were up 6.6% in June and are up 3.7% for the first six months.
It is worth pointing out that in addition to the Ridgeline, which is ramping up (so those huge percentage increases are going to decrease), there will be a new Odyssey coming, so Honda is going to be in even better shape truck-wise. It is somewhat surprising that the HR-V, like the Fit, with which it shares a platform, was down 15.4% in June, although the small crossover is up 157.7% for the first six months, but that, too, is primarily a timing issue. With all of the interest in small crossovers it would seem like the HR-V would be doing considerably better, but perhaps people are being deflected into the larger CR-V.
Acura, without putting too fine a point on it, continues to struggle. Its car sales were down in June by 31.3% and are down 12% for the year. Much of its problem in this segment stems, I think, from a lack of focus on precisely what an Acura car is. The lineup is fairly small, with the ILX, TLX and RLX/RL. Small, medium and large. But then there’s the NSX (they sold two in June), which makes you somewhat confused if you go into a dealership looking for a car: the NSX is arguably further from an ILX than a Chevy Spark is from a Stingray.
In the truck category Acura isn’t fairing as well as its competitors. That is, for June its truck sales—meaning the MDX and the RDX crossovers, big and medium—were off 24.2% and they’re down 7.7% for the first six months. It must be a capacity issue or something like that because both the MDX and RDX are more than competitive in their respective segments. These are not laggards by any stretch of the imagination. But, again, perhaps this comes down to a question of what an Acura is.
That is, you know that a Honda is a vehicle—car or crossover—that provides quality, durability and reliability in a handsome package, a vehicle that is not going to be available at bargain prices but at a price point that’s predicated on value. A Honda is, in effect, a choice that you can’t go wrong if you make it. (OK. Maybe the Insight is not such a great idea, but. . . .) But why buy an Acura rather than something else. (There are lots of brands that have an ill-defined or even un-defined brief and consequently they get trounced by brands like BMW that literally and figuratively “own” a position in the market.)
Toyota Through June
28. July 2016
Paul Holdridge, Vice President of Sales Operations of the Toyota Division, said during a discussion of June 2016 sales, “We remain optimistic. . .And look forward to the 2nd half of 2016.”
That’s probably because the first half of 2016 wasn’t a bit off for Toyota Division (including Scion, but excluding Lexus).
That is, through the first half, its sales were down 2.5%, and they were off 6.2% for June. The Camry, which is the perennial best-selling car in the U.S. was down 13% in June and is down 7.4% for the first half.
But chances are, it will come in once again when the year is over as the best-selling car, as through June 199,695 were sold. But it should also be pointed out that the Honda Civic is going to give the Camry a run for that crown as there have been 189,840 Civics sold so far this year and while Camry sales are trending downward, the new Civic is traveling north.
Presumably gas prices are putting the heel on Prius sales. Through June, Prius sales) were down 25.2% compared to the first six months of 2015. It should be noted, however, that Toyota has sold 67,405 Priuses.
To put that into context, know that Cadillac Division—cars and trucks included—has sold just 73,231 vehicles in the first half of 2016, or 5,826 more units than Prius—alone. Or to look at it from another perspective, Mitsubishi Motors N.A. has sold a total 51,934 vehicles in the first six months of 2015, which means that Prius is outselling the entire company.
The real bright spot for Toyota is the RAV4 crossover, which is by far the biggest-selling light truck in the company’s lineup. In June RAV4 sales were up 10.2% and they’re up 15.5% for the first half of the year, to 165,900 units. That bests the Chevy Equinox—121,320—the Ford Escape—155,378—and the Honda CR-V—159,075.
While there is a plethora of minus signs in front of the numbers for the various Toyota and Scion cars, the Corolla is in positive territory for June (up 1%) but down for the year (-4.2%).
And the negative numbers are also in abundance for Lexus cars, one and all, for the first half of the year, with the exception of the LFA, which is up 20% compared to the first six months of 2015.
Lexus LFA sales through June 2016: 6
Lexus LFA sales through June 2015: 5
For the first six months, Lexus car sales are down 19.7%.
And as is the new normal, even in the luxury market, the truck sales are doing the heavy lifting: for June Lexus truck sales were up 11.4% and they’re up 11.3% for the year. What’s more, according to Steve Hearne, vice president of Lexus Sales Operations, “We are only limited by the availability of our LUVs”—as in “luxury utility vehicles.” Meaning, they conceivably would have had even more truck sales if they had capacity.
It may be worth noting that Lexus is getting closer to BMW Div. Lexus has delivered 151,564 vehicles through June. BMW has delivered 153,436 vehicles during the same period. (Both are well outpaced by Mercedes, however, which is at 178,539 vehicles in the first six months.)
FCA Through June
27. July 2016
“In spite of some severe stock market volatility in June, the American consumer stayed focused on buying new vehicles and propelled FCA to six vehicle sales records last month,” said Reid Bigland, Senior Vice President, Sales, FCA–North America.
June was good to FCA in many ways:
--It was the group’s best June in 11 years.
--It was Ram Trucks best June in 10 years.
--It was Dodge’s best June in two years.
--It was Jeep’s best June—ever.
That bears repeating: Jeep’s best June ever.
Jeep saw a 17% sales increase over 2015. It was the 33rd consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains. It has set a sales record every month since November 2013.
Jeep Compass was up 128% in June, and is up 80% for the year (compared to 2015).
Patriot was up 24% and 8% for June and the first half, respectively.
Wrangler is getting a little old, so its June sales were up just 5%, but it is down 2% for the year.
Cherokee has seen a dip, with sales down 12% for June and 3% for the year.
Grand Cherokee, however, remains consistent, with sales up 9% for June and 8% for the first half.
Renegade is overwhelming, with June sales up 99% and first-half sales up 262%.
So while Wrangler and Cherokee are down for the first half, the other Jeep models more than make up for any losses.
Ram Trucks, which basically consists of the Ram pickup and the ProMaster Van and ProMaster City, was up 14% in June and is up 11% for the first half.
And Dodge was up 3% in June and is up 6% for the first half of 2016.
So what’s missing from the picture so far?
The two key letters in “FCA”: Fiat and Chrysler.
Both brands aren’t doing so well.
In the case of Fiat, which consists of three 500 variants (500, 500L, 500X) and the just-launched 124 Spider, sales are down 19% for June and for the first half. However, it is worth noting that the 500X was up 257% for June and is up 2,148% for the first half—however, this is predicated on when the model came into showrooms more than crazy demand for the car (i.e., through June, 7,464 500X models were sold, compared with 7,932 500s—and the 500 sales are down 48%).
Meanwhile, Walter P. Chrysler is shedding a tear somewhere because the brand that bears his name was down 20% in June and is down 19% for the year.
It should be pointed out, however, that the Chrysler showroom isn’t exactly bursting with products.
There is the 200, which is a much better can than its sales would seem to indicate (down 58% in June; down 62% for the first half). This is a car that Sergio Marchionne has indicated that he’d like someone else to build for FCA, which indicates that it is something of an orphan, which it doesn’t deserve.
There is the 300, which was down 7% in June but which is up 24% for the first half. But that 24% needs to be put into context, as that’s 30,754 vehicles. So let’s consider the Chevrolet Impala, a sizeable car, by comparison: for the first half its sales are down 2.9%, yet there have been 56,390 sold.
Chrysler also has the outgoing Town & Country minivan and the now-incoming Pacific minivan. One has done extremely well. One will do extremely well.
But it is hard to imagine Chrysler consisting of a big sedan and a minivan.
Ford Through June
26. July 2016
“The first half for Ford Brand SUV’s was a record. We’ve never sold more SUV’s in the first half of a year in our company history.” That’s Erich Merkle, Ford sales analyst.
Merkle also observed, “Ford is the number-one selling brand of truck in America and in continues to extend that lead this year. We sold over a half-million Ford brand trucks throughout the country, that’s a 13% gain. The real driver behind that, especially in June was F-Series, ‘cause F-Series was up 29% and it’s really driven by F-150 performance which was up 40%.”
Overall, things were good for Ford, both for June and the first half of 2016: its sales in June were up 6% and for the first half its total U.S. sales are up 5% (1,353,048 vehicles)—which is its best first-half performance since 2006.
However (there’s always a “however”). . .
Ford is quite clearly becoming something of a truck company. Its overall car sales were down 12.1% in June and are down 8.9% for the first half of the year.
You can look at a small car like the Fiesta, which was down 49% in June and is down 28% for the year. Arguably, perhaps, cheap gas prices are taking their toll on small cars.
So we look at the biggest car in the Ford showroom, the Taurus, and discover that it was down 44% for June and is off 1.7% for the year. (However, to be fair to Fiesta, know that 25,539 were sold through June, and that’s more than Taurus’ 19,695).
And even the pony car par-excellence the Mustang was down 16.6% for June and is off 7.8% for the year. (For those who are interested in these sorts of things, know that in the Mustang vs. Camaro sales contest, through June there have been 62,965 Mustangs sold and 36,834 Camaros. Chances are Camaro isn’t going to win that race.)
Then there is Lincoln. Which is moving in the right direction. While Ford car sales are down, Lincoln car sales are actually up by 3.4% for June (though down 5% for the first half). The June number is all the more impressive because it is all on the back of the MKZ, which was up 8.5%, because the only other car is the MKS, which was down 21.3%.
And in the crossover category, it is doing well, too, primarily because of the impressive performance of the MKX: it was up 27.4% for June and is up a remarkable 72.5% for the year.
However (see above). . .
If we do a Mustang vs. Camaro comparison but look at the performance of Lincoln trucks vs. Cadillac trucks, then things are better for the GM brand. That is, for June, the total number of Lincoln SUVs is 5,636 and for the first half 35,159.
Meanwhile, at Cadillac, it delivered 8,627 units (35% more than Lincoln) and has moved 43,294 for the first half (19% more than Lincoln).
However. . .
It is absolutely amazing to look at the number of Ford F-Series trucks that the company has delivered (realize this is the F-150 as well as the various Super Duty variants). In June alone there were 70,937 F-Series trucks sold by Ford in the U.S.—compared with 65,305 cars. And for the year, Ford has delivered 373,135 cars yet 395,244 F-Series trucks.
And to put that 395,244 into some sort of context, know that for the first half of 2016, Volkswagen of America—which includes VW, Audi (which set its 66th consecutive month of sales gains in June), Bentley, and Lamborghini—sold a total of 247,135 vehicles—cars, SUVs, exotics, etc.—in the first half of 2016, of 37.5% fewer vehicles than those trucks alone.
General Motors Through June
25. July 2016
One of the things that General Motors is emphasizing of late is that it has a “retail-focused strategy.” This means that rather than selling to rental companies, it is focusing on selling to consumers. Apparently, the rental companies don’t pay as much as you or I do. What’s more, when there is a sea of sedans sitting in the parking lots surrounding airports, at some point those cars flow back into the secondary retail market, which means that because there are so many of them, residual values (i.e., the money that you or I can get when we trade-in our vehicle) are lower.
“Our retail-focused strategy is resulting in the highest share gains in the industry. Chevrolet is the fastest growing full-line brand and we expect that trend to continue as the availability of newly launched products improves in the second half of the year,” said Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of Sales Operations.
So let’s look at some numbers for June as well as for the first half of 2016, compared with the same times last year.
Buick: Cars are not doing at all well. The LaCrosse was down 49.9 percent for the month and is down 32.6 percent for the year. Regal down 22.6 percent and 1.4 percent respectively, while Verano, the vehicle that was eating Regal’s lunch for years, was off 12.7 percent for June and is down 16.4 percent for the first half of 2016. The Cascada, the new convertible, has nothing to compare with, but in June 755 were sold, and 4,071 so far this year.
Crossovers at Buick are mixed. There is the compact Encore, which was up 10.2 percent in June and is up 19.2 percent for the year. But its big brother—older big brother—the Enclave was down 30.6 percent for June and is off 13.6 percent for the year. There is the new China-built Envision (yes, you read that right: the Envision crossover comes from China), of which 1,437 were delivered in June, and 1,526 so far this year.
Cadillac: The Standard of the World continues to sputter in the retail space. Particularly its cars. Cars which, across the board, are really quite good. The only Cadillac car that doesn’t have a minus sign in front of a number is the CT6, as it is a new model for this year. In June 962 were delivered, and 1,979 so far this year.
The giant Escalade SUV continues strong in sales, and while the SRX is off, that’s because it is going out of the market, being replaced by the XT5.
Chevrolet: This is a mixed bag. According to GM, Chevy is the “fastest-growing full-line brand in the industry.” Apparently growth is not always large. That is, all-in for June Chevrolet sales are up 0.1 percent. For the first half they’re down 4.4 percent. Must be a retail metric somewhere that explains the growth.
Indeed, according to GM (which I need to quote at length):
“GM’s retail sales strength is reflected in the ongoing sales performance of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups. Every month since January 2014, GM has sold more full-size pickups than any other original equipment manufacturer, according to Polk retail registrations and J.D. Power PIN retail sales data. GM is achieving these results while spending less on incentives than its competitors and commanding record Average Transaction Prices (ATPs). In June, GM full-size pickup ATPs were up $3,300 compared to last year and Silverado recorded its highest monthly ATP in history. Year to date, GM full-size pickup ATPs are up $2,600 compared to last year.”
But if you look at the gross number of deliveries for Silverado, they’re down 3.7 percent for June and down 0.8 percent for the year. Sierra, however, is doing better. For the year so far, it is up 5.6 percent, though in June it was off 7.8 percent.
Before leaving Chevy, a shout-out to the Volt. It had been sputtering for years, but with the new generation version, it is gaining traction. In June its sales were up 58.1 percent and it is up a highly respectable 74.5 percent for the first half of 2016, compared with 2015.
GMC: Notable here is the performance of the mid-size Canyon pickup, which was up 34.2 percent for the month and is up 15.6 percent for the year. (The Chevy Colorado, its platform mate, was also up in June, by 38 percent, and for the year, 23.2 percent.) Surprisingly, overall GMC was down 8.6 percent for the month and is down 3.8 percent for the first half. Fresh products—like the new Acadia coming into the market and a Terrain on the horizon—ought to help before the year is out.