March 2011 By the Numbers: And the Numbers Look Good

On April 1, the world shifted on its axis. Or at least the automotive world did.

On April 1, the world shifted on its axis.  Or at least the automotive world did.

Ford U.S. sales for the month of March 2011: 212,777.

GM U.S. sales for the month of March 2011: 206,621.

Yep, the Blue Oval handily beat the General.

And while some might think that this has something to do with the fact that GM has pared back its brands, and therefore is at a bit of a disadvantage (i.e., no Saturn, Pontiac, HUMMER, Saab contributions to the total), it is interesting to note that in the month of March, Ford reported a grand total of 0 sales for Mercury and a paltry 8,501 for Lincoln.  That’s a decrease of 100% compared with March ’10 for Mercury (last year it sold 10,486 vehicles in March) and a 2.2% decline for Lincoln (8,501 vs. 8,693).

The big difference: the Ford brand, by itself, moved 204,276 units.  By contrast, the tent-pole brand for GM, Chevrolet, had sales of just 148,197.

Chevy can still claim victory in the Camaro (8,964) vs. Mustang (8,557) battle.  But in the bread-and-butter midsize segment, a remarkable 27,566 Fusions were sold compared with 15,551 Malibus.  A lot of bread.  A lot of butter.  For Ford.

And while on the subject of Detroit, it is worth looking at the third company, Chrysler, which posted some rather astonishing numbers, too.  It had its best March sales since 2008 and its best sales month since May 2008.  It had a 31% increase compared with March 2010.  And it was the 12th consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases.

If it hadn’t been for the Chrysler 200—the vehicle that was used in the now-famous Super Bowl ad, with Eminem rolling through Detroit—Chrysler Brand sales would have pretty much tanked.  Its 6,750 units made all the difference.  Over at Jeep, the all-new Grand Cherokee, which is truly a world-class vehicle, had a highly respectable sales increase of 64% compared with March ’10, but that was nothing, percentage-wise compared with Compass—up 108%--and Patriot—up 109%.  Dodge brand did quite well, with gains of every model in its lineup (except for Viper, which is probably as easy to get as hen’s teeth), and whereas Chrysler brand moved 20,463, Dodge moved 44,102 vehicles, which is a 49% increase for that brand over 2010.  And Ram brand as up 24%, as well.

That said, the whole Chrysler Group sales for March—including 500 Fiat 500s—were 121,730 units.  If you take the cars and utilities from Ford—leaving out the F-Series—that total is 130,172 units.

The good news for Toyota is that it sold 31,464 Camrys, which is still more than the number of Fusions sold.  The bad news for Toyota is that the Accord outsold it: 33,616.  In addition to which, while Fusion sales were up 21% compared to last year and Accord sales were up 11.2%, Camry sales were down 16.4%.

And that was the good news.  Overall, its sales were down 9.2%.

Meanwhile, other companies saw remarkable gains.  Subaru, for example, had its best sales month since “Cash for Clunkers.”

Volkswagen had its best sales month in seven years.

Audi of America had its best first quarter in company history.

That bears repeating: Its best first quarter in company history.  With 25,383 vehicles sold during the first quarter of 2011, it beats the record set in the first quarter of 2010 by 19.1%.

Here’s a remarkable stat regarding Audi sales.  In March 2010, it sold 63 A8s.  In March 2011, it sold 560 A8s.  That’s a 788.9% increase.  And if we take year-to-date over year-to-date stats, A8 sales for the first quarter of 2011 are up 820.1% compared with the same period in 2010.  Seems like there is something to “new luxury.”

As the year rolls on, there will be problems for the Japanese automakers.  For example, on the same day that it announced U.S. sales of 121,141 units—a 26.9% increase over March 2010 and its best month in its history—Nissan North America announced that it will “re-calendarize its April production schedule,” meaning that its U.S. plants will be down for six days.  And its Mexican facilities will be down for five.  While they expect to make up those days later in the year, certainly there will be a sales impact on the company.  And there are similar issues at the other companies, as well.

But in a period when we see the product onslaught of Ford paying big dividends and the even upscale brands like Audi doing sensationally well, it is clear that the auto industry is on a better footing than it has been in some time.