With severe winter weather making it difficult for customers to get to the showrooms in the beginning of 2014, U.S. sales numbers bounced back in March, as overall industry sales grew 6 percent year-over-year compared to last March. However, the industry overall remains relatively flat for the year, up just one percent compared to the first quarter of 2013.
Out of the large manufacturers, Chrysler Group led the way with a sales increase of 13 percent over March 2013, powered by the best month ever for the Jeep brand – a 47 percent increase over last year. That growth, coupled with an 11 percent increase combined from the Dodge and Ram brands, was enough to help the group overcome a 23 percent dip from the Chrysler division.
Rounding out Detroit’s Big Three, Ford was up 3 percent, with a 31 percent increase coming from the Lincoln brand. General Motors was also up, growing 4 percent, showing growth in all its brands except Cadillac. Despite their March growth, GM and Ford are still down in 2014 – a decrease 2 percent and 3 percent, respectively, in the first quarter. However, the Buick and Lincoln brands are the bright spots for the manufacturers so far in 2014, with increases of 11 percent and 36 percent compared to the first quarter of last year.
Nissan was right behind Chrysler Group in March with an 8 percent increase overall, including a 13 percent increase in the Infiniti brand. Nissan continues to be one of the highlights of the industry in 2014, up 12 percent overall on the year compared to the first quarter last year.
On the other hand, Nissan’s main Japanese manufacturer competitors continue to be down on the year, as American Honda and Toyota showed decreases of 4 percent and 2 percent, respectively, after the first quarter. Honda remained down in March, dropping 2 percent, despite luxury division Acura showing an 11 percent increase. However, Toyota’s March showed promise and the brand increased 5 percent, with an additional boost coming from the Lexus brand’s 23 percent increase.
Also of note in March was Subaru of America, which continued its impressive list of sales streaks thanks to a 21 percent increase from March 2013. The brand has posted 28 straight months of sales increases, including 15 consecutive months of double-digit gains. On the year, the brand is up 22 percent compared to the first quarter of 2013.
German luxury brand Audi also continues an impressive streak, as its 8 percent sales increase in March marked the brand’s 39th consecutive month of record monthly sales. This is in spite of Audi’s parent company, Volkswagen, remaining flat in March. On the year, the Volkswagen Group is down 7 percent, with the VW brand down 11 percent, compared to the first quarter of 2013.
Mercedes-Benz and BMW, the other two popular German brands, showed double-digit increases in March. BMW bested its main competitor thanks to a 19 percent sales increase compared to March 2013, while Mercedes-Benz posted 12 percent gains.
Another notable luxury brand posting impressive sales increases in March was Maserati. Despite a volume of 963 vehicles, this was considerably more than the 218 it sold in 2013, giving the Italian automaker a sales bump of 320 percent. On the year, Maserati has posted a 331 percent increase.
The Hyundai Group, which includes Kia, posted a 4 percent sales increase despite a 2 percent sales dip from the Hyundai brand. The Korean manufacturers’ gains were aided by a 12 percent growth from the Kia brand.
Other notable numbers from March’s sales report include a 9 percent increase from Mazda and an impressive 70 percent jump from Mitsubishi. On the year, Mitsubishi is up 24 percent compared to the first quarter of 2013, while Mazda remained practically even.