US light truck and car sales have been down every month so far this year, and that trend continued in June. Total sales were off 2.4% in the first half of the year, which means total annual sales could fall below 17 million vehicles for the first time since 2014, according to Automotive News. Still, things aren’t as bad as they were in 2009, when the automakers struggled to sell 10 million vehicles.
Some of the bad news comes from unexpected market segments. Compact crossover vehicles like the Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape, and Jeep Compass have enjoyed strong sales for several years, but sales are off 4% through June as Americans ramp up their thirst for bigger vehicles with 7 or even 8 seats. In fact, Jeep in particular has taken a big hit in the marketplace. Through the end of June, it has seen the biggest decline in sales — 7.8% — among the industry’s 10 largest brands. Jeep sales were off 12% last month, with the Cherokee, Renegade, and Compass selling almost a third fewer vehicles.
Sedans continued their freefall. Midsize cars were down 7%, compacts were down 16%, and large cars plunged 21%. But, oddly enough, sales of subcompacts like the Ford Fiesta, Chevy Spark, and Kia Soul were up strongly. Go figure.
Chrysler is enjoying a boost in sales of pickup trucks thanks to its two truck strategy. An all-new, premium-priced Dodge Ram is selling well, but the company continues to make the previous generation of its largest pickup truck, which it sells for considerably less money. Combined, they have shouldered their way past the Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra twins for the first time since the Eisenhower administration and are even giving the perennial class leader — the Ford F-150 — a run for its money. F-150 sales are off but overall truck sales are still strong at Ford thanks to brisk sales of the all-new Ford Ranger midsize pickup.
Kia and Hyundai are enjoying healthy sales gains thanks in large measure to sales of the Hyundai Kona compact SUV and Genesis vehicles, Hyundai’s premium automobile brand that is designed to compete with Lexus and Infiniti. The Kia Telluride, a behemoth with third row seating, is also selling well.
Tesla Is The Only Really Bright Spot
Tesla is the new kid on the block and is constantly under the microscope by financial analysts looking for signs of weakness and who are not infrequently predicting a total collapse of its stock price.
Why, if sales of Japanese cars are off nearly 4% for the year and the US new car market is headed for a 4 year low, are analysts screaming about Tesla’s weaknesses? Do they not see that the industry is facing Carmageddon? The shift to EVs is happening right before their eyes, but they can’t see it. Layoffs in the US auto industry have totaled more than 10,000 recently, a scary number when you consider that every job in manufacturing provides employment to 5 or more other workers in transportation, sales, delivery, service, and marketing.
People should be praising Tesla for building cars with the highest content of US-made parts using American workers in a US factory, but all the press can find time to do is bash, bash, bash Tesla, and then bash it some more. Is Tesla on a glide path to success? No. There is a lot of work to do yet. But it is clearly one of the most transformative companies of this or any other century. Only the British East India Company did more to alter the course of history than Tesla. As Neil Young might say, “Long may you run!”
You may have concerns about Tesla’s long-term prospects, but the companies that are in real trouble are the legacy automakers like Ford and BMW that have decided to sit out the EV revolution, hoping against hope that one day people will demand more Crown Vics and diesel-powered 3 Series sedans. Not gonna happen, lads. Time to act boldly and decisively if you want to avoid the fate of Plymouth, Packard, Pontiac, and the hundreds of other car companies who have aspired to greatness only to slide off the road into oblivion.