The US auto market took a whipping in 2020. No one knows why. (Oh … yeah … never mind.) Overall, US auto sales were down by 2,484,375, or 15%, last year. Only three automakers saw their year-over-year sales increase from 2019 to 2020 — Volvo and Alfa Romeo were each up 2%, while Tesla was up 9%.
In terms of absolute sales, the biggest losers were Nissan (-408,258), Ford (-371,160), Toyota (-247,335), Honda (-240,980), and Chevrolet (-219,133).
However, on a relative scale, the companies that had the largest percentage decline in sales were: Fiat (-52%), Dodge (-37%), Nissan (-33%), Infiniti (-32%), and Jaguar (-30%).
As you can see, only one company is in both of those “top 5” rankings — Nissan. So, you might say it was the biggest loser. Though, Fiat’s 52% drop in sales must be hard to swallow (and survive).
Naturally the covid-19 pandemic and resulting economic shutdowns were a major factor in these sales losses. (Though, certainly not the only one — something I’ll come back to in a moment.) And the story got much more positive at the end of the year. Yes, the pandemic has raged on, but the economy has bounced back a bit.
If you look at the 4th quarter alone, things look much better for the broader auto market. It was down by just 2%, or 94,613 sales.
Several automakers saw their sales grow in the 4th quarter. The top growers, relatively speaking, were Tesla (up 37%), Alfa Romeo (up 23%), and Volvo (22 19%).
In absolute terms, the biggest growers were Toyota (52,302), Chevrolet (22,732), Tesla (19,802), and GMC (15,210) in the 4th quarter.
Naturally, 2020 was an odd year. However, 2019 was not, so let’s have a quick look at trends that continued in 2020 that we already saw in 2019. The overall trend is the auto market was down in 2019 as well. “Excluding Tesla, US auto sales were down by 177,839 units in 2019 compared to 2018,” I wrote one year ago. “That said, only 13 auto brands saw their sales drop, while 18 saw their sales rise.”
The biggest sales drop in 2019 was seen at Nissan, which had ~117,000 fewer sales in 2019 than 2018 (-9%). So, on a multi-year basis, there’s no doubt about it: Nissan is suffering. (Corporate karma after implementing a coup that took down Carlos Ghosn and stuck him in a Japanese prison for months?)
Three more of the top 5 losers in 2020 (in terms of absolute sales) were other top losers in 2019. Ford was down by 83,237 sales (-3%), Toyota was down by 43,128 sales (-2%), and Chevrolet was down by 25,699 sales (-4%).
Fiat, a smaller player, didn’t show up at the top of that negative ranking, but it was the biggest loser in relative terms in 2019 — just as it was in 2020. In 2019, it had seen a 41% sales drop in the US year over year, compared to a 53% drop in 2020.
Clearly, the pandemic made things worse for most automakers. The only conventional auto brand that lost sales in 2019 but gained sales in 2020 was Alfa Romeo, and it is a tiny player in the market. However, the long-term data show that Nissan and Fiat are suffering immensely in the United States, and Ford, Toyota, and Chevrolet are also showing consistent sales losses. What will 2021 bring? We shall see.
As far as how Tesla compares on the market in annual sales terms — not just looking at year-over-year change — I’ll be diving into that next. Stay tuned.
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