US Auto Sales Down 21% vs. Q3 2019 — Tesla Up 169%

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US auto sales were up 1% in the 3rd quarter of 2022 compared to the 3rd quarter of 2021, but they were down 13% compared to the 3rd quarter of 2020 and down 21% compared to the 3rd quarter of 2019, which we use as a bit of a control year since it was before the Covid-19 pandemic and automotive chip crisis hit.

So, the US automotive market has stopped collapsing, but can we say that it is rebounding? Not yet. We’ll have to see if it can return to 2020 and 2019 levels.

The following two charts show the change across the industry in terms of percentage change (noted above) and also in terms of total volume change. (A few minor automakers are not included in the data since they don’t publish it, such as Polestar and Jaguar.) As the chart showing volume change indicates, Q3 2022 US auto sales were down by almost half a million compared to Q3 2020, and they were down by almost a million units compared to Q3 2019. They were up by 19,202 compared to Q3 2021.

Digging into the brand-by-brand breakdown, I will include two charts for Q3 2022 versus Q3 2021 in this article. To see the same charts for comparisons of Q3 2022 to Q3 2020 and Q3 2022 to Q3 2019, you can jump over to the article on CleanTechnica Pro. An additional chart showing Q3 across all auto brands and all four of those years is also on CleanTechnica Pro. Just discussing in text how auto brands evolved across those 4 years, here’s a rundown in bullet-list form:

  • Several auto brands saw their sales decline from Q3 2019 to Q3 2020 and then again from Q3 2020 to Q3 2021 before rebounding in Q3 2022 to someplace between Q3 2020 and Q3 2021. Those brands included: Ford, Chevrolet, GMC, Dodge, Lincoln, MINI, and Infiniti.
  • Toyota rebounded very slightly in Q3 2021 compared to Q3 2020, but then it dropped below both of those levels in Q3 2022.
  • Honda did decline 3 years in a row (2019–2021), like others, but its sales in Q3 2022 dropped more than ever. Interestingly, Honda’s press release announcing quarterly sales didn’t have a typical title. The headline was “American Honda Overcomes Transportation Issues as Sales Improve Over Summer Months.” As someone who has written thousands of headlines and read many more, I find that one quite interesting, complicated, and clearly aimed at spinning some very bad news in a somehow positive way. Toyota may get more ink for its anti-EV foot-dragging, but somewhat smaller national compatriot Honda seems to be taking the biggest hit at the moment. (Well, maybe — we’re not done with this bullet list yet.)
  • Kia and Hyundai, on the other hand, definitely bucked the downward trends I was just discussing. Kia’s US sales increased year after year in Q3 without a break. Hyundai nearly did the same, but it had a slight decrease in sales in Q3 2020 compared to Q3 2019. The increases year over year weren’t large, but one has to think that if not for Covid-19 and the automotive chip crisis, Hyundai and Kia would have seen notably strong growth in the US market in the past few years.
  • Like Hyundai, BMW sales dropped from Q3 2019 to Q3 2020 but then rose in Q3 2021 and rose again in Q3 2022.
  • Jeep, Nissan, Ram, and Subaru followed Honda’s “lead” and declined 4 years in a row in the 3rd quarter. Ram and Subaru declined a little less than the others, while Nissan has just been hemorrhaging sales. In volume terms, Honda lost more than Nissan from Q3 2019 to Q3 2022 (~190,000 versus, ~160,000), but Nissan was starting at a lower level and lost more on a percentage basis. Its sales were more than cut in half, while Honda’s drop wasn’t quite that bad.
  • Naturally, Tesla’s sales increased all 4 years in a row in the 3rd quarter.
  • Volkswagen, Mercedes, and Audi nearly followed the trend noted at the top of this list, but their Q3 2022 bouncebacks were large enough that their sales last quarter surpassed their Q3 2020 sales (as well as their Q3 2021 sales).
  • Lexus had an odd sales evolution that stood alone. Sales increased in Q3 2020 and again in Q3 2021, but then decreased in Q3 2022 to a level even below Q3 2019.
  • For smaller brands, you can consult the chart.

Again, there’s a full chart showing all of this visually over on CleanTechnica Pro.

Let’s jump to the simplest chart now. Below are simply the sales of the various auto brands in Q3 2022.

Toyota, Ford, and Chevrolet don’t have to fear losing their gold, silver, and bronze medals anytime soon (though, Ford may steal gold from Toyota). In the next trio, Honda is holding onto its #4 spot, but if trends continue, it will soon be passed by the two Koreans, Kia and Hyundai. Fully electric Tesla is down at #11, and I think most notable on that topic is that the US automaker is poised to break into the top 10. It seems quite likely that will happen in the 4th quarter.

A somewhat fascinating finding from the chart above is that Cadillac led in Q3 2022 sales growth versus Q3 2021 in terms of percentage growth. It grew 50% while Chrysler grew 39%, Tesla grew 32%, and Chevrolet grew 30%. As noted in the bullet list above, many other brands saw year-over-year growth, but those were the leaders in terms of percentage change.

If we look at volume change, it’s a bit different.

From this view, Chevrolet grew the most year over year, followed by Ford, Tesla, GMC, and Mercedes.

Taken all together, several luxury brands did well year over year, as did the two largest mass-market American brands (Chevy and Ford).

You can see charts like the two above but for Q3 2022 vs. Q3 2020 and Q3 2022 vs. Q3 2019 over on CleanTechnica Pro. Just discussing the major trends in text here, the highlights are as follows:

Q3 2022 vs. Q3 2020

Percentage change

  • Only 9 brands grew from Q3 2020 to Q3 2022 (unless you count completely new market entrants).
  • This is where Tesla soared ahead of the pack, growing 122%.
  • Behind Tesla, in terms of percentage growth, next best were BMW and Kia (each with 12% growth), followed by Hyundai and Porsche (8% and 7%).
  • Audi, Mercedes, and Volkswagen each had 3% growth. Cadillac had 2% growth, indicating that, really, its strong 50% growth from Q3 2021 to Q3 2022 was almost a straight rebound from its dramatic drop in sales from Q3 2020 to Q3 2021.
  • The biggest loser was Fiat, which has nearly died in the United States. Its sales dropped 81% in those two years.
  • Honda and Buick sales dropped 43% and 42% in that period, while Infiniti dropped 35%.
  • Overall, 21 auto brands lost sales from Q3 2020 to Q3 2022.

Volume change

  • Tesla was #1 in terms of volume of growth as well, with 71,890 more sales in Q2 2022 than in Q2 2020 according to our estimates.
  • Korean cousins Kia and Hyundai snatched silver and bronze in this category, showing again that they are two of the strongest brands in the US in terms of growth — and perhaps also that they dealt with the automotive chip crisis better than most?
  • BMW quietly grabbed 4th.
  • Rivian is on here in 5th and Lucid is 8th, but they of course had no sales in 2020.
  • Then you’ve got Mercedes, Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, and Cadillac with modest growth.
  • In terms of losses, oh Lordy, Honda is hurting! It dropped by almost 150,000 units from Q3 2020 to Q3 2022!
  • Ford and Chevrolet also suffered massively, even if nothing compared to Honda, losing 79,595 sales and 77,444 sales, respectively.
  • Plenty of other brands lost sales as well, but the last two I’ll note for the sizable chunks taken out of their legs are Nissan and Jeep, down 60,938 and 60,861.

Q3 2022 vs. Q3 2019

How about a three-year view!

Percentage change

  • Tesla sales were up 169% from Q3 2019 to Q3 2022.
  • Only three other auto brands saw sales growth in that timeframe. Porsche sales grew 18%, Kia sales grew 16%, and Hyundai sales grew 7%. Funny enough, Porsche, Kia, and Hyundai are three of the four auto brands with the highest portion of their sales now coming from fully electric models. (The fourth brand is Audi.)
  • At the bottom of the table, did we mention Fiat has almost died? It was down 91% in Q3 2022 compared to Q3 2019. Yikes!
  • Infiniti and Nissan may feel good when comparing themselves to Fiat, but they were down 55% and 53%, respectively, and they may want to draft up their wills soon too if they can’t turn things around in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
  • Three more auto brands had more than a 40% sales decline. Those were Honda (down 49%), Buick (down 44%), and Dodge (down 43%). Expect some dramatic efforts from them to become relevant again — oh yeah, like this.
  • 20 more brands lost sales from Q3 2019 to Q3 2022.

Volume change

  • In terms of volume growth, Tesla won again, with 82,367 sales growth.
  • Kia was second, with 26,054 sales growth.
  • Cousin Hyundai was third, with 11,403 sales growth.
  • Porsche, the final automaker to have gained sales, grew by 2,536.

There are truly too many stories in these data. If you missed something you want to highlight, or if I said something you want to emphasize, chime in down in the comments!

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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