US Auto Industry Down 3+ Million Sales (19%) Since 2019

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The US auto industry has been declining steadily for a few years at least. Compared to 2021, the American auto industry’s annual sales were down by more than 1 million units, or 8%. Compared to 2020, they were “only” down by 725,726 units (5%). But compared to 2019, they were down by more than 3 million (19%).

It’s a changing industry, and no doubt some of the problems affecting the market have been the COVID-19 pandemic, economic problems that resulted, supply chain problems from that and from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and other factors. However, for any close follower and prognosticator of the electric vehicle market, there’s also an electrification element. Earlier today, a CleanTechnica reader highlighted the internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle decline in relation to the rise of EVs with some superbly insightful stats:

“Fun fact. The overall auto industry has on average declined 1.18% y/y since 2015. In this span, BEVs have grown on average 57.67% y/y while ICE sales declined 2.51% y/y. Total ICE production in 2022 was just 74 million … a level last seen in 2007!

“With BEVs really capturing the market now it seems clear we are well past ‘peak ICE’ which happened in 2017 at 96.5 million cars.”

That reader also commented on our latest US electric car sales report with the following interesting and insightful comment: “Anyone wanting to understand the future car market needs to focus on BEV sales & growth as a percentage of the car market. ICE and hybrid sales today mean nothing … similar to horse sales in the early 1900s vs cars. Fact is most car makers are stagnant or losing market share even as they grow their BEV sales … since they need to grow their BEV sales faster than they lose their ICE and hybrid sales.

“This is arguably going to get really ugly in the next few more years as the Osborne effect slows people from buying ICE/hybrids due to lower resale values. Surveys already show this is a factor for new buyers since the average car buyer keeps their cars for 8 years. In 2031 (8 years) the market for a used ICE may be non-existent.”

Electric car sales accounted for about 5.7% of overall US auto sales in 2022, which is up from about 3.2% in 2021, about 1.7% in 2020, and about 1.4% in 2019.

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I’ll do an analysis of specific automakers’ BEV sales growth in the US compared with their overall auto sales trends in the country in a future article, but for now, let’s have a look at 8 more charts showing the state of the US auto industry at a brand level and trends in the past 4 years.

Going from 2019 to 2022, the standout change was Tesla’s tremendous growth, rising by more than 321,000 sales a year or 171%.

The other extremely notable trend is that almost every automaker saw its sales decline. In fact, if you removed Tesla from the market, the auto industry would have had a 3.5 million unit decline. (Of course, you can’t simply remove Tesla from the market without affecting what happened in the market.)

The most striking sales losses in terms of volume came from Honda (down more than half a million units, or 39%), Nissan (down more than half a million units, or 44%), Ford (down more than half a million units, or 23%), and Chevrolet (down 440,000+ units, or 23%).

In terms of percentage decline, the auto brands really hurting were Fiat (-90%), Infiniti (-60%), Dodge (-55%), and Buick (-50%).

Let’s look two years back instead of three years back now (charts above). You still see Tesla stand far out alone in the front. Its sales were up more than 300,000, 53%, in 2022 over 2020. A handful of other brands were up moderately on a percentage basis — Porsche (22%), BMW (19%), Kia (18%), and Hyundai (16%). However, you still have a lot of automakers bleeding sales. It’s a similar comparison to 2019 on that other end, with Fiat standing out in percentage loss (-79%). In volume sales, Honda bled the most (down a whopping 328,604), Chevrolet was first behind it (-221,744), Ford got the negative-bronze (-158,356), Nissan lost a lot again (-136,984), and Jeep was the last of the brands to bleed more than 100,000 sales (-110,699).

Compared to 2021, things change up a bit. Tesla still saw strong growth — just not as much of course (37%). Cadillac was up decently (14%). And a few other brands were up moderately — GMC was up 7%, Chevrolet was up 6%, and Mercedes was up 6%. Chevrolet (80,000+) and GMC (35,000+) were up the most in volume terms aside from Tesla (~139,000).

Looking at the suffering brands, Honda lost the most volume-wise year over year (down a whopping 428,021), followed by Nissan (-236,355), Toyota (-178,032), Ram (-102,137), and Jeep (-94,097). In terms of a percentage drop, Fiat is still on the bottom of the pile. (Is Fiat going to survive in the USA?) Buick (-42%), Acura (-35%), Honda (-33%), and Alfa Romeo (-30%) also saw a significant drop in sales year over year.

Ignoring sales trends, let’s just have a quick look at the automaker rankings in 2022.

You’ve got a clear “big 3” of Toyota, Ford, and Chevrolet. While Tesla climbed up to 9th in the 4th quarter of 2022, it was held out of the top 10 in all of 2022, ending in 12th. Looking at the bottom of the pile, Fiat had only 915 sales. Again, is Fiat going to survive in the United States? Even Lucid did better — more than 3× better! Rivian, meanwhile, climbed just above Alfa Romeo to avoid being in the bottom 3. Where will Rivian (and Lucid) be at the end of 2023?

Last of all is my favorite chart of all (interactive version of it down at the bottom, too). It shows yearly sales from 2019 through 2022 for all 32 auto brands, sorted by 2022 sales.

From that view, no brand really looks good except for Tesla, which had a strong sales climb year after year. One wonders what is going to happen with those top 4–10 auto brands in the coming years.

Related Story: US Electric Car Sales Increased 65% In 2022


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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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