Tesla Now 8th Best Selling Auto Brand In USA — US Auto Sales +9% vs. 2022, -11% vs. 2019

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It’s time for another quarterly report on US auto sales. Like a few other major news outlets, I track total quarterly sales of the US auto industry, but I also conduct a thorough analysis of the trends of each automaker. Furthermore, I compare last quarter’s sales not just to the same quarter last year, but also to the same quarter the year before, in 2020, and in 2019 — pre-COVID-19. I don’t believe there’s anywhere else on the internet where you can find such analyses. Let’s dive into the results for the 1st quarter of the year.

First of all, looking at the overall view, US auto industry sales were up 9% in Q1 2023 compared to Q1 2022, rising from about 3.2 million sales to nearly 3.5 million sales.* Though, compared to Q1 2021, sales were down by 9%. Going back another year, into the year when COVID-19 hit (2020), sales were up 2%, but if we go back a full 4 years to Q1 2019, US auto sales were down 11%. Sales were more than 400,000 units lower in Q1 2023 than the nearly 3.9 million sales of Q1 2019.

Aside from the comparisons you can see on the charts, for the brands, I’m going to focus on Q1 2023 sales compared to Q1 2022 sales and then compared to Q1 2019 sales.

The brands that saw very strong growth compared to Q1 2022 may surprise you. They were led by Acura (+153%), Buick (+99%), Audi (+49%), Tesla (+43%), Infiniti (+40%), Porsche (+34%), and Cadillac (+29%). Well, a couple of others had much bigger percentage growth — Rivian was up 548% and Lucid was up 206% — but those electric automakers had just arrived on the market last year, so the growth is warped by that.

Only 8 auto brands saw their sales drop in Q1 2023 compared to Q1 2022. Fiat dropped by a massive 59% to just 138 sales (and I’m thinking the brand is on the verge of exiting the US market). Alfa Romeo dropped by 27%, to just 2,390 sales. Mitsubishi dropped by 21% and Jeep by 20%. Perhaps most surprising and notable, though, is that Toyota dropped by 11%, ending nearly 50,000 unit sales lower than in Q1 2022.

What about when we compare to Q1 2019?

Almost a flip of the 2023 vs. 2022 comparison, only 11 auto brands saw their sales increase from Q1 2019 to Q1 2023 (excluding Rivian and Lucid, which were not producing or selling vehicles in 2019). And only 4 of those 11 automakers were also brands that saw their sales increase from Q1 2022 to Q1 2023 — Cadillac (+1% from Q1 2019 to Q1 2023), Audi (+10%), Porsche (+16%), and Tesla (+407%). Clearly, one of those brands stands out from the others, and it’s not Cadillac — but kudos to Cadillac for actually seeing sales growth when most auto brands haven’t. Tesla’s 407% growth is truly impressive, and it resulted in Tesla becoming the 8th best selling auto brand in the United States in the 1st quarter. The other brands that saw their sales grow across those 4 years were: Chrysler (+1%), Lexus (+2%), GMC (+4%), BMW (+17%), Volvo (+20%), Hyundai (+25%), and Kia (+35%). In short, it’s mostly luxury brands that have seen their sales go up, but the two Korean brands are certainly seeing a strong rise in popularity.

The losers in that 4-year time period, in terms of percentage change, were: Fiat (-94%), Dodge (-54%), Infiniti (-54%), Mitsubishi (-50%), Alfa Romeo (-44%), Nissan (-34%), Jeep (-28%), Buick (-26%), Honda (-25%), Lincoln (-24%), Volkswagen (-21%), Ford (-19%), Toyota (-16%), Chevrolet (-12%), Mini (-10%), Subaru (-9%), Acura (-8%), Ram (-6%), and Mercedes (-4%). That’s a lot of auto brands bleeding a ton of sales.

In general, I like to examine change on a relative basis. However, it’s informative and important to look at which brands have lost the most sales on a volume basis. The biggest drops in volume terms came from Nissan (-111,475), Ford (-108,302), Honda (-82,360), Toyota (-75,619), Dodge (-59,542), Jeep (-58,601), and Chevrolet (-54,260). As you can see, only 4 of those auto brands were among the 10 biggest sales losers on a relative/percentage basis — Nissan, Honda, Dodge, and Jeep.

All in all, it’s a little hard to read the US auto market at the moment. It appears to be rebounding, perhaps for the long term, but most brands are still struggling in their attempts to get back to 2019 levels.

Reducing interest rates would likely lead to a boom in auto sales. If interest rates were cut, 2023 sales may well surpass 2019 sales. However, there are no signs the Fed is going to lower interest rates any time soon. The expectation is actually the opposite, that the Fed will continue to raise interest rates in 2023. We’ll see.

Do you have any big predictions for Q2 2023 US auto sales trends?


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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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