Auto Brand Sales 2006 Comparison

January 30, 2007

The 2006 sales season is over…and needless to say that there are some clear winners and losers.  Most companies have reported sales/production, so we felt it would be fun to compare the numbers in a long list.

The following figures were from press releases delivered to us by each company.  They represent the number of units produced and sent to dealers, so many of these vehicles are sitting on dealer lots with factory incentives to motivate actual customers to buy them.

Toyota, BMW, Audi and Porsche are all still living case studies on competing and winning in their respective segments.  On the other hand, Ford, GM and Nissan are showing how being saddled with too many mediocre products results in falling further behind.  The great surprise — the fall of Acura and Infiniti.  Maybe their large sedans aren’t large enough, while small sedans and coupes aren’t small and sporty enough to compete with BMW and Mercedes?

Meanwhile the Koreans just keep on inching along.

Consumers are smart.  They’re buying quality products that deliver substance and style.  Retro is out — quality, reliability, future-looking utility and performance are all in.

So without further comments: the figures! (We apologize for the horrible formatting, no matter what we do, the site’s editor changes it, making it hard to read!)

Sales By
2006 2005 Change %
Mercury 180,848 195,949 -7.7
Lincoln 120,476 123,207 -2.2
Jaguar 20,683 30,424 -32
Volvo 115,807 123,587 -6.3
Land Rover 47,774 46,175 3.5
4,124,645 4,517,730 -8.7
Car Total 1,625,376 1,751,921 -7.2
Truck Total 2,499,269 2,765,809 -9.6
Light Truck Total 2,439,965 2,702,464 -9.7
Buick 240,657 282,288 -14.7
Cadillac 227,014 235,002 -3.4
Chevrolet 2,415,428 2,669,932 -9.5
GMC 481,222 566,322 -15
HUMMER 71,524 56,727 26.1
Oldsmobile 96 1,866 -94.9
Other – Isuzu 15,751 15,787 -0.2
Pontiac 410,229 437,806 -6.3
Saab 36,349 38,343 -5.2
Saturn 226,375 213,657 6
CHRYSLER BRAND 604,874 649,293 -7%
JEEP BRAND 460,052 476,532 -3%
DODGE BRAND 1,077,579 1,179,008 -8%
2,142,505 2,304,833 -7%
510,234 526,823 -3%
1,632,271 1,778,010 -8%
Mitsubishi 109,960 113361 -3%
Divison Total
898,103 940,269 -4.2
– Total Car  466,821 477,564 -1.9
-Total Truck 431,282 462,705 -6.5
Division Total
121,146 136,401 -10.9
Total Car  86,796 94,901 -8.2
– Total Truck  11,694 41,500 -17.0
Subaru 200,703 196,002 2.40%
1,275,119  1,138,130  12.4
TOTAL LEXUS PASS. CAR 183,037  151,226  21.4 
TOTAL TOYOTA PASS. CAR 1,458,156  1,289,356  13.5
TOTAL SUV 478,843  362,530  32.5
TOTAL LEXUS LIGHT TRUCK 139,397  151,669  -7.8 
TOTAL TOYOTA LIGHT TRUCK 1,084,368  970,939  12.0 
TOTAL TOYOTA DIV. 2,220,090  1,957,400  13.8 
TOTAL LEXUS 322,434  302,895  6.8 
TOTAL TOYOTA 2,542,524  2,260,295  12.9
Honda Total Car Sales 
706,012  686,160  3.2% 
      Honda Total
Truck Sales
602,123  566,702  6.6% 
HONDA 1308135 1252862 4.40%
      Acura Total Car
137,938  151,662  -8.8% 
      Acura Total
Truck Sales
63,285  57,948  9.6% 
ACURA 201223 219610 -8%
Hyundai 455,520 455,012 0.11%
Kia 294,302 275,851 7%
Mercedes Car Group 

1,260,600 1,221,000 3.2 of which Mercedes-Benz* 1,148,500 1,078,000 6.5 Porsche
North America
36,095 33,859 7%
Volkswagen of America 235,140 224,195 4.9%

Dealer / Brand Reorganization — Four Wheel Drift Style!

January 28, 2007

Searching for a new car is very confusing. With dozens of manufacturers, hundreds of brands and thousands of trim levels from which to decide, just figuring out where to start is a daunting task… Add in that one Toyota dealer might also carry Buicks, while another might have an association with Ford on the same lot, and it’s no wonder most people would rather have a colonoscopy than shop for a vehicle.

It is for these reasons that I’ve taken the bull by the horns, declared martial law, and have mandated a reorganization for automotive dealers. From now on, dealers will floor only models that compliment each other.

For instance, if you’re initially interested in the Mercury Mountaineer, then the same dealership should also carry the Buick Rainier and GMC Denali. Inevitably this means you’re the type who would also like the Isuzu Ascender. Come to think of it, chances are you need to plan for the Chevy Avalanche, as well.

If you’re going to check out the Chrysler Aspen, you’ll find them at the dealer with the Chevy Tahoe, which must be stocked next to the Suzuki Reno. Usually while checking out the Reno, customers will play with the VW Golf.

Any dealership flooring Toyota’s Tacoma, or Hyundai’s Santa Fe and Tucson will sell the Chevy Suburban, as well. Find Dodge’s Durango there too — among Chevy Colorado stock. As you head to the building’s west side, you’ll run into Chevy Malibus parked next to the Mercury Montereys. You’ll have to pass through all the Dodge Dakotas, though, as you move up this dealer’s lot before you get to the GMC Yukon and Toyota Tundra.

The Aston Martin Vanquish is a heck of a halo car for a dealer, but chances are most customers can’t quite jump to these before getting something like a small Dodge Caliber. Older, more experienced drivers will want to look at the larger the Dodge Magnum, but only after walking carefully around the Chrysler Crossfire. For those who don’t feel these vehicles are safe, make a quick exit to the dealer next door selling the Chevy Sprinter and Ford Escape.

Tragically, not all dealers will like their new lineups. After the Le Mans, Grand Prix and Bonneville were put out to pasture, certain small operations will need to survive selling just Chrysler Sebrings and Chevy Monte Carlos.

Large dealer networks with expansive, yet gated lots will be picked to contain the Chevrolet Impala, Dodge Ram…and naturally the Ford Mustang. For safety reasons, Dodge Vipers must be kept indoors. Certainly, the children will be allowed to get up-close to the VW Rabbits.

The competing large dealer in town will most likely carry a Chevy Trailblazer. This also means one can also test drive the Nissan Pathfinder, Ford Ranger, Ford Explorer, and Ford Expedition. Usually, these rigs are pre-requisites to road testing a GMC Savanna or Canyon. While there, it would be an intelligent move to at least consider the Jeep Compass.

Some dealers will be given the Chevrolet Equinox and Pontiac Solstice. If they perform well, they’ll also sporadically get deliveries of the Mitsubishi Eclipse.

Consumers looking for the Chrysler 300 need look no further than the dealership offering the Ford Five Hundred. Similarly, the Dodge Charger will be sold next to the Mitsubishi Lancer. Sadly this dealer will lose both the Honda Element and Saturn Ion – popular with the alternative set.

If you see a Jeep Commander, chances are the lot will also contain plenty examples of the Honda Odyssey and Lincoln Navigator, which will appeal to anyone trading in their Mercury Mariner.

Saturn dealers made “hassle-free” a core value. Due to this, they’ll not only be allowed to continue selling their positive-minded Aura, but also gain the Pontiac Vibe, as well as Honda’s Insight and Fit.

Since nobody was ever able to remember which manufacturer made which vehicle, all preposition name-based cars will be under one roof. This includes the Chevrolet Uplander, Mitsubishi Outlander, Saturn Outlook, and Subaru Outback.

What about all those alphanumeric cars? They’ve all been given to former BMW dealers…those guys can sell ice to Eskimos.

Killing Itself Softly With Its Products: Ford’s Record-Breaking 2006 Losses

January 25, 2007

Ford announced earnings and it’s about as pretty as an Explorer in a rollover. Thanks to a $5.8 billion loss in the fourth quarter, the company performed a swan-dive down to its worst performance ever: $12.7 billion in losses.

Some of the losses were entirely the responsibility of corporate accountants, who simply did their jobs of applying different tricks for tax reasons. Mostly, however, the blame is on the company for being run worse the British Leyland in the 1970s and delivering products people don’t want. The company’s sales were down eight percent overall in 2006…and that doesn’t include the number of vehicles shipped to dealers, only to sit on the lots.

Want proof that Ford’s cars aren’t selling? Take a guess and see if you can name its top five products in order of sales.

    The answer:

  • F-Series Trucks (796,039 — down 11.7 percent)
  • Econoline/Club Wagon (180,457 – up .5 percent)
  • Explorer (179,229 – down 25.3 percent)
  • Focus (177,006 – down 4.2 percent)
  • Taurus (174,803 – down 11.2 percent.)

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it a combination of funny and scary that the Taurus is in the top five, especially since they really haven’t marketed it in years, and one really has to buy it via fleet sales. In fact, fleet sales seem to be the only thing keeping money coming in, because F-Series, Econoline and Taurus are largely fleet-sale based.

Comparing Taurus to Ford’s other midsize sedan, the Fusion, is embarrassing. Fusion sold 142,502 in its first full year of production. Ford spent a fortune on advertising and marketing the Fusion, and it fell 30,000 units short of the Taurus, which ended production early this year for good. And if you’re one of those people who believe the Five Hundred has been successful, think again. Ford only sold 84,218 units to dealers (down 22 percent) and most of them are still on lots with huge factory incentives in place to move them.

Bright spots in the sales figures? Don’t say Mustang! Just because you like that retro look doesn’t mean it has been a good business strategy. Like I’ve said all along, it was a big mistake to go retro with a mass-market product intended for standard coupe-buying demographics. Here are the statistics to back this up.

The following are Mustang production/sales over the years. The newest ‘Stang debuted as a 2005. The previous generation went 1999-2004, which was a mild restyle of the ’94-’98. The ’87-’93 and ’79-’86 were the initial Fox body Mustangs, with the popular 5.0 GT cars. 1975 shows the sales of the unloved low-power Mustang II, 1969 includes the Boss 302 era, and 1966 was the second year of initial production.

  • 2006 166,530
  • 2005 160,975
  • 2004 129,858
  • 2003 140,350
  • 2002 138,356
  • 2001 169,198
  • 2000 173,676
  • 1999 166,915
  • 1998 144,732
  • 1997 108,334
  • 1996 126,483
  • 1995 185,986
  • 1994 123,198
  • 1993 114,228
  • 1992 79,280
  • 1991 98,737
  • 1990 128,189
  • 1989 209,769
  • 1988 211,225
  • 1987 159,145
  • 1986 224,410
  • 1985 156,410
  • 1984 141,480
  • 1983 120,873
  • 1982 130,418
  • 1981 182,552
  • 1980 271,322
  • 1979 369,936
  • 1975 188,575
  • 1969 300,682
  • 1966 607,568

It is evident that the retro-Mustang has done nothing to grab a larger share of the coupe market, which has dramatically increased in size from ten years ago, when most other coupe-makers made the decision to scale-back or leave the market entirely. Of course, competition has increased since then, too.

So the only single bright spot seems to be the F-Series trucks, which isn’t shining so hotly now that a new Chevy Silverado and Toyota Tundra are in production, and widely considered by reviewers to be better.

Expect tougher times at Ford in 2007, because there’s no end in sight for its “P problem”: people producing poor products.

Chevy Volt was Detroit Auto Show’s Emperor Without Clothes

January 23, 2007

Like many journalists and enthusiasts, I applaud GM’s renewed efforts in the electric car arena. Unlike the rest of the world, it seems, I’m not impressed.

Let’s get something straight here – the Chevy Volt concept released at the Detroit International Auto Show is no different than if I brought my 1960 Triumph TR3 to the stage and called it the next electric car. The Volt had no engine – so it was simply a design concept, not an engineering one. In marketing, we call this vaporware.

To be fair, GM has more resources to make its Volt a reality than I do for turning the TR from gas to electric powered. (My god, could you fathom an electric vehicle with Lucas parts? You probably would need an extra fire insurance policy.) We know GM has been down this road before with the EV1, as eloquently told in the movie “Who Killed the Electric Car.”

But when asked about the car, GM brass indicates the only thing standing in the way of making this a reality is substantially better “battery technology.”

Ahhhh, Crap!

For those not familiar with the 100-plus year history of electric cars, sales have always hinged on battery technology. Whether it’s plug-in technology, hybrid or otherwise, batteries have been the sole reason the electric cars haven’t achieved any substantial market dominance (at least since Cadillac debuted its self-starter, so people no longer were required to hand-crank gas-powered cars.)

In the last century there have been many improvements in battery technology, but none that were enough to overcome the inherent range issues. And just in case you thought that regenerative braking or other hybrid technologies change the issue – Ferdinand Porsche invented the first gas-electric hybrid in 1901.

Trying to change its image after the EV1 and falling behind Toyota and Honda in alternative-energy vehicles, it’s possible GM will put enough brains on the project to find a true groundbreaking battery technology. I’m not holding my breath, though…especially given the predicted short-term decline in cost of gas. The trouble is that like Americans, GM has a tendency to have a short memory. We could just as well see the Volt concept die on the vine, replaced by another performance halo or short-lifespan crossover SUV.

Toyota Avalon Transmission Problems Expose Toyota’s Problem Reporting Problems

January 16, 2007

Editor’s Note: Updates to this story are available in the Toyota Transmissions Category

There is sad news to report to the thousands of owners of 2005, 2006 and 2007 Toyota Avalon models experiencing the dreaded five speed automatic transmission hesitation, bucking and binding problem: despite what your dealer has told you, Toyota is not working on any fix or reflash. I just got off the phone with Bill Kwong, media representative at Toyota, and he has confirmed that “the engineers do not see evidence that people are having problems.”

I personally own a 2006 Toyota Avalon Limited. It has been a wonderful car with the exception of the transmission, which hunts, searches, hesitates, and shifts hard. The problems (also blamed on the software controlling the torque converter) have caused me to encounter dozens of near collisions while entering traffic. Like most people, I went to the dealer service manager who told me “we get multiple questions per week on this…they’re working on a fix.”

No they’re not.

Since every dealer thinks a fix is in motion, few are even trying to report it the district managers. More disturbing is that there are plenty of documented cases where the district service managers are refusing to intervene, because they’ve pre-determined the transmission issues are “normal operation” — meaning the district managers are going out of their way to prevent the data from getting to Toyota engineers! Since none of the district managers are reporting it to Toyota, nothing is being done. The fact that Googling the issue brings up lemon law suits and discussions about it mean nothing to Toyota, because they don’t take third-party data into consideration.

Even Consumer Reports and Autoweek have reported on the widespread tranny issues. Bill gave me the same line he used in an article in Pittsburgh’s newspaper: “We’re up in the JD Power quality ratings.” Sure, Avalon has fewer reported problems versus the competition, and the rest of the car is pretty good, but that doesn’t solve the one very large, dangerous, annoying issue that is causing owners, dealers and journalists to scream “what the hell is going on?”

So what to do? If you have the issue, you must call 1-800-331-4331, which is Toyota’s national Consumer Hotline. This creates a national problem ticket that gains entry into their system. If you go directly to a dealer rather than call the hotline, you must demand the issue be brought to the attention of the district manager and sent to the national office.

We’d also like to hear about your experiences with this issue. Tell us about your car, where you’re located, the dealer (and what the dealer or district service manager) has told you.

When I asked Bill how many complaints it would take for Toyota to acknowledge the problem (percentage of the 100,000 per year made,) he didn’t have an answer.

It didn’t matter that I mentioned I have evidence dealers are even telling customers not to buy V6 Camrys until the issue is solved. Nor has it mattered that dealers have faced numerous lemon law suits.

Would you like to know why none of this matters to Toyota? Fixing the transmission software will result in lower reported fuel economy, which is something Toyota simply does not want to do. Toyota has made its surge on producing the most fuel efficient cars in class…and a software reflash would most likely reduce EPA mileage estimate on the Avalon, Camry and ES350 by 4mpg.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep through that day in Advanced Marketing Strategy class at Boston University School of Management when we discussed which was worse — lower mpg or mass owner complaints due to a severe safety issue with the product….I believe the answer was: “screw the mileage rating, and protect your customers — make them happy, so they’ll live to buy another $35,000 product from you again in the near future.”

It’s great to see that GM and Ford aren’t alone…getting big means ignoring customers, even if you don’t mean to do it! Like Ford and GM, Toyota will probably wind up with a high-profile recall after too many people die — in this case when the transmission hesitates as drivers try to enter traffic or make left-hand turns.

Editor’s Note: Please see other Four Wheel Drift posts in the “Toyota Transmissions” Category for updated information regarding this issue.

The North American Car of the Year Award renamed “Good Effort Award”

January 12, 2007

The Saturn Aura won the North American Car of the Year Award. It beat out finalists Toyota Camry and Honda Fit.

The award is presented after 49 American journalists cast their vote. The funny thing is that seemingly every journalist who has talked about the award has said they didn’t vote for the Aura, but they knew it would win. Even the quotes in the Aura’s press release were from journalists who went on in the pieces from which they were taken…some even in the same line, to say the car wasn’t as good as the Camry or Accord.

Evidently, a core group of journalists voted for the Saturn to congratulate GM for “trying” to create a competitive midsize sedan. By almost every account, however, the Saturn Aura is on par with the Accord and Camry circa 1999. It’s not a bad car, from what I’ve heard, just not anywhere as good as last-gen leaders. It’s not as fun to drive as an Accord, nor is it as solid or quiet as a Camry. Interior materials are better than previous GM attempts, but still way behind the Japanese.

So, essentially, these American journalists are awarding the Aura for GM’s effort, not for the actual end-result. After all, the Fit is by far the best competitor in the subcompact market, and the Camry is the leader in the midsize market. (Okay, I also agree the Honda Accord is a better all-arounder than the Camry, but the Camry sells more. The Honda will also bring its new Accord out this coming year.)

At some point journalists will have the stones to simply say what they mean: “Thanks for getting back into the midsize sedan market, GM, but we’rel giving the award to the best car. Do better next time, and we’ll consider awarding it to your company.”

Deep thoughts about Detroit, Camaros, Tundras, and GM’s Deep Hole

January 10, 2007

There has been the usual amount of hoopla over the unveilings at the Detroit Auto Show. Probably the most telling aspect, however, came from an unlikely source – my neighbor.

Kevin is your typical red-blooded Northwest guy. He works for Boeing, watches NASCAR and attends church regularly. He once owned a Fiero and married a woman who drove a Panther Pink Dodge Challenger in high school. He flies the flag high on a pole in front of his house. He’s the prototypical nice guy…and a dream neighbor.

We chat about cars frequently, but yesterday he hit me with something particularly deep. Evidently, he had been listening to a televised interview with GM CEO Rick Wagoner conducted at the show, and that it was apparent that a core strategy of GM’s comeback hinged on the cars unveiled there. The car taking the center-stage spotlight? The Chevy Camaro.

Kevin says: “he thinks the Camaro will save the company!”

Kev is right on so many levels. I do honestly believe that the people at GM think the 2009 Camaro is key to the turnaround. Like Kevin, I also believe the leadership at GM is on crack.

It’s evident that the executives at GM and Ford still live in a world where they believe if they can create image cars, people will come to the dealers just to see these halos, but will be convinced while they’re there to buy the sedan. This was true in the 1950s when this strategy hatched, but it has ceased to be the case for many years. When was the last time you went to a dealer and actually saw a Ford GT, Corvette Z06 or Viper actually sitting on the floor, anyway?

Here’s a newsflash – people are going for the best vehicles in the core segments: sedans, minivans…and increasingly – wagons.

GM has spent so much lately on the Camaro. While we can all agree that the Camaro is a necessity for competing for the pony car dollars, the executives need to understand that the Mustang is only selling about 170,000 units without any competition from Chevy or Pontiac with the F-bodies.

It’s been a very long time since Chevy sold more than 50.000 Camaros in a year. (Actually it was 1997 at 55,973 units.) The model was killed because it was pushing around 45,000 annually…and this was assisted by a large number of fleet sales of V6 rental cars. The Camaro’s F-body platform-mate, the Firebird, was good for another 30,000 units.

Historically speaking, in any given year the Camaro sales were half of the Mustang’s. So this makes sense that it’s possible that given no Firebird option, the Camaro could sell around 80,000 units in its first full year. I’ll be nice and say that it could maintain 80,000 for two years, then fade to 60,000 past the third year.

Essentially, GM won’t make squat off the model.

While GM has spent all of the time talking-up the Camaro convertible concept and the model’s production plans to media covering the Detroit Auto Show, the company was also unveiling the new Malibu — its foray into the most important segment in the US, the midsize sedan market.

As best as anyone can tell, the Malibu is better than its predecessor. While I haven’t seen it in person, nor has anyone driven it yet, it looks to again fit the description: “a really great rental car.” Maybe it’s not fair, but the Malibu’s improvements simply move it to where the Camry and Accord were four years ago. The Camry is much better, and the much anticipated new Accord sedan will simply blow its doors off in every conceivable way.

So GM continues to spend money going for that miniscule pony car segment, while 750,000 people each year are forced to buy Camrys and Accords, because the Malibu just isn’t good enough.

Oh, and if that isn’t bad enough, GM is officially walking away from the minivan market, putting all of its eggs into the crossover market with the GMC Arcadia (and its Saturn and Buick counterparts.) Maybe someone should explain that crossovers are a new, yet very short-term market created by people who don’t want SUVs anymore, but will likely buy a sedan or minivan for their next car. I call crossovers “halfway houses.”

Alas, Rick and the boys at GM will continue to push cars like the Camaro, the Caddy XLR, the Chevy SSR and other small market image vehicles. Ford will hang its hat on the Mustang and keep posters of the now out-of-production GT on its dealers’ walls while they wonder why the Taurus outsold the Fusion last year.

Don’t get me wrong – nobody is suggesting that Chevy not build the Camaro. The issues are a) Chevy is late to the game (the first Mustang hit mid-1964, and the Camaro came in late ’66,) and b) they focus on this small segment to the detriment of more important ones. If they built the best sedans and minivans, they’d have the money to be the first to market with all the greatest small-market and niche products.

And this is exactly how Toyota continues on its path to being the number one automaker in the world. How many sports and pony cars does Toyota currently sell in America? Zero. That’s right…the Celica and MR Spider both were cut several years ago, and it has been nearly a decade since the last Supra.

Meanwhile, my neighbor Kevin – the same guy who dreams of owning a 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge, will likely buy the new Toyota Tundra to replace his trusty Corolla. The Tundra might not have the looks of the Camaro, but it most definitely will be a hell of a great truck: reliable, powerful, comfortable…and unlike the Camaro, it will be built in America.