September Sales: Winners, Losers, And Clamoring Sales Records
We ran down the sales numbers for September, but it's a lot to take in. Fortunately, it's our job to comb through it. In any list, there are winners and losers, and sometimes, they come from surprising sources. While we're sure Honda, Chrysler and Volkswagen are feeling pretty good with their double-digit percentage increases, there were five who scored higher. On the other hand, Nissan, Volvo, and Cadillac can console themselves with the fact that, even though sales declined, it could've been worse.Winner: Smart, +119.6% Normally, a company adding a mere 500 cars to its sales total wouldn't garner much attention. But, when you're Smart, every little bit helps, especially when sales numbers have been as diminutive as your cars. The net result is that sales of the little two-seat fuel sipper more than doubled in September, despite new competition from cars like the Scion iQ. There's one simple reason why: Advertising. Last month, Smart launched a new ad campaign, darwing attention to the fact that it is, in fact, an actual car company that sells vehicles. It also helps that Smart has gone through and improved the car in a number of ways, although, you can still get a lot more car for the same money. For example...Winner: Fiat, +51% Fiat only sells one car in the U.S. right now: The little 500. But that's not quite the whole story. There's the 500, 500 convertible, turbocharged 500 Abarth, a 500 Turbo that's not the Abarth, and more special editions than we can count. After missing sales targets, a few misfired ad campaigns (Jennifer Lopez, anyone?), and a generally lukewarm reception from critics, people are finally taking notice of the little Fiat. A new ad campaign--with Fiat's jumping into Mediterranean seas and arriving in the U.S.--is raising awareness as well. The question is: Will Fiat remain strong as new competitors, such as the lower-priced Chevy Spark, start to go on sale?Winner: Toyota, +47.1% The perennially popular Camry gave Toyota a boost by over 40 percent from this time last year. Last year, in fact, is when the current Camry was introduced—which may explain its dipping sales from last year, as dealers cleared inventory of old Camrys in a bid to get as much supply as possible. Combined sales of the Camry and Camry Hybrid rang up to 34,252 models, with Corolla taking second place with 23,026—which goes to prove that beating the Big T is a Herculean task for anyone outside of Toyota-shi. And keep in mind, the current Corolla has been on sale since 2007, an eternity in car model cycles, and it still tops most sales lists. When the new Corolla bows sometime next year, all bets are off.Winner: Acura, +43.% Acura is recovering from last year's tsunami-related parts and vehicle shortages, and like its Honda corporate parent, the numbers keep growing. It also helps that Acura finally has some new product in its portfolio. The new RDX is a runaway hit, handily outselling its predecessor, and even the Civic-derived ILX is finding a few new homes. However, the brand standout remains the ever-popular MDX crossover, proving that Acura has a winning formula on its hands with its biggest vehicle. We'll see if Acura can keep the trend going when the 2014 Acura MDX debuts sometime next year.Winner: Lexus, +35.7% Likewise for Lexus, it’s been a busy month: not one but three new cars came out this year for Toyota’s snob brand. The GS, ES, and facelifted LS and RX all represent an entire upheaval in Lexus’s lineup—and yes, it did pay off. This September shattered last year’s by a not-insignificant 3,000 or so cars, when the GS still looked awkward and the ES was hoary. (It’s still hoary, just slightly less so.) Still, this wasn’t close enough to match August’s high of 24,237 cars, as close to lightning in a bottle as it gets for Lexus.Loser: Lincoln, -3.1% For Lincoln folks, it must be like Waiting For Godot: that shiny, gorgeous new MKZ is ever so just around the corner, the first new product from Lincoln in years and the start—they hope—of a veritable brand renaissance. Here’s a spoiler: Godot never shows up. The MKZ, however, is slated to drop by the end of this year—Lincoln hasn’t announced a date yet. It doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. Current examples of the MKZ sold at a steady clip since June, but only took a dip this month—still selling at a healthy 2,575 examples in September. That’s more than what Lincoln can say for the larger MKS; the only people buying the MKT are dead people, and ever since Big Daddy Kane dropped the big ‘Gator it just hasn’t been the same. Bring on the MKZ.Loser: Suzuki, -5.2% Suzuki's sales problems are well documented, and its gotten to the point where its 5.2-percent drop probably isn't worse simply because it can't drop much further. The Japanese automaker sold fewer than 2,000 cars, trucks and SUVs last month, or about the same number of Civics that Honda sells on a Saturday afternoon. Why? Partly brand awareness: Suzuki's well known for its motorcycles, watercraft, quads, and other small vehicles, but its history with cars has been muddied. The good news is that it means you can probably score a killer deal on a Suzuki Kizashi, which is actually a pretty good car, and even the best-selling Suzuki SX4 isn't too shabby.Loser: Mazda, -5.4% Mazda is either smallest of the big Japanese manufacturers, or the biggest of the small ones, depending on how you look at it. Either way, it's a company that has definitely seen better days. While the Mazda3 compact seems to be picking up steam thanks to its new (and effective) Skyactiv fuel-saving technology, and the CX-5 certainly seems to be pulling its own weight, the rest of the lineup is in desperate need of an update. Luckily, changes are in the pipeline, starting off with the 2014 Mazda6. The final production version was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show last week, and at the very least, it sure looks like a winner.Loser: Jaguar, -10% Jaguar deserves better than this. The XF is an excellent mid-level luxury sedan, the XJ runs with the big dogs when it comes to a premium driving experience, and we dare you to try to stop ogling the XK grand tourer. But the numbers don't lie, and even though it's only 100 cars, with volumes as small as Jaguar's it turns into a big hit. However, change may be coming. The new Jaguar F-Type sports car essentially stole the Paris Motor Show, and if Jaguar can keep its Porsche-911-killer promises, it could steal a few customers from the German sports car maker, too.Loser: Mitsubishi, -17.2% A little too easy making fun of Mitsubishi today, but within the Three Diamonds, a glimmer of hope: the Outlander Sport carried the brand by doubling its sales from August, up to 2,253 models. Specifically, the Outlander Sport is just 3,000 models away from matching its total 2011 sales, which is the only good news from Mitsubishi. Want some bad news? Look at the rest of the company’s lineup.
The Month That Was seemed to slow down a little from the frenetic pace that was August: a month that saw...