Auto industry forecasters see Fiat Chrysler notching a 60th month of year-over-year sales increases. However, there’s not much margin for error as two of the three sources predict total U.S. March sales will miss their numbers from a year ago by a small margin.
While March probably benefited from winter-storm-delayed sales, this month has one fewer selling days and, more important, one fewer weekends, than March 2014.
KBB.com sees FCA US sales rising 1.1% to 196,000 units while TrueCar.com pegs the increase at 1.8% and 197,500 sales.
Ward’s Auto is inclined to be more optimistic, looking for a 6.0% increase in FCA sales to over 205,000 and an 8.8% increase in March’s total light vehicle sales.
March 2014 was a tough act to follow. Total sales rose 13% and Chrysler Group brand sales were up 12.7% on a huge 46.9% jump in Jeep sales, while Dodge fell somewhat.
Jeep sales soared in Europe last month, rising 182% to 6,320 units as buyers snapped up the Italian-built Renegade.
The newest Jeep model has found the sweet spot in the European CUV/SUV market. In January, the Renegade accounted for 56.5% of all new Jeep deliveries with 3,307 units. According to FCA, Renegade sales were just under 4,000 in February.
Year-to-date (YTD) sales of Jeep brand vehicles were up 173.8% for the first two months of 2015. Both monthly and YTD growth rates easily beat those of all other brands reported by the ACEA, the European automobile manufacturers’ association.
Jeep’s market share more than doubled from 0.3% last year to 0.7% last month.
The increase in Jeep sales helped Fiat Chrysler Automobiles blow past both Ford and General Motors in February and outpace growth in the overall European market. It wasn’t quite enough to keep pace with the growth in the Italian market, the third-largest in the European Union.
According to Automotive Newstoday, the former Chrysler kept its balance of U.S. retail and fleet sales stable compared with February 2014, with 75% of vehicles going to retail customers. This is a higher proportion than GM (73%) or Ford (70%), but lower than the top Japanese automakers (Toyota, 85%; Honda, 98%; Nissan, 80%).
Part of the difference between American and import makers is the reliance of GM, Ford, and FCA on pickup truck sales in the United States.
Chrysler increased both retail and fleet sales in roughly equal proportions since last year, with retail sales rising 6% and fleet sales rising 5% even as Rams flooded registration offices. Toyota saw retail sales drop ever so slightly, while fleet sales fell by 5.5%, presumably due to a shortage of F-150 pickups.
GM rebalanced towards fleet sales, a troubling sign unless pickups were being sold to traditional Ford commercial buyers; they saw a 1% gain in retail and a 12% gain in fleet.
The Big Four in retail were GM, Toyota, Ford, and FCA; in fleet, that order changes to GM, Ford, FCA, and Toyota. The numbers are fairly far apart in fleet, but in retail, Chrysler was just 2,000 units away from Ford. This is likely to change as F-150 production ramps up, unless Chrysler has something up their sleeves.
FCA US sales rose nearly 6% in February, to 163,586 vehicles — slightly below analyst expectations of 8.3% growth. That said, February 2014 was a tough act to follow: Jeep sales rocketed up 47% while Ram sales rose 28% in February 2014.
This marks the 59th consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth, and the company’s best February since 2007.
Jeep’s 21% increase was the largest of any FCA US brand and set a February record for the brand.
The Chrysler 200’s 31% jump drove the brand’s growth for the month as sales of the 300 and Town & Country fell slightly.
Sales of current Dodge car models (Challenger, Charger, Dart and Viper) rose 32%, but the decline in sales of the discontinued Avenger and a big drop in the Grand Caravan and Durango left Dodge in the red.
All Jeeps posted healthy increases, led by a 59% explosion in sales of the Patriot, which recorded its best sales month ever.
Ram had another good month, including a triple-digit jump in sales of the Ram ProMaster and good sales for the Ram Cargo Van.
Eight FCA vehicles set February sales records: Jeep Cherokee, Wrangler and Compass, Dodge Challenger, Fiat 500L, Chrysler 200, Ram ProMaster, and Ram Cargo Van.
FCA US finished the month with an 85-day supply of inventory (577,277 cars and trucks).
It appears that FCA is having problems clearly communicating its Hellcat allocation process to both its dealers and its customers. In an attempt to once again shed some light on the way it works, FCA posted on its blog a re-clarification ( with a flow chart ) of the Hellcat allocation process.
This seems much clearer, and underlines that yes, any dealer can be allocated a Hellcat as long as they meet certain criteria. A sold order ( which would be verified ) would end up being placed in the queue as long as all other criteria are met.
This is good news for those dealers struggling to get a Hellcat for customers that have cash in hand, and are willing to commit to purchasing before the car is built. FCA however did take a slightly admonishing tone with some dealers who are over ordering. There is no way that a small non-performing dealer can sell 20 Hellcats, so don’t try to sell that many to your customers, because you will not get them. One a month ( Either Charger, or Challenger, not both ) will be allocated per dealer, even for sold orders. So effectively, that means a maximum of 12 Hellcats combined per year per dealer based on sold orders only, production restraints withstanding.
There will not be 20,000 Hellcat Chargers or Challengers produced this year, but there will be plenty more than the rumored 1,200. Our estimates put Challenger production totals at over 5,000, and Charger should be able to top 3,000 in this abbreviated launch year. That is 8,000 plus Hellcats to be spread out amongst FCA’s more than 2300 Dodge dealers.
Even though winter storms ravaged vehicle sales in some states and the price of regular gasoline rose 16%, analysts are still predicting strong February results when the numbers are released next Tuesday.
“Gas prices inched back up this month, but it didn’t appear to have much impact on shoppers’ choices,” said Edmunds.com’s Jessica Caldwell. “We’re still seeing a strong market for trucks and SUVs — especially compact crossover SUVs, which continue to ride an impressive wave of popularity. It is likely that the hard-hitting winter weather motivated some buyers to upgrade from their two-wheel drive vehicles.”
Allpar looked at by-manufacturer predictions from three major industry sources, Edmunds.com, KBB.com, and TrueCar.com. All three said that February’s big winners will be Toyota and Honda, but that FCA US will post the largest year-over-year increase of the three Detroit automakers, as well as notching its 69th consecutive month of year-over-year growth.
Based on the predictions, FCA’s market share will be essentially unchanged from February 2014.
The chart below shows the average of the three analyst outlooks.
AVERAGE ANALYST SALES FORECAST: FEBRUARY 2015
FCA US LLC (Chrysler)
Ford Motor Co.
Nissan North America
Toyota Motor Sales
TrueCar.com estimates that industrywide incentive spending fell 2.9% in February, so “Automakers should expect to post net revenue gains this month,” according to TrueCar analyst Eric Lyman.
FCA was second only to General Motors when it came to cash on the hood, but it wasn’t that far ahead of Kia, which TrueCar says outspent Ford on a per-unit basis.
Chrysler Canada has run up an astonishing 62 months of year-over-year growth. Admittedly, some of these months held larger gains than others, but it is a winning streak never before seen by the company, now titled FCA Canada.
The question is, how long can they keep the streak going? When sales would have flagged otherwise, they suddenly got the Cherokee. Renegades are reportedly still on their boats, heading for Baltimore and New York, and will take some time to reach Canadian dealerships — and even then, will not sell in large numbers, just because there aren’t all that many floating in.
Reports from within suggest that Chrysler Canada may end up with its record holding at 62 months (five years and two months) of growth, or, alternatively, squeaking by with a marginal “but still counting” increase. The January increase was quite small, but the, so were the 2013-vs-2012 increases in January and February 2013. As long as the company outsells February 2014, even by a single heavily discounted Dodge Caravan CVP, it’ll be ahead — keeping in mind there is one less selling day this month, due to leap year, and being a short 28-day month, that’s a big deal.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee was the best-selling vehicle in its class in Australia last year, and a new study released by Roy Morgan Research, Australia’s oldest and best-known market research company, provides some insight as to why.
While Australian car buyers rated fuel efficiency as the most important factor in a car-buying decision, purchasers of SUVs ranked mileage fifth and were more likely to consider a diesel engine than car buyers. More than that, SUV buyers desired a proven track record.
That may have led to the success of Grand Cherokee, which has an available V6 diesel in Australia as well as the US and Europe. Large SUV buyers told Roy Morgan Research they wanted all the extras as standard, and even the base Laredo has a nice list of standard features.
Jordan Pakes, Industry Director – Automotive at Roy Morgan Research, wrote, “The Grand Cherokee continued its prodigious rise over the last few years by moving from the segment’s number-four selling model in 2013 to the top seller in 2014, with 16,582 sales. This is an amazing result, given that Jeep sold only 441 Grand Cherokees in 2010, and is a true testament to the power of a unique and memorable advertising campaign combined with a strong new product appealing to buyers’ various needs.”