by Richard Russell

The ides of March were not kind to domestic carmakers who suffered a 4.7% drop in sales compared to a year ago. The imports countered this with a 4.1% increase, but overall sales were off 1.3%. The picture for the first quarter is similar – domestic sales down 11.5%, imports up 6.3% for an overall decline of 4.9% for the industry as a whole.

Domestics: first quarter
GM down 15.3%, Ford 14.2%, Chrysler 1.5%


March brought good news for Chrysler with an 11% increase in car sales, but unfortunately this was offset by a significant (21%) decline in truck sales – which of course includes minivans. Combined sales of cars and trucks for the month were 19,697, a 13% drop from last year. Sales for the first quarter of 2003 totaled 49,469, a 14% decline. At Ford, March car sales were off 9%, but truck sales gained 5%. The total for the month was 24,374 off a slight 0.4% from last year while first quarter sales of 57,504 were down 1.5%. GM’s 10% drop in car sales for March was offset somewhat by 1 5% hike in truck sales. Combined sales for the month were 42,226, a 3.2% drop while first quarter sales of 94,202 were off 15.2%.


Imports: Nissan, Toyota sales up, but Honda declines

Among the major players, Nissan enjoyed a really strong March with sales up 22% to 6,284 bringing its first quarter total to 14,830, an 13.2% increase for the year. Honda lost a step in its neck-and-neck battle with Toyota for bragging rights among imports. Honda sales for March were off 11.6% to 13,233 bringing the first quarter total to 32,573. Toyota’s March sales of 14,253 were up 8.4% while first quarter sales gained 8.9% to 32,430. Only 143 vehicles separated the two.

In the other close race, Hyundai swapped places with Mazda with a 2.2% increase in March sales to 5,603 boosting its first quarter total 7.6% to 13,830. Mazda’s March sales were off 6.2% to 5,713 making the first quarter total 12,952 – off 4.8%. One year ago this was a three-way battle, but Nissan’s growth has allowed it to pull cleanly away.

Among other Japanese companies, Mitsubishi March sales of 1,415 brought the total for the year to 3,738 comparative numbers for last year are not available – since the company wasn’t selling vehicles here! Suzuki has a tremendously strong month. Sales were up 18.2% to 987 units brining the first quarter number to 2,024 – up 9%. Subaru continued to struggle with March sales off 3.6% to 1,291 and first quarter numbers off 11.6% to 3,172.

Acura, Infiniti and Lexus numbers are included in the Honda, Nissan, Toyota totals above. Broken out they look like this: Acura was down 29.1% for the month to 1,680 and off 20.4% for the quarter to 4,310. Infiniti was up 60.6% in March to 885 units and 83.6% for the quarter to 1,954. Lexus was off 10.5 % to 504 and down 7.5% for the quarter to 1,261.

South Korean stablemates Hyundai and Kia enjoyed a good March. Hyundai sales were up 2.2% to 5,603 and first quarter sales were up 7.6% to 13,830. Kia’s March sales were up 8.7% to 2,830 and first quarter sales were up 5.5% to 6,530.

Among European manufacturers Volvo showed the biggest gains thanks to the award-winning XC90 SUV. March sales were up 31.4% to 1,125 units and first quarter sales 20.6% to 2,345. BMW continued its strong year with a 4.6% increase in sales in March to 1,470 bringing its total for the year to date to 3,318, an increase of 12.5%. Audi’s March sales were up 15.4% to 698 units and first quarter sales up 11.7% to 1,725. VW enjoyed a 9.6% hike in March sales to 3,383 and first quarter numbers were up 7.1% to 8,185. Porsche sales were pretty much flat – up 1.1% for the month (137) and off 1.9% for the quarter to 237 units. Mercedes had a tough month. Sales were off 9.1% to 1,205 bringing the first quarter to 3,037, down 6.9%.

Jaguar and Land Rover were the biggest losers with sales off 25.8% and 25.7% respectively for the month. Jaguar sold 181 cars in March and 505 so far this year, down 9%. Land Rover’s March number was 113 and that for the year 339 – down 28.2%.


Overall

Market share is the name of the game. Percentage gains and losses make for interesting reading. A 1% gain or loss in market share is one thing if you are a major player with a 15 – 20% slice of the pie. But quite a different story if you are in the crumb category with less than 1% of the pie to start with.

Let’s look at the players from top to bottom in terms of market share after the first quarter.

  • General Motors – 27.5%
  • Ford – 16.8%
  • Chrysler – 14.4%
  • Honda – 9.5%
  • Toyota – 9.5%
  • Nissan – 4.3%
  • Hyundai – 4.0%
  • Mazda – 3.8%
  • VW – 2.9%
  • Kia – 1.9%
  • Mitsubishi – 1.1%
  • BMW – 1.0%
  • Mercedes – 0.9%
  • Subaru – 0.9%
  • Volvo – 0.7%
  • Suzuki – 0.6%
  • Jaguar – 0.1%
  • Land Rover – 0.1%
  • Porsche – 0.1%

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