Sales and new car news: what’s hot — and not

With total new vehicle sales slipping slightly in 2017 to just under 17-million units, emerging trends reveal how much the market is shifting as consumers selected pickups, crossovers and SUVs 65 percent of the time over conventional car sales last year. With lots of ink spilled over electric vehicles and hybrids, their sales remain less than 3 percent of the industry in America.

The top five sellers last year were the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, FCA Ram, Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue. Honda’s CR-V came in seventh place, leaving only four cars in the top 10. Truck sales were up 4.4 percent for the year, despite the industry at large declining.

Winners in 2017 include Ford, America’s top-selling brand overall, Subaru, with 73 straight months of sales gains, and Volkswagen, with double-digit sales growth due to its two new crossovers.

Losers were Jeep, Hyundai and Dodge, which all had double-percentage sales losses, while Lexus, Chrysler, Kia, Buick and Cadillac also fell behind. GM’s two luxury marquees now sell better in China than here — the expanding market that supports GM’s efforts to abandon Europe.

Notable gainers last year: Chevy’s Bolt (Tesla gets the headlines, but the Bolt is getting the sales and is now America’s top-selling electric vehicle), Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer (two aging but extremely popular large SUVs) Ford’s F-series, Chevy’s redesigned Equinox, GMC’s redesigned Acadia, the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Niro, Mazda CX5, Nissan Rogue, Nissan Titan (up more than double), Subaru Impreza and Crosstrek, plus the Toyota 4Runner, Highlander and RAV4.

The product shift is clearly apparent when you compare the winners against the models that were “losers” last year, as consumers gravitate to crossovers at an accelerated pace. Unhealthy sales drops were realized by Ford’s Mustang and Fusion, Jeep’s Cherokee, Chevy’s Impala, Malibu and Sonic, Honda’s Fit and Odyssey, Hyundai’s Accent and Sonata, Kia’s Soul and Sedona, Mazda’s 3, Nissan’s Altima and Versa, Subaru’s Legacy, as well as Toyota’s Avalon (new model this spring) Corolla, Prius and Sienna.

With interest rates still low, inflation under control and fuel prices rising yet relatively stable, look for 2018 to bring more of the same.

Also look for these new and redesigned offerings coming to showrooms this year.

BMW will add to its plethora of American-built crossovers with a new subcompact X2 joining the new X3, plus redesigned X4 and X5 models will come later this year. Buick will expand the Regal lineup with new Regal Sportback and TourX wagon models this spring — five-door cars with more attitude and functionality than the four-door sibling. Cadillac, working hard to catch Audi and Lexus in this market, adds a compact XT4 to go along with the XT5 crossover, while Chevy continues to be GM’s bread-and-butter brand with several new upgraded models. An all-new Silverado debuts later this fall with a lighter body and more fuel-efficient powertrain that will feature a 10-speed automatic as well as a new TrailBoss model, while a Colorado-based rear-drive SUV will wear the Blazer name from decades ago. Chevy’s Corvette also gains new supercar trim, a 755-hp ZR-1 coupe and convertible joins base and Z06 models to increase appeal before the rumored mid-engined Stingray arrives in 2019.

At Jeep, the revised Wrangler is now on sale — with a diesel engine option. And after almost 10 years of prototype teasers and production delays as FCA realigns its assembly plants in Ohio and Michigan, the four-door Scrambler pickup will hit showrooms this fall. At the other end of the off-roader spectrum, Mercedes introduces an all-new G-class — the first significant redesign of the Galendewagon in over 30 years.

Nissan’s all-new Leaf electric car — now with 150-miles of range — comes this spring to all 50 states, plus Hyundai’s new subcompact Kona goes on sale up against the new Ford Eco-Sport crossover. The Ford is built in India.

FCA’s Ram will get a new look this spring, plus a host of new equipment, which will include an optional dual-panel tailgate that both folds and swings open. The Ram also will be one of the first American-built vehicles (production will shift to Michigan from Mexico) to feature a 48-volt electrical system, as higher wattage is essential for all of the impending electrical demands.

Both Subaru and Lexus gain three-row crossovers this year; Subaru’s eight-passenger Ascent goes on sale soon, as does the Lexus RX-L — a longer version of its top-selling RX series.

VW rolls out a sexy new Jetta this spring, while things are relatively quiet at Toyota except for the long-running rumors about the return of the Supra coupe series. BMW has been working with Toyota on its all-new Z4 sports car, with many suggesting that the Supra will be the coupe version. Let’s hope for some more spice from both Toyota and BMW.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

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