Following up on US auto sales reports for the 4th quarter of 2021 as well as the full year 2021 compared to 2020 and 2019, here is our report on US auto sales in the 1st quarter of 2021 compared to the 1st quarter of 2019 and the 1st quarter of 2020.
To start with, let’s look at the big picture. Compared to the 1st quarter of 2019, sales in the 1st quarter of 2022 were down more than 684,000. Compared to the 1st quarter of last year, sales in the 1st quarter of 2022 were down by more than 581,000.
On a percentage basis, sales dropped 18% compared to the 1st quarter of 2019, 6% compared to the 1st quarter of 2020, or 16% compared to the 1st quarter of 2021.
Just looking at the big picture from the charts above, there was a notable drop in sales from 2019 to 2020 that was due to the arrival of COVID-19 and the economic shutdowns that followed. They rebounded in 2021 as the world opened back up a bit. But now they’ve dropped again. In fact, they’ve dropped lower than ever.
As for why they’ve dropped, well, there are varying theories. Some say it’s all and only about supplies. There are not enough chips
and salsa for automakers to make the number of cars consumers want. That’s the simple story. Others see this as a result of dying interest in old-school fossil-fueled vehicles, the Osborne effect, and the country’s wait for the next generation of automobile. They see the chip crisis as an excuse rather than a real cause. Others look at growing inequality, more financially crunched households, and less of an ability or interest in buying new cars. I’ll leave it to readers to discuss these different explanations.
Naturally, there are a few exceptions to the massive drop in sales since 2019. As we’ll see below, Tesla has achieved very large sales growth, Kia and Hyundai have landed moderate sales growth, and a few other brands have had small sales growth. The vast majority, though, have seen sales declines.
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Let’s dig into the auto brands now.
Compared to the 1st quarter of 2021, only three auto brands got more sales in the 1st quarter of 2022 — Tesla (47% growth), MINI (9% growth), and BMW (3% growth). On the other hand, 27 auto brands saw their sales decline. Most notably, Acura’s sales declined by 65%, Fiat’s and Buick’s by 58%, Infiniti’s by 41%, Dodge’s by 36%, and Audi’s by 35%.
That’s just comparing changes from the past year. What happens when you go back to the pre-pandemic days? Compared to 2019’s 1st quarter sales, Tesla sales were up 256% in the 1st quarter of this year, 2022. Kia and Hyundai have seen sales growth of 11% and 8%, respectively. A bit below those two, BMW sales grew 5%, Volvo sales grew 3%, and Ram sales grew 1%.
On the lower end of the scale, Fiat was the bottom of the bottom this time (not second to last), dropping 85%. Infiniti dropped 67%, Acura 64%, Dodge 63%, and Buick 63%. The biggest losers seem to be old-school luxury auto brands with no electric presence, perhaps brands that would previously get sales from people now buying Teslas.
Percentage change is one thing and one way to look at it, but absolute volume sales change is another. That tells another story that is in some parts the same and some parts different. Looking at Q1 2022 versus Q1 2021, we see that the big losses here come from the large, low-cost, high-volume auto brands. The five big auto brands that saw more than 30,000, more than 40,000, more than 50,000, more than 60,000, even more than 70,000 or 80,000 sales losses were: Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, and Honda. The only brand that saw an increase of more than 2,300 sales was Tesla, which had sales increase by more than 35,000 units year over year based on data estimates from Troy Teslike.
Going back to the 1st quarter of 2019 to see how things have gotten better or worse for automakers, you have the decent sales growth of Kia and Hyundai (14,598 and 12,091, respectively), while BMW, Ram, and Volvo narrowly got into the positive. Looking down at the losses, it was the same large automakers again (in slightly different order): Ford, Nissan, Chevrolet, Honda, and Dodge. (Given its size, though, it’s something else to see an almost 33,000 sales loss at Buick.)
Here’s another way to look at the year-over-year sales changes in the 1st quarter of the year from 2019 through 2022:
Some brands see more of an up and down and up and down pattern (Toyota, Jeep, Volvo, Lincoln, Porsche, MINI, Mercedes, Lexus, BMW), while others have seen a dramatic and continuous or nearly continuous drop in sales (Ford, Chevrolet, Honda, Nissan, Dodge). Will those trends hold true in the coming years?
One last thing we have to look at here are the sales rankings of the various auto brands in the 1st quarters of 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.
You can pick any of the auto brands you like and see how their rankings changed year after year. Just looking at the one big electric vehicle brand, Tesla, it went from 24th in Q1 2019 to 18th in Q1 2020 to 14th in Q1 2021 to 12th in Q1 2022. Where will the largest pure electric vehicle producer be in the US market in Q1 2023?
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