US sales: what to expect in 2020?
I have spent part of January going over all the numbers from 2019 and looking for clues of what will happen this year to the US market. Here are my major takes:
- Toyota vs Ford: Although the Ford brand – and the F-150 – led sales last year, Toyota expanded its advantage over Ford as a group, outselling them by 37,100 units in 2019. We forecast the gap to grow to 60,400 Light Vehicles this year thanks to the popularity of the RAV4, which we expect to remain the country’s bestseller excluding Pickups. Also the Tacoma should keep its lead in the Midsize Pickup segment, on top of a renewed Highlander being available for the full year. Last year, Ford was hurt by the changeover of the Escape and Explorer, a bad indication of what could happen to the new F-150, expected to arrive in the second half of 2020.
- Large Pickup war: Ram sold more than 680,000 units last year, the highest volume since its inception. With two generations of the 1500 being sold concurrently and higher incentives, the 1500 outsold the Chevrolet Silverado for the first time. According to our partners at J.D. Power, Ram offered US$5,604/unit on average, the second highest incentive by dollar amount, and was above US$6,000 in June, November and December. At the same time, not all versions of the Silverado were offered earlier in the year and the UAW strike hurt inventories even more. For this year, we anticipate that the Silverado will be slightly ahead of the 1500 thanks to increased availability.
- SUVs vs Cars: SUVs faced their slowest year of growth in 2019 since the end of the recession, up by just 2.5% YoY. Nevertheless, they accounted for more than 50% of sales in August, November and December, to end the year with a 48.8% share. Compact SUVs were the largest segment in the US and declined in line with the market, keeping a 19.2% share. For 2020, we forecast the percentage to inch up to 20% thanks to the first full year of sales of the new Ford Escape as well as the popularity of the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.
- Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi decline: As Nissan tried to cut incentives and lower fleet sales, its ageing portfolio could not resist the competition and sales fell by 8.7%. Overall, incentives were flat in 2019, but Nissan increased its dependence on fleet sales. Fleet represented 37.5% of sales in 2019, up from 32.9% in 2018. Infiniti also had a difficult 2019, with its performance better than only that of Alfa Romeo in the Premium market. Sales fell by 21.2%, without any introductions or model updates and the end of the QX30. We expect both Nissan and Infiniti to lose even more this year, as Nissan SUVs age and Infiniti’s portfolio lacks new products.
We forecast the total market to fall to 16.8 mn Light Vehicles this year (-1.2% YoY), so it will be interesting to see how OEMs will react to slower demand by increasing incentives and boosting fleet sales. I invite you to follow the journey with us.