For real: Stellantis USA posted big retail gains; Dodge hurt by Caravan loss

First, the very good news: Stellantis out-sold Volkswagen AG in Europe, to be the best-selling automaker on the continent in its first quarter as a company. That comes with the caveat that Volkswagen is likely to make a comeback, but Stellantis may still have some tricks in store, with (among other things) clever hydrogen technology that swaps fuel cells into battery space so a vehicle can be converted to both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric at the same time.

Moving on to the United States, sales reached 469,651 in the first quarter of 2021, up from 446,768 in the first quarter of 2020. Fleet commercial sales rose by 24%, and fleet, overall, was 19% of the quarter’s sales. Rental fleet sales were presumably at or near zero.

it was a very bad quarter for Dodge, as the Journey and Caravan have both been dropped—accounting for around 7,400 lost sales from the Journey and 23,000 for the Caravan. Those clobbered Dodge sales though the Durango posted a 15% gain, and the Challenger (+24%) and Charger (+6%) did well. One remaining Dart found a new owner, somehow.

You might think the Caravan and Journey leaving the lineup would help the Cherokee and Pacifica, but you’d only be a little right. The Journey lost 8,272 sales, and Cherokee was only up by 4,248, all of which could be accounted for by an industry-wide sales boost. Pacifica was up 40%, but that amounts to 9,817 minivans, while Caravan lost 23,222 minivans. The Pacifica still sells well enough to justify its continued existence and then some.

Toyota, by the way, sold 26,578 minivans in the same period, to Pacifica’s 34,342. It doesn’t look like Toyota will be beating Chrysler any time soon in the minivan market, but that’s still twice as many Siennas as they sold in Q1 2020.

Retail sales were very good, though, leaping up by 25% overall, with the Wrangler setting a new retail sales record; Alfa Romeo sales went up by 25%, with both Giulia and Stelvio posting hefty gains. All told, Alfa moved 4,646 cars during the quarter. Fiat dropped again, going from 1,128 to just 815, mostly because the 500 is gone. The Fiat 124 Spyder posted a healthy 23% gain as enthusiasts snapped up the last remaining new ones, as it has been dropped from the lineup.

Ram did pretty well, rising 16% overall; Ram pickups rose by 16%, Promaster vans by 14%, and Promaster City by 53%. Ram remains #2 after Jeep.

Jeep saw an 8% gain; the Compass plummeted by 33% but still outsold the pricey Gladiator. Wrangler had a gangbuster month with a 25% gain in sales and Gladiator posted a 23% rise; Cherokee, as noted, rose by 13%, Renegade by 13%, and Grand Cherokee by 10% even with a replacement on the way.

Overall, it was a good quarter for Chrysler, Ram, and Alfa Romeo, an acceptable quarter for Jeep, and a bad one for Dodge and Fiat. It’s only fair, though, to note that the vehicle market was booming. Toyota posted a 22% gain for the quarter; most of Toyota’s gain was in trucks and minivans, with Sienna somehow having a 124% gain and Tacoma rising by 24%, while the old mainstay Camry and Corolla rose by 1% and 5%. Hyundai-Kia rose by 23%. Nissan even managed to rise by 11% overall.

On the other hand, GM posted just a 4% gain (less than Stellantis USA); and Ford eked out just a 1.0% gain. Stellantis had a strong retail and commercial-fleet quarter, but was somewhat hurt by the bottom dropping out of the rental-fleet business. Since there’s little profit in rentals, it may have been a very profitable quarter for the newly joined FCA and Peugeot.

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