Sales contests: muscle cars, pickups, minivans, and big cars

Ford was late out of the gate with their sales summaries, and we could see why: overall sales for 2020 were down 16% from 2019, compared with a 12% drop at GM and Toyota alike. FCA did slightly worse with a 17% fall, but FCA cut their Q4 incentives by 7% from Q4 2019 while Ford only cut theirs by 3%. (Honda, Subaru, Nissan, and Volkswagen all increased their incentives in the fourth quarter, compared to 2019, but Subaru is by far the lowest in the industry and Honda’s incentives are still pretty low.)

With the gray print out of the way, let’s look at the sales races.

Pickups: #1 changes hands

Ford won, period, as always; they have the widest range of pickups and have been on top by a large margin for decades. Ford sold 787,422 pickups in 2020, down 12% from 2019, as well as 101,486 Rangers, up by 13%. That was a pretty good showing considering the intense competition between Ford, GM, FCA, and, in compact pickups, Toyota. The big question is “who was #2?” Ram has been outselling Chevrolet and FCA has been coming close to beating GM (we have to phrase it that way because every Chevy pickup has a pricier GMC version).

Dodge to Ram

Chevrolet sold a total of 594,094 full-size pickups and chassis cabs, well behind Ford; add in the Sierra, though, and suddenly GM turns out to be #1, selling 847,110 pickups—easily beating the Blue Oval. That‘s a bit of a surprise, until you see that Silverado and Sierra sales both went up instead of down. That seems to spell doom for Ram’s being the #2 brand, and it does: Ram, after falling by 11%, ended up with 563,676 full-size truck sales for the year. (Footnote: GM sold 96,238 Colorados and 25,190 Canyons, easily beating Ford’s 101,486 Rangers, when you add them up. Don’t call GM #1 yet, because Toyota sold 238,806 Tundras.

Muscle cars: pretty far apart

The Chevrolet Camaro essentially left the running, with its 38% sales drop to 29,775. That’s enough to beat all Alfa Romeos combined, but not enough to be a real player in muscle cars. The Corvette may have been partly at fault: the new mid-engined model brought sales up 20%, to 21,626. Still the muscle car arena is a Dodge/Ford fight, Challenger to Mustang.

The Dodge Challenger faired relatively well for the year, dropping 13% to 42,955 (consider that the 300 dropped by 43% and the Charger by 20%). That was still not nearly enough to beat the Mustang, which dropped by 16% to end up at 61,090 sales for the year. The three muscle cars ended up quite far apart in sales, despite Dodge’s power-based rebates and the dominance of the supercharged Hellcat. (We’re not counting the three Mustang-badged electric-crossover sales in 2020.)

Minivans

It was a bad sales year for minivans at FCA, especially in Canada. In the United States, Chrysler Pacifica/Voyager sales fell by just 4%, to 93,802; but the Dodge has usually outsold the Chrysler, and this year it bombed, falling by 68% to 38,767. Part of this is because the Grand Caravan actually ended production, but it’s most likely that the lack of fleet sales played a larger role. Reportedly, two thirds of Dodge minivan sales were going to fleets, and fleet sales in 2020 collapsed across automakers. There will still likely be leftover Dodge Grand Caravans being sold in 2021, but they will be inconsequential. Canadians, incidentally, can buy Voyagers with the Chrysler Grand Caravan name attached, at least for now; sales of these, so far, have been minimal, but that might just be because they weren’t available for long, and there may still be Dodge-type Caravans in showrooms.

As bad as it was for Dodge and Chrysler minivans, 2020 was devastating for Toyota’s Sienna, which fell by 42% to 42,885 sales, total. That means that while last place is safely Kia’s, next-to-last place goes to Dodge, and then Toyota. Competing for first are Chrysler and Honda.

Fortunately for Mopar fans, the Honda Odyssey lost 16% in sales, dropping to 83,409 for 2020. This means that the Chrysler Pacifica, despite failing to reach six figures, held onto first place by a comfortable margin—over ten thousand sales. Honda’s number was, though, double that of Dodge and nearly double that of Toyota. (Kia, in dead last place, only sold 13,190 minivans for the entire year.) The minivan market seems to be dying quite rapidly, though, and Chrysler’s rumored minivan-based crossover is still nowhere to be seen. Light a candle for the faithful Windsor auto workers.

Large cars

At one time, Chrysler dominated large cars with its L-series 300 and Charger. Do they still carry any weight?

Before we go on, let’s look at another class—midsize cars. Here, the Honda Accord (199,458) and Toyota Camry (294,348) dominate—okay, it’s mostly the Camry. Dodge’s number for the year is 77,425 and Chrysler’s is 16,653. Both are well below their normal ranges.

MSHS

The Toyota Avalon was roughly matched to the 300, with 18,421 sales—down 34% despite a redesign which improved the ride and handling (the Camry had the same redesign, and was down 13%). At GM, the old comparison for the large cars was the Impala, but after being discontinued, it limped in with 9,942 sales. The Malibu midsize is still around, and turned in 102,651 sales for the year, but that’s not a direct comparison to the Charger. Still, Charger didn’t do too badly in that comparison. The Buick LaCrosse is also dead, so that wouldn’t be a fair comparison for Chrysler, but it would be fun: they only sold 230 of them. As for any Cadillac, the most comparable would probably be the CT6, with 3,117 sales; but maybe it would be the CT5, with 14,711.

Ford doesn’t have a large car any more, but the Fusion sedan came in at 110,665 sales, down by 33%; again, the Charger doesn’t look too bad in comparison. Looking at Lincoln, the closest match to the 300 would be the MKZ, which had a respectable 22,742 sales—ahead of Chrysler but well behind Dodge.

For completeness, the Sonata had 76,997 sales. The days of the superselling sedan appear to be over pretty much anywhere but Toyota and maybe Honda.

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