GM deposed from #1 spot; early sales releases set stage for possible Chrysler US sales drop

GM’s massive 43% drop in sales caused the company to lose its position as the best selling automaker in America—for the first time in 90 years.

While Hyundai/Kia ended the year with a sales record in the United States, reaching sales of 701,416 cars across the company’s three brands (Genesis is the third), the Korean giant had lower-than-2020 sales in the past five months due to the global production squeeze.

GM’s sales plunged by 43% in the fourth quarter; Toyota dropped as well. For the full year, Hyundai rose by 22% and Tesla rose by 66%, both over a 2021 marked by COVID drops. Toyota’s best selling vehicle was the RAV4, with 407,739 sales.

By most accounts, American automakers have been harder hit by parts shortages than Asian or European companies. Some in the industry blame procurement staff, while others point to poor relationships with suppliers. Toyota managed to keep cars in stock longer than most, partly because procurement staff worked to get long-range supplies lined up when COVID first started shutting down chip foundries and other parts sources. Toyota was hurt as well, though.

Brampton plant

Another strategy for keeping production going was producing vehicles with the idea of adding the missing parts when the time came—Ford made absurd numbers of F-series pickups this way and stored them outdoors, leading some conspiracy theorists to believe the government was withholding vehicles from them; Chrysler and other companies also kept production of some vehicles going with the idea of adding missing parts when they were available, though it seems they did this to a lesser extent.

Finally, automakers changed up the options on some cars, going back to analog gauge clusters or restricting once-standard options and giving buyers credits.

Overall, car dealers have managed to benefit greatly from the shortage, typically adding $2,000 to $5,000 to the price of each car they sell, regardless of its usual cost, and not negotiating—compared with selling well below list price on most cars. It seems likely that most dealers will have made far greater profits selling fewer cars during a shortage, than they have selling more cars during boom times when everyone is well supplied. The automakers have been able to slash incentives, but are likely not cashing in quite as much, and if they are making more profit per car, it may well end up as a wash against having idle factories and fewer sales.

UPDATE: FCA US has posted 2021 sales. 

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