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March sales from a Chrysler perspective

by Bill Cawthon on

Chrysler had another good month and Chrysler fans have a lot to feel good about. March is the 24th consecutive month Chrysler has beaten its numbers. That’s two years of continuous improvements. Chrysler and Dodge had their best March sales since 2008 and Jeep’s March was its best since 2007.

March market share came in at 11.6 percent; a year ago it was 9.8 percent. For the first quarter of 2012, share is at 11.5 percent, more than two points ahead of the 9.4 percent from the first three months of 2011.

Automotive News published a list of the five brands with the largest improvements in March and first-quarter sales and the five brands with the biggest deficits. Of the five winners, three were Chrysler Group brands.

AUTOMOTIVE NEWS WINNERS & LOSERS
Winners March Winners Q1
1 Fiat 642% 1 Fiat 1670%
2 Smart 135% 2 Chrysler Division 85%
3 Chrysler Division 70% 3 Smart 79%
4 Jaguar 51% 4 Volkswagen division 41%
5 Jeep 36% 5 Jeep 35%
Losers March Losers Q1
1 Buick -16% 1 Cadillac -24%
2 Cadillac -13% 2 Mitsubishi -18%
3 Acura -12% 3 Buick -17%
4 Infiniti -10% 4 Infiniti -6%
5 Mitsubishi -5% 5 Suzuki -2%

Source: Automotive News

The Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country are now No. 1 and No. 2 in the minivan market, both in monthly and year-to-date (YTD) sales. The Honda Odyssey is breathing down the T&C’s neck, but the Dodge has a comfortable lead.

While crossovers, SUVs and pickups certainly did their job, the big story for Chrysler was cars. Passenger cars claimed 31.5 percent of sales, the biggest piece of the pie they have grabbed in at least 15 months (I went back only so far as January 2011). Last year, the car percentage was 27.6 and even that is fairly high for Chrysler on a historical basis.

The second-best-selling Chrysler vehicle was the Chrysler 200 sedan, which soared into the top ten percent of all light vehicles based on March sales volume. The 200 outsold every other upscale car, domestic or foreign. Among passenger cars, the 200 came in at No. 17 for March and No. 20 for the first quarter. That’s 20th out of 152 passenger car models with reported sales in the first three months of this year.

The 300 almost matched the 200: it was outsold by the BMW 3-Series but it beat every car from GM that wasn’t wearing a bow tie and more than doubled the sales of the hottest Lincoln.

The Dodge Avenger got a big lift, too. Up 57.2 percent for March and 84.1 percent for Q1. Charger sales weren’t up that much on a month-over-month basis, but they were 1.5 times higher than the first quarter of 2011.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is now almost 4,000 sales in front of the Ford Explorer for the first quarter and also outsold it in in March. The Grand Cherokee remains the best-selling true SUV on the market. Only a handful of compact crossovers outsell the Grand Cherokee. The Wrangler remains far and away the best-selling body-on-frame SUV.

Nine Chrysler Group vehicles were in the top 20 percent of all light vehicles. Only six missed the cut, not counting the discontinued Caliber, Nitro and Dakota. Even the Fiat 500 was in the top 40 percent as it again happily outsold the Toyota Yaris and every single Scion model.

CHRYSLER GROUP VEHICLE RANKINGS – MARCH 2012
March 2012 Sales First Quarter 2012 Sales
Rank Brand & Model Mar-12 Rank Brand & Model YTD 2012
11 Ram Pickup 26,960 8 Ram Pickup 67,464
25 Chrysler 200 14,914 23 Jeep Grand Cherokee 37,503
26 Jeep Grand Cherokee 14,096 27 Dodge Grand Caravan 34,462
30 Dodge Grand Caravan 13,700 34 Chrysler 200 31,638
34 Jeep Wrangler 12,557 35 Jeep Wrangler 29,772
36 Chrysler Town & Country 12,476 37 Chrysler Town & Country 27,734
47 Dodge Charger 9,644 47 Dodge Charger 22,505
48 Dodge Avenger 9,362 51 Jeep Liberty 21,799
57 Dodge Journey 7,659 53 Dodge Avenger 21,629
58 Jeep Liberty 7,605 56 Chrysler 300 19,966
59 Chrysler 300 7,336 59 Dodge Journey 18,133
64 Jeep Patriot 6,879 66 Jeep Patriot 15,965
78 Dodge Durango 4,590 85 Dodge Durango 11,046
83 Dodge Challenger 4,304 88 Dodge Challenger 10,524
91 Jeep Compass 3,987 98 Jeep Compass 9,107
94 Fiat 500 3,712 101 Fiat 500 8,850
128 Dodge Caliber (Disc.) 2,242 129 Dodge Caliber (Disc.) 5,238
205 Dodge Nitro (Disc.) 575 172 Dodge Nitro (Disc.) 2,665
246 Ram Dakota (Disc.) 82 237 Ram Dakota (Disc.) 376

Source: Manufacturers’ reported sales for March and CYTD 2012.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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