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Ram does well, FCA US not so much

by David Zatz on

As auto sales start their predicted decline, FCA US felt the effects—except at Ram, where the combination of a class-leading Ram 1500 and a competitive, inexpensive Ram 1500 Classic were attractive to buyers, bringing a 9% pickup-and-chassis-cab gain over last March. Ram vans also did very well; the brand as a whole gained 15%, with 51,822 sales for March. That was well over a quarter of FCA US’ total March sales (200,307).

Jeep had a rough month, with the new Compass dropping 14%, the new-ish Wrangler falling 21%, the Cherokee falling by 23%, and the Renegade falling, again, by 24%. It looks as though the Renegade is having a much harder time with the similar Compass providing a nicer interior and option-set, for just a little more money.

The only gainer at Jeep was, fortunately for FCA, one of the biggest profit centers: the Grand Cherokee, which jumped up 26% to become Jeep’s biggest seller for the month and, indeed, for the year so far.  Jeep remains FCA US’ best seller, with 87,328 sales for the month—that’s the same as Dodge, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, and Chrysler combined, and 25,000 Rams for good measure.  Jeep is down 7% year to date, 11% for March.

Over at Ram, the 9% gain in pickups was accompanied by a doubling of ProMaster van sales and a 52% gain in ProMaster City sales. Ram came in at #2 for FCA, with 51,822 sales. Ram is up 21% year to date.

Dodge continues to contract, 6% down for March and year-to-date alike, but sales were still a decent 47,367 (across five models, six if you count two Dart sales). The leader is the Caravan, which fell just 3% for the month (18%) year to date, despite being its anniversary (with a new book detailing its development).  There were some gains, with Chargers inching up 4% and the profitable Durango surging by 13%; Challenger sales fell 19%, continuing a trend, and Journey sales reversed themselves to fall by 17% (they are still up by 30% , year-to-date).

Over at the Fiat brands, things were looking very grim indeed. Alfa Romeo more than doubled Fiat brand sales, but they still only sold 1,774 cars, plummeting 31% from March 2018. They moved just 898 Stelvio crossovers and 858 Giulias. For the year, Alfa is down by 26%. The brand is planning something for the New York Auto Show later this month to try to turn things around.

Fiat is doing far worse; despite major improvements to their cars, sales plummeted by 45%, from 1,544 to 847. The 500 remains the best seller, with 310 sales all told; the 500X had 262, and the Fiat 124 Spider managed to come in third, with 214 sales. The L, despite a refresh, barely moved at all, with 61 cars trading hands. The sales drop has been biggest for the L and X, though those are the crossovers and should be gaining; the 500 got off relatively easy with a 29% drop.

All told, FCA US fell by 7% from March 2018. Toyota also saw sales fall, though not as much, with a 5% drop at Toyota countered by an 8% gain at Lexus; their net was a drop of 3.5%, with sales moving from cars to light trucks. Nissan dropped by 7% overall. Honda managed to gain by 4%, at both Honda and Acura.  The still-mighty General Motors saw sales drop by 7% for the first quarter as a whole; no GM brand gained, and SUVs, crossovers, and pickups were over 80% of their sales.  Ford had yet to report when this was written.

Analysts blamed rising interest rates (though they have started falling again), reduced incentives for new cars, and rising prices for new cars. However, some economists have been predicting a recession in various news media, which may be preventing some buyers from re-upping; as cars have become more reliable over time, many customers have kept their older cars rather than trading in.


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