Detroit’s Passenger Car Sales Are Falling Way Faster Than the Overall U.S. Auto Industry’s

Across the U.S. auto industry, there are a number of auto brands that are actually selling more passenger cars in 2017 than in 2016: Jaguar, Lincoln, Infiniti, Subaru, Volkswagen.

Some specific models, many with all-wheel-drive availability like the Audi A5, Subaru Impreza, and Volkswagen Golf, are enjoying far greater sales success this year than last.

But you know the story. Generally speaking, Americans are buying far fewer cars now than they used to. From more than 50 percent just five years ago, passenger car market share is down to 37 percent. Nowhere is this more obvious than at traditional domestic manufacturers, the Detroit Three.

While the U.S. auto industry has reported a drop of 3 percent compared with 2016’s record sales pace, passenger car sales have fallen four times faster than that. But the domestic drop is far more severe than the decline faced by import marques.

Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, and Lincoln combined to lose 19 percent of their car sales volume so far this year. All other brands were down “just” 9 percent. As a result, these traditional Detroit brands saw their share of the U.S. passenger car market fall from 36 percent in 2016’s first eight months to 25 percent in the first eight months of 2017, a massive decline over the span of just one year.After discovering that foreign automakers will likely build more vehicles than the Detroit Three in America this year, we wanted to take a look at the root cause of the downturn at General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

It’s certainly not pickup trucks.

It’s cars.

GM, Ford, and FCA are ending shifts at car plants, laying off workers, and discontinuing models all because America’s consumers are turning away from Detroit-branded cars far faster than they’re turning away from cars in general. The brands are attempting to gradually wean themselves off fleet-reliance, as well.

There are a handful of notable exceptions to the general theme of decline, but in many of those cases, there’s a simple explanation. Chevrolet Cruze sales, for instance, are up 9 percent this year. But that’s only after an awful 2016 — compared with 2015, Cruze volume is down 18 percent this year. The Cadillac CT6’s 77-percent jump is simply a quirk of a 2016 calendar that didn’t provide any meaningful CT6 totals until May. Over the last four months, CT6 sales are up 1 percent. Big increases from the Chevrolet SS and Dodge Viper come as dealers clear out remaining models.

For the most part, Detroit’s cars are fading. And fast.

Rank
Car
2017 8 Months
2016 8 Months
%
Change

#1
Ford Fusion
138,489
189,892
-27.1%

#2
Chevrolet Cruze
133,966
122,796
9.1%

#3
Chevrolet Malibu
117,173
148,868
-21.3%

#4
Ford Focus
112,076
128,889
-13.0%

#5
Dodge Charger
58,148
62,214
-6.5%

#6
Ford Mustang
56,349
80,829
-30.3%

#7
Dodge Challenger
47,496
45,443
4.5%

#8
Chevrolet Camaro
46,297
47,958
-3.5%

#9
Chevrolet Impala
43,796
67,119
-34.7%

#10
Chrysler 300
35,436
38,581
-8.2%

#11
Ford Fiesta
32,409
34,577
-6.3%

#12
Ford Taurus
29,472
30,869
-4.5%

#13
Chevrolet Sonic
22,691
37,258
-39.1%

#14
Lincoln MKZ
18,901
20,415
-7.4%

#15
Chevrolet Corvette
17,385
19,890
-12.6%

#16
Chrysler 200
16,562
45,774
-63.8%

#17
Buick LaCrosse
14,534
17,920
-18.9%

#18
Chevrolet Volt
13,895
14,295
-2.8%

#19
Ford C-Max
12,348
13,721
-10.0%

#20
Chevrolet Spark
11,827
25,458
-53.5%

#21
Chevrolet Bolt
11,670

#22
Cadillac XTS
9,623
12,977
-25.8%

#23
Dodge Dart
9,385
34,670
-72.9%

#24
Cadillac ATS
8,998
14,360
-37.3%

#25
Buick Regal
8,288
13,765
-39.8%

#26
Lincoln Continental
8,020

#27
Cadillac CT6
7,143
4,048
76.5%

#28
Cadillac CTS
7,045
10,645
-33.8%

#29
Buick Cascada
4,241
5,326
-20.4%

#30
Buick Verano
3,951
21,439
-81.6%

#31
Chevrolet SS
2,810
2,148
30.8%

#32
Dodge Viper
517
409
26.4%

#33
Chevrolet Caprice PPV
393
552
-28.8%

#34
Lincoln MKS
153
4,083
-96.3%

#35
Ford GT
42

#36
Cadillac ELR
17
517
-96.7%

#37
Dodge Avenger
11
42
-73.8%

General Motors
485,743
587,339
-17.3%

 
Ford Motor Company
408,259
503,275
-18.9%

 
Chrysler/Dodge
167,555
227,133
-26.2%

 
Total
1,061,557
1,317,747
-19.4%

[Images: Ford, General Motors]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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