SUVs and Crossovers Saved 2017 for Automakers in the US

Yearly Auto Sales Off Slightly in 2017

Toyota saw USA sales drop 0.6 percent to 2.4 million, but the company highlighted strength in its popular Camry sedan, the RAV4 crossover and SUVs.

Research firm Autodata says 17.2 million vehicles were sold a year ago.

According to Autodata, 2017 full-year sales struck 17.23 million units, down nearly 2 percent from an all-time US record of 17.55 million units in 2016.

Fiat Chrysler's sales fell 8%.

"The numbers point to further decline", said Fleming, who is projecting vehicle sales to fall to 16.7 million this year. Ford said its F-Series was Canada's best-selling vehicle for the eighth year in a row, with sales of 155,290 units.

Toyota Motor North America reported December sales dropped 8.3% from December 2016 on a volume basis.

"December capped off a record year for Ford brand SUVs, making it eight consecutive years of Ford brand sales leadership". The company also set a new annual sales record of 226,511 vehicles, a jump of 7.8% compared with all of 2016.

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Automakers had been bracing for the sales gains to come to an end for the last couple of years, but that was averted in 2016 in part by heavy incentives implemented late in the year to unload excess inventory. The newer models are more durable so drivers are holding on to their cars longer.

Some automakers did not manage to post annual sales increases, including FCA, Hyundai and smart.

Ford's sales in the U.S. past year fell 1.1% to 2.6 million compared with 2016, but it reports a surprise increase last month, fuelled in part by the continued success of the F-Series pickups and other large vehicles. But most other automakers saw declines.

GM also published its December sales figures Wednesday, which showed total sales were 2% up on the same month in 2016. Fiat Chrysler's sales fell 11 percent, while Toyota's sales dropped 8 percent and Nissan's sales were down 9.5 percent. One reason is the trend of moving into SUVs and trucks continues. SUV sales fell 12% year over year in December.

Ford says, even with bitter temperatures and snow, it saw strong sales in the last 10 days of December.

Volkswagen of America Inc. reported an 18.7% drop in sales in December, in spite of strong SUV results mentioned earlier. Low unemployment and rising consumer confidence are expected to boost demand this year.

"Average transaction prices closed the year on a strong note, rising almost 2% in December 2017 to set a record high", said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

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