Big Three Automakers Post Q1 Gains, Led by Truck and SUV Sales

Detroit’s General Motors Co., Dearborn’s Ford Motor Co., and FCA U.S. of Stellantis, which has its North American headquarters in Auburn Hills, reported increased sales for the first quarter of 2021.
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Ford Mustang Mach-E
Ford’s sales were bolstered by interest in its electric vehicle offerings, including the Mustang Mach-E. // Image courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Detroit’s General Motors Co., Dearborn’s Ford Motor Co., and FCA U.S. of Stellantis, which has its North American headquarters in Auburn Hills, reported increased sales for the first quarter of 2021.

GM announced it sold 642,250 vehicles in the U.S., with retail deliveries up 19 percent and fleet sales down 35 percent year-over-year. Total sales were up 4 percent.

GM estimates the U.S. retail seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) in the first quarter of 2021 was 14.6 million units, and the total U.S. light vehicle SAAR was 16.7 million units.

“Consumer confidence and spending will continue to increase due to stimulus, rising vaccination rates, and the progressive reopening of the economy,” says Elaine Buckberg, chief economist at GM. “Auto demand should remain strong throughout the year.”

In another sign of strong U.S. economic activity, sales to small businesses, which are included in retail sales, increased 27 percent in the first quarter. Gains were driven by full-size SUV sales (up 132 percent), Silverado medium-duty pickup sales (up 155 percent), and large vans (up 45 percent). The Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon also increased sales by a combined 58 percent.

Cadillac deliveries were up 43 percent. It delivered its best first-quarter average transaction price ever at $58,550. The all-new Escalade saw a 127 percent year-over-year increase in retail deliveries. Retail sales of Cadillac’s crossovers and all-new luxury sedans were strong, with the XT4 up 30 percent, the XT5 up 15 percent, the XT6 up 22 percent, and the CT5 up 60 percent.

Buick deliveries were up 43 percent, and the new Encore GX continues to be Buick’s best-selling nameplate. In January, Buick launched a redesigned 2021 Envision, and the Enclave increased deliveries by 38 percent. A new 2022 Enclave model is slated to go on sale later this year.

GMC deliveries were up 23 percent, with the GMC Sierra up 18 percent. Acadia was up 33 percent, Canyon was up 66 percent, Yukon was up 79 percent, and the Yukon XL was up 56 percent. This Saturday, GMC will reveal the GMC Hummer EV SUV.

Chevrolet deliveries were up 13 percent, with the Tahoe and Suburban up 104 percent and 63 percent, respectively. Bolt EV sales were up 60 percent and Traverse sales were up 39 percent, a first-quarter retail sales best for each. The Camaro was up 20 percent, the Malibu was up 46 percent, the Colorado was up 35 percent, the Silverado HD was up 11 percent, and the Corvette was up 73 percent.

Sales to commercial and government customers were down 15 percent, and rental sales were down 55 percent compared to a strong first quarter in 2020. Rental sales represented 6 percent of GM’s fleet sales.

GM estimates it gained commercial market share on the strength of truck deliveries, especially full-size Chevrolet and GMC SUVs (up 96 percent) and large vans (up 33 percent). Chevrolet Silverado medium-duty pickups were up 43 percent.

Ford sold 521,334 vehicles during the first quarter, a 1 percent increase in total sales and a 23.1 percent increase in retail sales from the previous year. Of these, 277,233 were truck sales, a 5.1 percent increase in total sales, 216,899 were SUVs, a 14.3 percent, and 27,202 were car sales, a 56.7 percent decrease in total sales and a 38.6 percent decrease in retail sales.

Electrified vehicles hit a new record sales start, increasing 74.1 percent led largely by the Mustang Mach-E and F-150 PowerBoost Hybrid to 25,980 vehicles sold. First quarter sales of the Mustang Mach-E totaled 6,614 vehicles, with days-to-turn of seven days.

“Ford’s retail sales exceeded 2020 and 2019 sales levels,” says Andrew Frick, vice president of sales for the U.S. and Canada for Ford. “Our customers are really embracing our new electrified vehicle lineup. The all-new fully electric Mustang Mach-E and the F-150 PowerBoost Hybrid lifted Ford’s overall electrified vehicle sales to a record start in the first quarter with sales up 74 percent over a year ago. Our all-new Bronco Sport posted record monthly sales in March and helped power Ford Brand SUVs to their best start in 20 years.”

Trucks reported their best retail start in 13 years, and SUVs posted best first quarter retail sales since 2001. F-150 PowerBoost Hybrid sales jumped 110 percent in March compared to February. The company sold 7,176 PowerBoost Hybrids in the first quarter, with 3,949 sold in March.

Ford’s retail sales were above 2020 and 2019 first-quarter results. Retail truck and SUVs were up 87,883 over a year ago, offsetting the retail loss of 13,688 from the discontinuation of cars. Combined retail trucks and SUV sales were up 30.8 percent, reflecting Ford’s best first-quarter performance since 2007.

F-Series had its best start in 15 years with retail sales up 24.5 percent, totaling 203,797 vehicles in the first quarter.

Ford SUV retail sales were up 37 percent, the company’s best start since 2001. It introduced the Bronco Sport and Mustang Mach-E, totaling a combined 29,970 vehicles sold, with March representing the strongest sales month to date. Combined retail sales of Bronco Sport and Mustang Mach-E are up 38.3 percent over February, while Escape retail sales were up 49.9 percent.

While Lincoln sales decreased 0.6 percent overall, the brand’s SUVs had their best retail sales start in 20 years. Navigator retail sales were up 26.6 percent, and Corsair’s sales increased 26.4 percent, a new first-quarter sales record.

F-650 and F-750 first quarter sales were up 111 percent over 2020. Commercial sales of Ranger were up 47 percent in the first quarter, while Ford also saw an increase in commercial sales of Super Duty, with a 5 percent increase over the first quarter of 2020.

FCA U.S. reported a 5 percent increase in first-quarter U.S. total sales. U.S. sales for the quarter were 469,651 vehicles, compared with 446,768 for the same period in 2020. Retail sales rose 25 percent year-over-year. Fleet commercial sales were up 24 percent compared with the first quarter of 2020, and fleet sales accounted for 19 percent of total sales for the quarter.

“In spite of what started out as a strong start last year, before COVID shocked us all, this quarter was a very strong rebound for retail sales year over year,” says Jeff Kommor, U.S. head of sales of FCA U.S.

The Jeep Wrangler posted its best-ever first-quarter retail sales, following the best-ever fourth-quarter sales in 2020. Total Wrangler sales rose 25 percent to 49,646 vehicles. Following its best-ever fourth-quarter sales in 2020, Gladiator posted its best-ever first quarter with total sales of 18,822 vehicles, a 23 percent increase over the same period last year. Gladiator also had its best month of retail and total sales in March since launch.

The 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 and 2021 Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid will arrive in dealerships soon. In the second quarter, the Grand Cherokee L will debut in dealership showrooms. The 2022 Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer will arrive in the large SUV segment as well.

Ram recorded its best-ever first-quarter sales, with a 28 percent increase. In March, the Ram brand also posted its best-ever monthly retail sales.

The Alfa Romeo brand posted a 25 percent gain in total sales compared to the same period last year, with sales of the Stelvio SUV increasing 34 percent and Giulia sedan by 17 percent.

Total first-quarter sales of the Chrysler brand increased 32 percent to 39,737 vehicles, led by the Chrysler Pacifica, which saw a sales increase of 57 percent from the first quarter of 2020.

Dodge Challenger and Charger sales increased 29 percent year-over-year. The new 2021 Dodge Durango SUV saw a 61 percent increase in first-quarter sales.

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