Top 10 Best-Selling Cars: February 2015

Building on a strong January, February new-car sales increased 5.3 percent, compared to a year ago. Though difficult weather conditions maintained throughout much of the country, which put a small damper on overall sales, consumers braved the winter cold to buy up new vehicles in record numbers. Bolstered by consistently low gas prices and positive home construction trends, truck sales rose steadily across the board, with the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado and Ram Pickup claiming three of the top five slots in this month’s list of best sellers.

February closed with more than 1.2 million new-vehicles sold and a SAAR of 16.24 million. Though the month was tempered by inclement weather, the industry is well on track for a sixth consecutive year of new-car sales growth.

See below for a complete list of February’s top-selling vehicles. For a full breakdown of last month’s best-selling vehicles, visit the Cars.com KickingTires blog.

February new-car sales

Insight of the Week: Millennials Outrank General Population in Car Buying Intent

Stat of the week FB millennial buying 12 month

With innovations like ride sharing apps and short-term rental programs, many dealers have concerns about the future of car ownership, particularly among millennials. But while young consumers have new transportation options, the reality is that most still need (and want) to own a vehicle. In 2014, the 18-34 age group accounted for 26 percent of all new-vehicle sales, making it the second largest cohort of car buyers behind baby boomers.

Related: First Time Buyers: Why Millennials Will Need a Car (via KickingTires)

This new sect of young shoppers will only continue to grow, and it’s great news for retailers. According to a 2015 Harris Survey, 35 percent of millennials expect to be “in-market” for a new or used vehicle within the next 12 months, which far exceeds the national average of 25% of all consumers. With this in mind, retailers would be wise to put a renewed focus on millennial-heavy marketing channels, particularly digital and mobile. By doing so, there’s a huge opportunity to win-over young shoppers and positively impact your dealership’s bottom line.

For more insights, download our millennial shopper profile.

Top 10 Best-Selling Cars: January 2015

Making for a roaring start to 2015, January new-car sales closed the month up 14.8 percent, with the largest seven automakers reporting figures. Demand for pickup trucks, SUVs and small cars drove sales nationwide, with the Ford F-Series retaining its top stop as the leader in total monthly sales.

Cold temperatures across much of the United Sates did little to hinder eager-to-buy shoppers, particularly in comparison to the bitter winter of 2014; however, even with an increased volume of sales, average transaction prices remained largely flat compared to this time last year.

At a make/model-level, the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado and Ram Pickup were the top three sellers in January nationwide, all posting double-digit gains. And with a January SAAR of 16.7 million units and healthy growth for nearly every manufacturer, signs point to another very positive year for franchise dealerships.

See below for a complete list of January’s top-selling vehicles. For a full breakdown of last month’s new-car sales, visit the Cars.com KickingTires blog.

Cars.com KickingTires, Car Dealer

Top 10 Best-Selling Cars: December 2014

Closing out a robust year of new-car sales, full-size pickups, SUVs and crossovers helped drive the market to reach more 16.5 million units for the year, up nearly 6% from 2013. The average transaction price in December was $31,550, making last month the highest ATP of 2014. A positive for both dealerships and manufacturers, all signs indicate that consumers will be out in force and willing to spend as we head into the new year.

At a vehicle level, domestic automakers led the way in December, with the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and Ram Pickup coming in as the top three sellers nationwide. Even with limited supply of the newly redesigned 2015 F-150, total full-size pickup sales rose 16.8% for the month. The Honda CR-V took the fourth spot in December, followed by a host of popular sedans, including the Nissan Altima and Toyota Corolla, both of which posted impressive 30% month-over-month gains.

Related: December’s Fastest- and Slowest-Selling Cars

At just $2.23 per gallon, on average, consistently low gas prices – down more than a dollar from a year ago – and new-home construction trends suggest that full-size pickup and SUV sales will continue to nudge forward in 2015.

Here are the top 10 best-selling cars in December. For a complete breakdown on this month’s best-selling vehicles and sales trends, visit the Cars.com KickingTires blog.

best selling list

 

Getting to Know The "New-Car" Shopper

Cars.com new-car shopper audience, dealer marketing, automotive marketing

Cars.com knows new-car shoppers. With new-car sales expected to surpass 16.5 million units this year, up from an early forecast of 16.3 million units, demand for new vehicles is growing by the day. Searches on Cars.com are also up nearly 30% year-over-year, a result of an increasing number of consumers using online tools to compare vehicle options, read reviews and learn about dealerships to ensure they’re buying the car that’s best for them.

For franchise dealerships, targeting this special group of shoppers effectively is essential. But with nearby competitors carrying similar inventory, differentiating your dealership and attracting customers can be an arduous task.

Keep these three new-car traits in mind when tailoring your marketing strategy to reach and influence this audience.

Digital Decision Makers

Nearly every new-car shopper turns to the internet before they buy. According to a recent report from C+R Research, 95% of new-car shoppers research their vehicle purchase online. Moreover, related studies show this same set of shoppers spends an average of 14 hours online before purchase.

With such a significant amount of time spent online, dealers and manufacturers would be wise to adjust their marketing efforts to focus first on the digital platforms most commonly used by new-car shoppers.

Options Galore

100, 500, 1,000, maybe more – how many different make and model combinations do new-car shoppers have to choose from?

The number of new-vehicle models offered to consumers has exploded in recent years. Automakers have become highly targeted in regard to the types of vehicles they produce, leaving dealerships to explain nuances in a seemingly endless list of trim packages and options, even to well-informed shoppers.

Though inventory diversity is a major reason the new-car market has been strong this year, for your dealership to capitalize, you’ve got to make online merchandising and in-store sales education a fundamental part of business. On your dealership website and third-party research sites like Cars.com, treat new-car merchandising the same as used-inventory merchandising and showcase each vehicle with stellar photos, descriptive sales copy and transparent pricing information.

Cross-platform Process

An astounding 80% of all car shoppers report using a smartphone during their buying process, and new-car shoppers are no different.

On Cars.com, nearly 60% of new-car searches are done from a mobile device, highlighting the important connection between desktop and mobile research. By establishing a consistent mobile marketing strategy and being flexible when consumers use smartphones and tablets to “showroom” while on your dealership lot, you can build trust by shopping with consumers, rather than against competitors.

For more, check out our audience profiles below, and stay tuned for next week’s overview of The “Mobile” Car Shopper.

Shopper Profiles

The “New-Car” Shopper

The “Mobile” Shopper

The “CPO” Shopper

The “Luxury” Shopper

The “Millennial” Shopper

[Infographic] Most-Searched Vehicles on Cars.com by City and State

Cars.com most-searched vehicles by city and state

F-150 Dominates the Heartland; Mustang, Grand Cherokee Share Major Metros

With new-car sales forecasted to reach 16.5 million units by year’s end, car shoppers from coast to coast are going online to research new models in record numbers. But while demand for new-vehicles is up across the board, interest in specific makes and models varies greatly by region.

In an analysis of shopper activity on Cars.com, the Ford F-150 proved to be the most-searched new-vehicle in 30 of the 50 states, accounting for the majority of interior states. However, several locales proved to be as diverse as their populations, with the Ford Mustang and Jeep Grand Cherokee splitting favor among residents from major metropolitan areas.

Approximately 11% of the U.S. population is in-market to purchase a vehicle at any time, with the majority visiting research sites like Cars.com before they buy.

“Just like every car shopper is different, every city and state has its own unique new-car market,” said Kelsey Mays, consumer affairs editor at Cars.com. “A resurgent economy and lower fuel prices have propelled light truck sales across the board, hence the popularity of the F-150. But in warmer, less-industrial and cosmopolitan areas, shoppers still naturally gravitate toward vehicles that best fit their day-to-day lives.”

Screenshot at Dec 12 09-37-23

The charts and graphics above indicate the most-searched new-vehicles by make and model in each respective city and state based on Cars.com site activity in Q3, 2014.

Insight of the week: CPO buyers outrank used-car buyers in brand loyalty

31 cpo

Previous experience with a manufacturer’s brand is one of best indicators of future purchase. If a consumer enjoys his or her vehicle, has a consistent, positive experience with the dealership and is unencumbered by the strain of constant vehicle maintenance, there’s a strong chance the individual will become a repeat customer. And though customer retention has historically been a focus for new-car sales, Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles (CPO) offer many of the same value-adds – long-term warranties, scheduled maintenance, a like-new feel.

A 2012 study from Experian Solutions shows that 31% of CPO vehicle owners repurchased the same vehicle brand for a subsequent purchase, a loyalty rate nearly 1/3 higher than general used-car purchases. Dealerships that take full advantage of their manufacturer’s CPO programs may have greater success building and retaining their own customer base, and stand to influence shoppers beyond just the new-car front.

Satisfied customers? Encourage them to share their happy #newcarface with Cars.com

Handing over the keys and watching a customer take ownership of their new car is a special feeling – the excitement about the road ahead, the classic “new car smell,” the resolution after what’s often days and weeks of research and shopping. Once the deal is done, it’s only natural for them to want to share news about their great car buying experience with friends and family.

To help highlight this unique moment, Cars.com is asking car buyers to share their best #newcarface photo on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for a chance to win up to $25,000 towards their car loan payment. All recent car buyers have a chance to win – possibly even one of your own customers – so be sure to work with your sales team to spread the word before every sold vehicle rolls off the lot.

How your dealership can get involved

  • Encourage each of your customers to post a photo with their newly-purchased vehicle to the Cars.com Facebook wall using the #newcarface hashtag (required for entry). While you’re at it, ask your customer to tag your dealership so everyone knows where they bought their new ride (optional). Consumers can also participate by posting a photo of themselves and their new vehicle using the #newcarface hashtag and mentioning @carsdotcom on Twitter and Instagram.
  • When a #newcarface photo is posted on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram that tags your dealership by name, find the post and share it with your fans and followers so everyone can see how happy your new customers are.

#newcarface

“What’s in it for my dealership?

We’ll be selecting one dealership each month to be our #newcarface featured store, highlighting the dealership – and its satisfied customers – on a national level with a status update from the official Cars.com Facebook page.

#newcarface

Things to remember

  • The #newcarface contest is open to legal US residents (excluding MD, NJ and TN), 18+ who hold (or whose immediate family member holds) a qualifying vehicle loan or lease
  • Vehicles must be purchased or leased no earlier than 1/1/12 to be eligible
  • All #newcarface photos must be posted directly from your customers’ social profiles to be eligible, not from your dealership’s own social handles
  • It takes two stars to make a #newcarface. Remind your customers that both they AND their car need to be in the photo they post

[iframe width=”640″ height=”360″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/IenlU5uvEMI?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe]

Questions? Visit newcarface.com for official rules or drop us a line at dealeradvantage@cars.com.

Historic Auto Recalls Show Little to No Impact on Unit Sales, Market Share

Despite significant international media attention, and more than 30 recalls covering nearly 14 million vehicles in the United States, the severity of General Motors’ current recall remains to be seen. However, according to Cars.com chief analyst Jesse Toprak, the long-term impact on unit sales and market share will be minor if GM’s ongoing recall follows historical patterns.

“We’ve learned from other major recalls throughout history that in the majority of cases, unit sales and market share are barely affected,” said Toprak. “The numbers tell us that consumers seem to care very little about automotive recalls and that automakers are able to bounce back fairly quickly.”

In 1995, Honda recalled 3.7 million vehicles for a faulty seatbelt buckle. One year following news of the recall, unit sales for the manufacturer were up 6.2 percent and by the second year, sales were up 18.4 percent. A year later, Ford recalled 7.9 million vehicles due to a faulty ignition switch. In 1997, one year following news of the recall, unit sales dropped a mere 0.7 percent, and by 1998 sales were back up 1.4 percent.

The largest recall in automotive history was from Ford in 2009. The manufacturer recalled more than 14 million vehicles due to faulty cruise-control switches that were a possible fire hazard. Despite the volume of vehicles recalled and significant media coverage, the automaker posted a 19.5 percent increase in unit sales in 2010 and a 32.6 percent increase in 2011.

Recalls unit sales“We’ve determined that most automakers recover to pre-recall unit sales numbers by the second year following news of the recall,” said Toprak. “Though counterintuitive, consumers tend not to punish brands for faulty vehicles.  In fact, manufacturers and dealers have an opportunity to capitalize on such events: At no other time do dealers see such an influx of customers coming through the door to get their vehicles serviced. Not only is there an opportunity to reestablish relationships with service customers, but the captive audience can often be converted into a new vehicle sale. Manufacturers and dealers also become more proactive with incentives and special offers during recalls, and they’re willing to pay a price to keep numbers up and move inventory. Additionally, manufacturers get smart about advertising dollars during recalls, holding funds at the height of the recall to be able to make a big impact at just the right time.”

One of the most controversial recalls of our time, and arguably the most comparable to GM’s current situation, was the Toyota recall of 2010. It affected approximately 7 million vehicles and Toyota experienced a slight dip in unit sales in 2011 (-6.7%). However, the trend of recovery continued to play out – Toyota posted an increase in unit sales of 18.1 percent by 2012.

Impact on unit sales and market share for the top five largest recalls over the past 20 years:

 

Recalls market share

 

Honda

Year: 1995 | Defect: Faulty seatbelt buckle | Units affected: ~3.7 million

Unit Sales Percent Change
1st Year Change 2nd Year Change
6.2% 18.4%

 

Market Share Percent Change
1st Year Change 2nd Year Change
0.2% 0.8%

 

Ford

Year: 1996 | Defect: Faulty ignition switch | Units affected: ~7.9 million

Unit Sales Percent Change
1st Year Change 2nd Year Change
-0.7% 1.4%

 

Market Share Percent Change
1st Year Change 2nd Year Change
-0.2% -0.4%

 

General Motors

Year: 2004 | Defect: Tailgate cable failure | Units affected: ~3.6 million

Unit Sales Percent Change
1st Year Change 2nd Year Change
-3.8% -12.2%

 

Market Share Percent Change
1st Year Change 2nd Year Change
-1.1% -2.8%

 

Ford

Year: 2009 | Defect: Cruise-control switch | Units affected: More than 14 million

Unit Sales Percent Change
1st Year Change 2nd Year Change
19.5% 32.6%

 

Market Share Percent Change
1st Year Change 2nd Year Change
1.2% 1.3%

 

Toyota

Year: 2010 | Defect: Unintended acceleration | Units affected: ~7 million

Unit Sales Percent Change
1st Year Change 2nd Year Change
-6.7% 18.1%

 

Market Share Percent Change
1st Year Change 2nd Year Change
-2.3% -0.8%

*Historic recall data from the Center for Auto Safety

2014 Nissan Altima Named "Most Affordable" Midsize Sedan

This week, Cars.com’s Editors named the 2014 Nissan Altima their pick for the “most affordable” midsize sedan, a real-world affordability ranking that combines the initial vehicle price with projected fuel costs. Moving up from the number two spot last year, the Altima is joined by the Hyundai Sonata GLS, Toyota Camry LE and Kia Optima LX as top value vehicles.

“The Altima is a strong choice for budget conscious midsize sedan shoppers. Beyond being a good deal, the Altima gets great gas mileage of 38 mpg and received very good crash test results” said Joe Wiesenfelder, Cars.com’s Executive Editor. “That said, there are many other great midsize sedans for shoppers to consider as well. This list helps shoppers understand which options will give them the most bang for their buck throughout the entire ownership of their car.”

View the full story on Cars.com’s KickingTires blog here.

Cars.com midsize sedan