Dealership Experience

10 takeaways from the last 10 years of U.S. auto sales

Ford trucks reigned supreme over the last decade.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

For decades, Kelley Blue Book has been studying auto sales trends and reporting on those findings. To mark the close of the decade, 2010-2020, KBB looked back at the numbers for the last 10 years and found some surprising things.

The single best sales month was December 2016.

Nico Rosberg 2016 F1 Champtionship

Photo by Getty Images

There was a lot going on in 2016, not the least exciting of which was Nico Rosberg wining the F1 Championship. Automakers sold more vehicles in 2016 than they did at any other point during the decade. The December 2016 sales capped off a record year. Here's the top five months over the decade by volume:

  • December 2016: 1,683,408
  • March 2018: 1,648,222
  • May 2015: 1,634,833
  • December 2015: 1,634,329
  • August 2019: 1,632,287

Subaru might have had the best decade of everyone.

2020 Subaru Outback

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America, Inc.

Sure, Ford sold a lot of trucks and Nissan saw tremendous early-decade growth in its SUV lineup, but Subaru is the real winner. In 2010, Subaru sold 263,000 vehicles in the U.S. By the end of the decade, in 2019, they sold 700,000. They probably would have sold more but they scaled back production to launch two new vehicles at the end of the decade.

Most forecasts were wrong about December 2019, but that doesn't mean it was a great month.

2020 Ram 1500

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

Analysts forecasted weak sales for the last month of 2019 but the market surprised them delivering a strong result. However, December 2019 was only the 26th best-selling month of the decade according to KBB, which measured 1,506,401 units sold. See the best-selling trucks of 2019 here.

Volvo's best month was the last month of the decade.

2019 Volvo XC60

Photo courtesy of Volvo Car Corporation

Volvo left the decade with the best month it has had in 10 years. The company sold 12,360 units. However, Volvo had higher sales in the months prior to the Great Recession.

Ford delivered the highest monthly sales total of all automakers in the last 10 years.

2019 Ford Focus

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

While some may bemoan the Blue Oval's current state of automotive affairs, they had a really great month five and a half years ago. In May 2014, Ford sold 244,501 vehicles, roughly 15.5% of the entire industry's sales for the month. In that single month, Ford sold more vehicles than Smart did in the entire decade. See the best-selling new cars of 2019 here.

Buyers are spending more on their cars than ever before.

2020 Toyota Highlander

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

According to KBB, "At the end of 2011, the average transaction price (ATP) for a new vehicle in the U.S. was near $30,000. In February 2015, ATP for the month was above $33,000 for the first time ($33,056). It broke through $35,000 in June of 2017, and passed $37,000 later that year, in December when transaction prices commonly peak due to the high volume of luxury vehicle sales. Transaction prices were above $38,000 through the final three months of 2019. The Kelley Blue Book ATP in December 2019 was $38,767 – the highest point in the past decade."

See the best-selling new SUVs of 2019 here.

Tesla came to play.

2019 Tesla Model3

Photo courtesy of Tesla

In 2010 and 2011, Tesla wasn't really on anyone's radar and now it's a household name. KBB estimates that Tesla sold 12 vehicles in June 2012. They reached 10,000 in sales per month in March 2018 and hit peak monthly sales in December 2018 when 32,600 vehicles were sold.

High-performance cars were costliest in January 2019.

2020 Ferrari Roma

Photo courtesy of Ferrari N.V.

Everyone seems to drive a Toyota RAV4 or a Honda Civic. For the select few wealthy enough to enjoy the fruits of the Acura NSX, Ford GT, and anything with a horse logo on it, this decade was kind for options but expensive. KBB says that in January 2019, the ATP for the segment peaked for the decade at $121,739.

With the Trump Tax Cuts came more fleet sales.

2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

According to KBB, "Six of the Top 10 best months for fleet sales in the past decade occurred after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. In May 2019, an estimated 425,000 vehicles were sold to fleet buyers, a record 27 percent of total U.S. sales. Fleet, it's worth noting, generally accounts for 20% of sales in a given month."

There was never a time in the last 10 years that the Ford F-Series was not the best-selling vehicle in the U.S.

2020 Ford Super Duty

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ten straight years of month-to-month dominance. Muhammed Ali wasn't even that good. Ford has sold 7,578,608 F-Series pickups in the last decade - one every 41 seconds. The best month for the F-Series was December 2017 where, in a single month, the company sold 89,385 F-Series trucks.

Volvo, like other automakers, crash test their vehicles ahead of them making their way to dealership lots.

Photo courtesy of Volvo Car Corporation

Each year, an estimated 1.35 million people lose their lives in traffic accidents. Research by the World Health Organization shows that the risk of dying as part of a traffic incident is more than three times higher in developing countries than in developed countries.

Volvo Cars is calling on the United Nations to address the inequality. The company believes that the countries worldwide should promote safety belt usage by " introducing and enforcing seat-belt laws covering both front and rear seats." They also believe that the countries should develop infrastructure to separate motorized traffic from pedestrian and cyclist traffic.

" original_size="2500x1875" photo_credit="Photo courtesy of Volvo Car Corporation" alt="Volvo safety car test" expand="1"] Vehicles sold in the U.S. are extensively crash tested ahead of their debut on dealer lots.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car Corporation

"Global data shows that there is a significant inequality in road safety," said Malin Ekholm, head of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre. "Those safety gaps need to be addressed through technology, but also by creating and enhancing a global safety culture. We need to understand and address the variation in seat belt usage, while infrastructure should focus on improving the safety of vulnerable road users, pedestrians and cyclists."

The call to action has been announced as delegates from over 80 United Nations member states gather in Stockholm, Sweden to attend the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety.

Volvo says that they are "keen to contribute to global road safety initiatives with its rich wealth of safety knowledge, as it has done for many decades in collaboration with governments, academia and regulators." This initiative has its roots in the 1959 introduction of the three-point safety belt, which the company took out an open patent on and promised not to enforce patent violations or charge others royalties to use.

In 2018 the rate of seat belt use in the U.S. was 89.6%, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of the 37,133 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017, 47% were not wearing seat belts. NHTSA research indicates that buckling up is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash.

Only 105 of the world's countries have safety belt laws that cover front and rear seat occupants. There are 195 counties on Earth.

Lax safety standards are one reason that automakers sell vehicles in markets in Asia, Africa, and Europe that they don't sell in the U.S. Those regions tend to have less stringent regulations when it comes to required safety equipment, technology, and structural integrity.

Additionally, there is less cost involved in the production of vehicles with fewer safety features so they may be sold to customers in less wealthy nations for lower prices than vehicles in the U.S.

A new crossover will debut in Switzerland.

Photo courtesy of Toyota

Whether or not the world needs another SUV is debatable, Toyota is pretty sure there is enough room for one more. The automaker will be debuting its new B-segment SUV at the Geneva International Motor Show in March.

B-Segment vehicles are subcompacts. A vehicle of this size would be similar to the Ford Fiesta.

In a release, Toyota said that the model will blend "Toyota's extensive small car experience with its strong SUV heritage." The automaker has given the car raised ground clearance and a hybrid powertrain. Badging in the teaser photo shows that the model also will be at least available with all-wheel drive.

Toyota has given no indication if the model will be for Europe only or if the small crossover will make its way to the U.S.

All will be revealed during Toyota's press conference at the Geneva show on March 3. You can watch the press conference live below when it happens.

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