FCA’s strong year provides validation for former CEO Sergio Marchionne’s move in 2016 to focus on Jeep and Ram while shying away from cars. Marchionne cited a “permanent shift” toward pickups and SUVs, saying fuel prices were not expected to “fundamentally change” as much as they had in the past.
Other automakers are now making similar shifts in the hopes of stabilizing their sales results.
General Motors in November said it would end production this year of six car nameplates, including the Chevrolet Cruze, Impala and Volt.
GM’s U.S. sales fell 1.6 percent to 2.95 million in 2018, with declines across all four of its brands. GMC, Buick and Cadillac were among only eight brands that posted declining light-truck sales in 2018.
GM began selling the new Cadillac XT4 and revived Chevrolet Blazer crossovers near the end of 2018. It’s expected to reveal another Cadillac crossover, the XT6, on Sunday, Jan. 13, ahead of the Detroit auto show. And redesigns and freshenings of several crossover, pickup and SUV models are expected throughout 2019 and into 2020.
Ford in April said it would stop selling sedans in North America. It had planned to import a Focus Active wagon to the U.S. from China but has reversed those plans because of tariffs.
Ford’s sales declined 3.5 percent in 2018, including an 18 percent plunge in car deliveries, but it sold more than 900,000 F-series pickups for the first time since 2005.
Ford’s Ranger midsize pickup is slated to reach dealerships this month, followed this year by the redesigned Explorer and Escape and the new Lincoln Aviator.
Toyota Motor North America sales dipped 0.3 percent on the year, with car sales off 12 percent and light-truck deliveries up 8 percent.
American Honda Automobile Division sales slid 2.2 percent, with the Honda brand off 2.8 percent but Acura rising 2.8 percent. Acura supplanted Cadillac as the fifth-largest luxury contender, beating the GM brand by 4,232 vehicles.
Hyundai-Kia sales slipped just 0.6 percent in 2018 after a 10 percent drop the previous year, and the automaker said its light-truck mix reached an all-time high of 43 percent.
Volkswagen Group of America sales were up 2 percent, while Nissan Group sales declined 6.3 percent.