Auto Notes - September 2018
Hot truck sales. For the first half of 2018, light truck sales in the U.S. are sizzling hot. Through June, light truck and SUVs had sales of 5,785,799, up 10.5 percent over the same period in 2017, while passenger cars were down 11.5 percent with unit sales of 2,148,218.
No real surprises with the top five best-selling pickup trucks for the January-June period (total sales of 1,415,389), though the Chevrolet Silverado and Toyota Tacoma models posted significant sales gains.
Top performers for the half-year sales period were the Ford F-Series (451,138 up 5.7 percent for the year), Chevrolet Silverado (291,074, up 10.7 percent), RAM (233,539, down 6.7 percent), Toyota Tacoma (the only midsize in the group with sales of 116,267, up 22.9 percent), and the GMC Sierra (100,874, up 1.7 percent).
SEMA reported that the automotive specialty equipment market posted gains for the eighth consecutive year since the financial recession in 2009. In 2017, that market reached $43 billion with pickup products accounting for $12.44 billion or 29 percent of sales in 2017.
Best in class. Chevrolet said its 2019 Silverado 1500 has best-in-class cargo volume, box depth, box length at floor, plus a segment-leading 12 fixed tie-downs and an exclusive power up/down tailgate.
Comparing 2018 to 2019 models, the Silverado 1500 has increased the short box cargo volume to 63 cubic feet from 53, the standard box from 62 to 72 cubic feet, and the long box is now 89 cubic feet as opposed to 75. The 2019 Silverado bed is also using a higher grade steel rated at 500 megapascals, up dramatically from 300 in previous models.
Top 4x4 vehicles. U.S. News & World Report has rated 2018 top SUVs with truck designs and true 4x4 systems. Ratings are based on several factors that include capability, durability, fuel efficiency, and quality scores, among other issues.
The top 16, according to U.S. News, are the Toyota 4Runner, Lexus GX, Mercedes-Benz G-Class, Jeep Renegade, Jeep Wrangler JL, Nissan Armada, Jeep Cherokee, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Land Rover Range Rover Sport, Lexus LX, Land Rover Range Rover, Toyota Land Cruiser, Land Rover Discovery, Chevrolet Tahoe, Lincoln Navigator, and Ford Expedition.
For pure off-roading experiences, five of these are often referred to as the most usable 4x4s by enthusiasts: Jeep Wrangler, Toyota 4Runner, and Land Rover models. Others in the U.S. News rating are quite capable for off-roading, such as the military-based AMG G673 from M-B (about $124,00), but owners may be reluctant to go rock climbing with a vehicle that costs between $85,000 and $130,000.
On sale now. Lexus announced that the all-new, fully redesigned 2019 ES 350 luxury sedan goes on sale in September at a base price of $39,500. The seventh-generation has a lower stance and improved aerodynamics, as well as new performance, safety, and technology offerings.
Also available will be the fourth-generation 300h hybrid model (starts at $41,310), plus an all-new offering with the performance-oriented Lexus 350 F Sport (base of $44,035).
In memoriam. Sergio Marchionne, 66, died July 25, in Zurich, Switzerland, after complications from shoulder surgery. Just five days earlier he had announced his retirement as CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and other Fiat-related positions. Born in Chieti, Italy, he emigrated to Canada at age 13 with his family and spent his university years in Canada at the University of Toronto (BA), University of Windsor (MBA), and the Osgoode Hall Law School (York University in Toronto, law degree). He carried both Italian and Canadian citizenship.
An accountant and barrister, Marchionne worked for prestigious accounting and law firms in Canada and later for Algroup in Zurich as CEO and as chairman. In May 2003, he was elected as an independent member of the board of directors of Fiat S.p.A., and was appointed CEO in 2004 in Turin, Italy.
During his 14 years in the auto business, Marchionne was outspoken, made amazing deals, and was known for wearing black sweaters and jeans to all events (he started this routine in 2006 and kept identical outfits at all of his residences).
“He basically took two ailing auto manufacturers and created the world’s seventh largest car company,” said an auto industry analyst.
Marchionne started in 2005 by getting $2 billion from GM in a deal that would have forced GM to buy the troubled Fiat as a result of their alliance. He used the proceeds to design and build the popular Fiat 500C that would sell around the globe, including in the U.S.
In another bold move in 2009, Marchionne and Fiat got a 20 percent stake in Chrysler as they came out of bankruptcy, and in 2011 obtained a total 53.3 percent interest in the company. The two entities officially merged under Marchionne’s leadership on Aug. 1, 2014, and have had profitable years since.