There are several different ways to explain why new auto sales have slumped in 2017. First, consider the full rebound of the U.S. economy in 2016. With employment and consumer confidence returning to pre-recession levels, Americans bought a record number of new cars, trucks, and (mostly) SUVs. From there, the only way to go was down.
Meanwhile, with so many buyers trading in old vehicles, the used market became flooded with options. Consumers who decided to buy a pre-owned vehicle often found themselves with much better deals on cars that just had turned a few years old.
Whatever way you look at it, auto sales fell for the first time since 2009, and there are clear winners and losers among automakers hoping to sell you your next vehicle. Here are 10 car companies struggling to find new customers in 2017. All sales stats come from Good Car Bad Car.
We keep hearing about Cadillac’s fight to regain its footing in the U.S. market, but after several years it still hasn’t happened. The brand suffered an ugly 22% drop in July sales and kept sliding in August, losing 8% in sales compared to the previous year. Overall, Cadillac is down 5.4% in 2017. And Reuters reported employees have worried about further cuts to the workforce after GM eliminated shifts earlier this year. In the same report, rumors about ending production of the CT6 also swirled.
Next: Supply issues hurt this Swedish automaker during a U.S. expansion.
While GM and Ford both cut a significant number of jobs in 2017, Volvo confirmed plans to invest over $1 billion and add 1,900 jobs at its South Carolina plant opening in 2018. Nonetheless, the Swedish automaker has seen U.S. sales slide some 7.2% this year compared to the numbers from 2016. Supply issues with the well-regarded XC90, which Volvo corrected for October, contributed to this decline.
Next: This luxury brand is keeping Toyota sales in the red.
As Toyota surged through the summer, the only thing holding the auto giant back was its luxury brand. Granted, Lexus still outsold BMW and Mercedes during those months, but overall sales are down 8% for the year. Models like RC (-42%) and LS (-29%) canceled out the gains posted by LX and NX in 2017. Unlike some of the other brands struggling this year, Lexus has a shot at a rebound with the performance of its utility vehicles.
Next: Korean automakers have fallen flat in 2017.
Overall, 2017 has been tough for regular cars, and the American-built Kia Optima (-7%) felt the burn in particular. The automaker’s Sportage (-13%) and Soul (-16%) also contributed to the general slump. Through the first eight months of the year, Kia fell 8.4% while reviews and brand satisfaction surveys consistently gave the brand high marks. Sometimes, it takes more than quality to attract customers, and Kia is learning that the hard way.
Next: The niche brand missing its niche
Though a good year for Mini would be a nightmare even for niche car brands, BMW’s quirky small division has struggled mightily in 2017. Mini sales fell 11% compared to the prior year with the Cooper (-15%) taking a beating in particular. Those numbers nullified the modest gains of Countryman, a low-volume seller at best. If the trend continues, BMW could see sales of the Mini brand become a major drag.
Next: Jeep’s bad year continues.
It was a lost summer for Jeep as the Fiat-Chrysler brand posted double-digit sales drops. While much of the decline can be attributed to the disappearing Patriot, sales of Wrangler and Renegade remained flat in 2017. Taken together, the Jeep brand showed a sales drop of 13% through August compared to the previous year. Maybe the revamped Compass can stop some of the bleeding, but we’ll have to see.
Next: More trouble for Fiat-Chrysler
While FCA as a whole slumped in 2017, the Fiat brand was one of the most ignored by U.S. car consumers. Sales plunged 23% in August to just 2,120 cars after a similarly dismal July (-18%). Both the 500X (-38%) and 500L (-61%) threatened to drag the brand down further before the year ends. Overall, Fiat saw its sales drop by 14% through the first eight months of the year. With little demand for any model outside of the 124 Spider, we don’t see how Fiat will stay relevant in America.
Next: More trouble from the Korean peninsula
While Kia showed sharp declines in 2017, sister company Hyundai performed even worse on the U.S. market. Consumers with a marked hunger for SUVs have left the solid Sonata (-30%) and Elantra (-7%) both flounder this year, and those numbers dragged brand sales down a whopping 15% compared to 2016. Only Santa Fe is holding its own among Hyundai’s top sellers, and the Ioniq line of hybrids and EVs has yet to take flight.
Next: The slow death of a classic American brand
To find the founding of Chrysler, you have to go way back to 1924, but the classic American brand now has only two vehicles (the 300 sedan and Pacifica minivan) in production at company plants. With the phasing out of the 200 sedan, replacement of the Town & Country, and slump of the 300, the Chrysler brand tumbled into a free fall by late 2017. Overall, the automaker’s sales had fallen 24%, and with no new vehicle in sight we can’t say how long Chrysler will last on the U.S. market.
Next: America’s least wanted brand fared even worse in 2017.
These days, you can walk into a dealership and buy a Smart fortwo as a coupe, convertible, or electric model. The thing is, no one is buying any of these cars in America. Smart sales, which never impressed anyone, fell 30.4% through the first eight months of 2017 with an even steeper (35%) crash in August. That left the Daimler-owned brand in 35th place on the U.S. market with just 229 sales for the month. If these numbers shrink anymore, they’d disappear completely.