Year in Review: A Look Back at the 2017 Auto Industry

top automotive stories of the year

By now I’ve had a week to look back at and study 2017.  The naysayers in the media made it sound like the auto industry crashed and burned, but the reality is 17,245,000 new vehicles is a lot of vehicles.  If all dealers were open 7 days a week and every holiday (they are not), that would mean 47,246 people bought a new car every single day.  That is a little hard to wrap your head around.

2017 ended a 7-year streak of year-over-year sales increases.  Although 2017 was off the pace of 2016 by 1.8%, the last streak that ended back in 2008, the reduction was 19% for 2009, and even more in 2010.  To keep things in perspective, 1.8% behind the best year in history (2016) sounds OK, but it represents over 315,000 lost sales from 2016.

In other news from 2017:

  • Ford F-Series trucks extended their reign to 41-years as the best-selling pickup in America, beating Chevy by 300,000 trucks, and Ram by almost 400,000 trucks.  Ram did sell over 500,000 trucks for the first time ever.
  • Ford also was the #1 selling brand in America for the 8th straight year, but Toyota got closer than ever before to knocking off the Blue Oval.
  • As America transitions from sedans to SUVs, SUV sales continue to take a larger piece of the market.  In 2017, 35% of the vehicles sold in America were SUVs, with compact SUVs picking up the biggest share.  Compact SUVs took the top five spots in overall SUV sales.
  • In luxury vehicle sales, Mercedes-Benz took the volume trophy for the second year in a row, beating out BMW, and coming in 3rd place was Lexus despite a huge surge in December.
  • Subaru continued its hot streak in 2017 by outselling Kia for the first time, and just barely come in behind Hyundai.  In fact, Subaru has had sales increases every single month for 73 straight months.
  • Toyota RAV4 knocked off the Honda CR-V for the top SUV spot in 2017 for the first time ever.  In fact, CR-V fell to 3rd place getting beaten by the up and coming Nissan Rogue.
  • As I predicted on the air, Camry was the #1 selling car in America for the 15th straight year after a formidable run by Honda Civic.  However, Camry wasn’t the #1 selling Toyota in America, that spot was taken by the RAV4.  While Civic was trying to outsell Camry, it did outsell Corolla for the #1 compact car title.
  • Minivans had a rough year, logging fewer than half a million sales.  No matter which automaker you looked at, its minivan sales were fewer in 2017 than 2016.
  • Although sedan/hatchback sales as a whole were off for the auto industry in 2017, for the first time ever, small cars outsold midsized cars.
  • Looking at the numbers, Jeep had a rough 2017 with sales off 11%.  When you look behind the numbers, Fiat Chrysler made the business decision to slow sales to unprofitable fleet and rental companies, accounting for the decline. 

Regardless of what industry you look at, you don’t want to sell fewer of your products than you did the year before, but 2017 certainly was not a bad year for the auto industry.

Related Reading:

2017 U.S. Auto Industry Sales Winners and Losers By Brand

Photo Credit: Mike Focus/Shutterstock

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