One quarter doesn’t make a trend, but it’s interesting to note what’s in the top 20 best-selling car and truck list for the first quarter of 2022 versus what was there a year ago. Some long-popular models have suddenly disappeared, while some popular EVs and trucks have moved up.
The results illustrate the switch to electric vehicles and the stampede into pickups, SUVs and crossovers. The flip side is a decline in passenger cars, especially small ones. Of course, there were other factors at work, too, especially the shortage of new vehicles due to the ongoing computer chip shortage.
New Car Demand Continues Unabated
“Every car that’s arriving is pre-sold,” when it gets to the dealership because demand is so high and supplies are so low, said David Christ, group vice president and general manager, Toyota Division, in a phone interview.
“Dealers are urgent to get cars in customers’ hands, and customers are urgent to get their cars because they know other customers are looking for them, too,” he said.
Christ says Toyota North America finished March with just a 1.9 day supply. That’s an estimate of how many days the current inventory would last at the present monthly selling rate without being replenished.
Toyota typically runs much leaner than the industry average, which considers a 60-day supply to be a comfortable benchmark. But even for Toyota, “lean” usually means 20-some days, not less than two days.
Significant Takeaways from the Top 20 List for the First Quarter of 2022:
Four In: Tesla Model Y; Tesla Model 3; Mazda CX-5; Honda CR-V.
That’s two electric vehicles from the same brand—almost certainly the first time two EVs were among the Top 20 Best Sellers in modern times. Plus, two compact crossover SUVs, the Mazda CX-5 and the Honda CR-V.
Four Out (for now): Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Subaru Forester, Subaru Outback Wagon.
That’s two small cars, the Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic, plus one wagon and one crossover from Subaru.
All three brands, Toyota, Honda, and especially Subaru, are in demand, but dealers are short of new-vehicle inventory because of the computer chip shortage. That shortage likely has more to do with the drop in sales for these popular models for Q1 rather than the long-term shift away from sedans, hatchbacks and wagons.
As noted, there are precious few traditional passenger cars among the Top 20 for the first quarter of 2022, the list containing just three: the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord, and the Tesla Model 3. Trucks accounted for 79.1% of sales for the whole U.S. auto industry in Q1, 2022, up from 77.1% a year earlier, Motor Intelligence said.
1. Ford F-Series, 140,701 sold, down 31.9%
The Ford F-Series was still the biggest-selling model in the first quarter. What’s more, Ford says F-Series inventory is on the rebound. Ford said F-Series inventory in transit to dealers increased 66% in March vs. a year ago and more than double the total in February. Nevertheless, in March alone, the Ford F-Series was number two behind the Chevy Silverado for a change. The Ford F-Series also barely outsold the Ram pickup for the month.
2. Ram Pickup, 127,116 sold, down 15.7%
Based on a slight sales increase in 2021, when most other rivals declined, the Ram 1500 pickup overtook the Chevrolet Silverado as No. 2 for the year. The Ram Pickup, the Ford F-Series and the Chevy Silverado are all experiencing supply chain problems, especially the computer chip shortage.
3. Chevrolet Silverado, 118,796 sold, down 6%
General Motors said its supplies improved for semiconductor chips in the first quarter without singling out individual models. In turn, that supported an increase in production. That probably helped the Chevy Silverado to pass the Ford F-Series in sales for the month of March, but not for the entire quarter. Parent GM said the Chevy Silverado 1500, the most commonly ordered model, gained market share in the quarter vs. a year ago.
4. Toyota RAV4, 101,192 sold, down 12.6%
The Toyota RAV4 is still what Toyota calls the “best-selling vehicle that’s not a pickup,” for the first quarter. That’s despite the fact that Toyota RAV4 sales fell 12.6% for the quarter vs. a year ago, according to Motor Intelligence. The Toyota RAV4 is still No. 1 in its class because sales for its next-biggest rival, the Honda CR-V, fell even more. In addition, a couple of other Top 20 Best-Selling competitors, the Chevrolet Equinox and the Mazda CX-5, gained ground on the Toyota RAV4.
5. Jeep Grand Cherokee, 75,117 sold, up 34.3%
The Jeep Grand Cherokee had record Q1 sales, whether counted with or without fleet sales, parent Stellantis said on April 1. Starting with the 2022 model year, the Jeep Grand Cherokee lineup includes a plug-in hybrid version Jeep calls “4xe.” The lineup also includes the three-row Jeep Grand Cherokee L, starting with the 2021 model year.
6. Tesla Model Y, 71,358 sold, up 86.8%
As noted, the Tesla brand has two of the Top 20 Best-selling Car and Trucks for Q1, the Tesla Model Y crossover and the Model 3 sedan, at No. 14.
The Tesla Model Y crossover is the brand’s biggest seller in the U.S. market, followed by the Model 3 passenger car, which shares the same platform (see below). Both of those Teslas broke into the Top 20 Best-selling Car and Trucks for Q1. As a side note, the Tesla Model Y was in the Top 20 Best-Sellers for all of 2021.
7. Toyota Highlander, 66,026 sold, up 2.1%
Toyota’s sales pace is slowing as its inventory shrinks. Sales for the Toyota Highlander improved just 2.1% in Q1 vs. a year ago. For all of 2021, Toyota Highlander sales were up 24%. At the end of Q3 in 2021, before the industrywide chip shortage took hold at Toyota, Toyota Highlander sales had been up 48%.
8. Toyota Camry, 61,505 sold, down 22.3%
Toyota Motor North America rode out the first part of the industry computer chip shortage pretty well last year, but inventories have run low for Toyota, too, starting in Q3 last year. “Every car that’s arriving is pre-sold,” at dealerships, said David Christ, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager.
9. Honda CR-V, 58,579 sold, down 38.4%
Honda, like Toyota, started feeling the effects of the computer chip shortage later than most rivals, but the impact is evident now. Sales of the Honda CR-V fell sharply in Q1, down about 38% vs. a year ago. A year ago, the Honda CR-V was No. 5 among the Top 20-Selling Cars and Trucks.
10. GMC Sierra, 56,617 sold, down 11.2%
GMC Sierra sales didn’t fall that much in Q1, indicating that inventory could be improving. For comparison, sales were down 38.8% in 2021 Q4 vs. the previous year, due in part to the computer chip shortage. GM says the biggest-volume version of the GMC Sierra, the GMC Sierra 1500, gained share in the pickup segment in 2022 Q1, compared with a year ago.
11. Chevrolet Equinox, 56,036 sold, down 12.5%
Supplies of the Chevy Equinox crossover SUV may have increased since sales were down just 12.5% in Q1, 2022, compared with Q1, 2021. That’s much less than Q4, 2021, when Chevrolet Equinox sales were down more than 80% vs. Q4, 2020. In addition, the Chevy Equinox got a facelift in 2021 for the 2022 model year.
12. Toyota Tacoma, 53,182 sold, down 21%
The Toyota Tacoma dominates the midsize pickup segment, so it’s worth noting that in Q1, for a change, the Toyota Tacoma failed to outsell its three biggest rivals combined. Those are the Ford Ranger, the Nissan Frontier and the Chevrolet Colorado. The most significant change among those three rivals is that in Q1, sales of the Nissan Frontier more than doubled vs. a year ago. An all-new 2022 Nissan Frontier debuted in September 2021.
13. Mazda CX-5, 50,709 sold, up 22.8%
The Mazda CX-5 made the Top 20 Best-Selling Cars and Trucks in Q1, 2022. It was not among the Top 20 a year ago. The Mazda CX-5 made the Top 20 for the entire year of 2021, too. It’s the brand’s best-seller in the U.S. market. The CX-5 accounted for about 62% of Mazda’s total U.S. volume in Q1, up from just under 50% a year ago.
14. Tesla Model 3, 46,707 sold, up 122.6%
With the Tesla Model 3 sedan among the Top 20 Best-Selling Car and Trucks, the Tesla brand accounts for two of the Top 20. The other is the Tesla Model Y crossover, which shares a platform with the Tesla Model 3 passenger car. Motor Intelligence estimates Tesla Model 3 sales were 46,707 for Q1, 2022, an increase of about 123%, vs. a small number a year ago.
15. Jeep Wrangler, 45,551 sold, down 9.5%
Jeep says the Jeep Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid was the best-selling PHEV in the U.S. market in Q1. The plug-in version accounted for 18% of total Jeep Wrangler sales for the quarter, the company said. The brand added the Jeep Wrangler 4xe to the lineup in 2021. Parent company Stellantis says Jeep is its lead brand in the shift to electric cars and trucks.
16. Nissan Rogue, 45,235 sold, down 48.5%
The Nissan Rogue has been a big seller since it got an all-new redesign in 2020 for the 2021 model year. Nissan Rogue sales were up more than 40% last year through the first three quarters of 2021 until the chip shortage took hold. So, despite demand appearing to be strong, comparing low availability this year vs. strong sales a year ago, the Q1 Nissan Rogue sales number is down by nearly 50%.
17. Ford Explorer, 42,736 sold, down 35.4%
Ford Explorer sales were down more than 35% in Q1, 2022 vs. a year ago. Previously, the Ford Explorer outsold the Jeep Grand Cherokee, but not in Q1, 2022, or for all of 2021, for that matter. According to Ford, the turn rate—a measure of how fast cars and trucks sell—is high for the Ford Explorer, so the sales slowdown is not for lack of demand.
18. Honda HR-V, 42,168 sold, up 59%
Honda says sales of the Honda HR-V crossover hit a monthly record in March, making it 14 straight monthly sales records. That put the Honda HR-V among the Top 20 Biggest-Selling Cars and Trucks for Q1, 2022. It was not ranked a year ago. Honda has an all-new 2023 Honda HR-V waiting, so it’s probably a good time to get a deal on the old one.
19. Honda Accord, 42,039 sold, down 11%
American Honda Motor Co. says higher gas prices and improved availability boosted the sale of electrified vehicles in March. This category includes hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and battery-electric vehicles. In that mix, the Honda Accord Hybrid had record sales of nearly 5,000 in March, accounting for about 28% of Honda Accord sales overall, the company said.
20. Ford Escape, 39,962 sold, down 3.8%
The Ford Escape becomes Ford’s entry-level crossover SUV once Ford drops the smaller EcoSport. The EcoSport is expected to go out of production in mid-2022. The 2022 Ford Escape has sportier styling than previous product generations. The current lower, longer exterior look was first introduced for the 2020 model year.
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