Let’s take a wider look at how automakers are doing so far in 2021.
By now, you’ve seen me and most other media outlets carry on about the global chip shortage and how it’s hammering the automotive industry. For what it’s work, that issue does still linger on. Ford announced several plant closures extending through July, including the plant building the new Bronco — but how has that impacted sales through the first half of this year?
Nearly every automaker can breathe a sigh of relief with the year-to-date reports so far. Sales have rebounded over a pandemic-riddled 2020. In some cases, like Tesla, sales are phenomenally positive as consumers dive back into the new car market. On the whole, brand sales are up anywhere from 20% to around 50% from the mid-point in 2020. There were a few notable exceptions, which we’ll get into.
Below, I’ve put together a first-half look at how the whole industry is doing so far in 2021. These figures represent year-to-date sales through June 30, rather than a monthly or quarterly look. This is more of a look at how brands are doing against all the others that dials out the spikiness we saw last year (as sales plummeted during lockdowns, then picked back up) and the drop that may well happen as dealers try to maintain momentum without fresh inventory due to supply chain problems.
We’ll slice these reports in more interesting and easily digestible ways over the next little while, but if you nerd out about this sort of stuff — as indeed I love to do — then read on below to check out the halftime 2021 sales reports:
- Brand sales — 2021 vs. 2020 (January through June)
- Best-selling models — Including changes from YTD 2020 through June
- Biggest winners and losers — Largest percentage shifts by model within each brand through June
First-Half 2021 Sales By Brand (January 1 through June 30):
|Brand||YTD 2021 Sales (Jan-Jun)||YTD 2020 Sales (Jan-Jun)||Year-over-Year Change (%)|
**Tesla sales figures are estimates.
Things are looking good — at least for now.
As of this moment, 2021 sales by brand look strong across the industry as dealers push as much inventory as they can get to sate even larger demand. Consumers are so keen to get into new (or new to them) cars that prices are heading toward the stratosphere across the board. Whether it’s the new or used car market, prepare yourself to pay a premium if you’re shopping right now. Still, such high demand is a net positive for most brands, with Tesla coming out way ahead of where it was last year. Through the first two quarterly reports, the electric brand’s sales more than doubled.
Japanese automakers also fared well, by and large. Toyota’s sales picked up 44%, and it’s the only brand so far to eclipse 1 million sales halfway through the year. Mind you, these figures include car and truck sales (as automakers tend to count SUVs and crossovers under the “truck” column). Even with the same advantage, though, Ford fell just short of that mark, selling 947,737 vehicles through June 30. Honda picked up 41% from the first half of 2020, Mazda picked up 47% and Nissan sales increased by 39%.
There are a couple noteworthy exceptions to the trend.
Despite the overall positive trend, Fiat sales are still down 31% over this point 2020, as the brand has continued to slip farther and farther over the past several years. While Nissan sales were up, Infiniti sales still fell by 11% — though it’s worth noting the revamped QX60 may help reverse that trend. Dodge sales were down 5%, though you could largely attribute that to the Caravan’s demise. Fleet sales were a huge boon there (and for the equally dead Journey), but other cars like the Charger, Challenger and Durango all gained momentum with retail buyers.
Ford and Lincoln gained relatively little ground compared to the rest of the industry, as well. Sales were still up (by 5% and 4%, respectively), but that still smacks a bit strange when virtually every other brand is up at least 20%. Now, Ford does have several new models in the mix, like the explosively popular Bronco Sport. While those help bolster Ford’s sales figures, the brand is still in a shift from dropping all its passenger cars apart from the Mustang. Lincoln dropped the MKZ and Continental from its lineup since last year, shifting to an all-SUV brand. Its current models all did well, though folks who may have bought a sedan now have to look elsewhere — like Audi, perhaps, whose sales picked up 60% from the first half of 2020.
First-Half 2021 Sales: Best-selling models by brand
|Brand||Best-selling car||YTD 2021 Sales (Year-over-Year Change)|
|Alfa Romeo||Stelvio||5,313 (+36%)|
|Buick||Encore GX||44,679 (+277%)|
|Mitsubishi||Outlander Sport||23,983 (+43%)|
|Tesla||Model 3/Y||382,140 (+145%)|
No surprises what sort of car dominated the best-selling slots, is there?
Crossovers and SUVs still reign supreme, as hallmarks like the Toyota RAV4, Buick Encore GX and Subaru Forester pad out the automakers’ sales nicely. Luxury models also did well, with the brand new Acura MDX gaining 115% over the first six months of 2020. The Audi Q5 picked up 86%, the BMW X3 picked up 81% and Volvo XC60 sales increased 69% from last year.
There is one notable exception to the “crossovers are king” argument, though, and that lies with Kia. Despite several new models in their CUV lineup — namely Seltos, Sorento and inevitably the Sportage — the humble Forte actually outsold those individual models. Kia dealers shifted 62,159 examples (fleet buyers likely played a large role in that momentum), representing a 58% increase in year-to-date sales over this point in 2020.
Another quirky outcome from these sales reports: Dealers sold exactly as many Chevy Equinoxes as Jeep Wranglers — at 118,666 each — through the first six months of 2021.
Biggest gains and losses by model: First-half 2021
|Brand||Biggest gain||Biggest loss|
|Acura||TLX (15,412; +64%)||No current models lost sales|
|Alfa Romeo||Stelvio (5,313; +36%)||No current models lost sales|
|Audi||Q8 (8,625; +95%)||A3 (1,330; -68%)|
|BMW||4 Series (12,533; +217%)||i8 (10; -91%)|
|Buick||Encore GX (44,679; +277%)||Encore (15,255; -37%)|
|Cadillac||Escalade (20,716; +96%)||XT4 (7,966; -13%)|
|Chevrolet*||Trailblazer (48,367; +622%)||Malibu (31,886; -34%)|
|Chrysler||Pacifica (47,571; +34%)||No current models lost sales|
|Dodge||Charger (42,103; +40%)||No current models lost sales|
|Fiat||No current models gained sales||500X (668; -1% — only U.S. Fiat on sale)|
|Ford*||Expedition (47,508; +17%)||Edge (39,355; -22%)|
|GMC*||Acadia (46,222; +40%)||Terrain (33,533; -15%)|
|Honda||HR-V (68,441; +88%)||No current models lost sales|
|Hyundai||Venue (15,050; +110%)||Veloster (1,361; -68%)|
|Infiniti||QX50 (13,749; +52%)||QX60 (4,306; -65%)|
|Jeep||Wrangler (118,666; +23%)||No current models lost sales|
|Kia||Seltos (32,185; +128%)||No current models lost sales|
|Lexus||IS (13,393; +163%)||No current models lost sales|
|Lincoln||Navigator (1,235; +40%)||No current models lost sales|
|Mazda||CX-30 (33,904; +100%)||CX-3 (4,040; -15%)|
|Mini||Countryman (5,351; +61%)||No current models lost sales|
|Mitsubishi||Mirage (13,722; +62%)||Eclipse Cross (4,358; -31%)|
|Nissan||Versa (41,321; +108%)||Pathfinder (13,552; -50%)|
|Porsche||Taycan (5,367; +417%)||Panamera (1,716; -17%)|
|Subaru||Outback (87,619; +41%)||BRZ (721; -25%)|
|Tesla||Model 3/Y (382,140; +145%)||Model S/X (3,910; -83%)|
|Toyota||Supra (4,548; +98%)||86 (1,034; -23%)|
|Volkswagen||Atlas Cross Sport (25,828; +228%)||GTI (5,091; -10%)|
|Volvo||V90 (153; +99%)||V60 (366; -11%)|
There’s always a caveat to this whole “winners and losers” part of the sales charts. How do you count each brand’s models? This shows how far each individual model has shifted by percentage sales over the same six-month period last year. So you may not see huge numbers here — as you would in the bestsellers chart, which just looks at straight sales volume.
Fortunately, there weren’t many “losers” here. Most brands didn’t have any of their current models — I’ve excluded cars we know have been discontinued from the list, since their sales will obviously drop off. Those brands that did have a “loser” often only saw that model lose ground, as was the case with the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, Hyundai Veloster and Subaru BRZ.
“Winners” were plentiful, on the other hand. Sales of the all-electric Porsche Taycan definitely helped boost Porsche’s outlook over the first six months of the year. Fleets and retail customers alike also seem to love the Buick Encore GX and Chevy Trailblazer, as those cars gained massive ground now that they’ve actually been on sale for a few strong months. Again, crossovers dominate here, but some sedans and even coupes like the Acura TLX (up 64%) and BMW 4 Series (up 217%) did gain serious ground. On that 4 Series, while we considered the styling controversial, it’s apparently not putting buyers off, as it’s currently in a good stride.