The new year is looked upon by many as an opportunity to make changes and is often punctuated by the traditional song "Auld Lang Syne," which suggests looking forward rather than back. It's a sentiment many automakers are taking to heart in 2011 and the result is a number of surprises on this month's list.
The Domestic Automakers
Biggest Winner - Automaker: GM
By the thinnest of margins, GM has beat-out Chrysler for this month's honor. Sales of GM's "core" brands rose 23.3 percent in January, just topping Chrysler's 23 percent gain. Of course, if you factor in the handful of Saturn, Pontiac, Hummer and Saab vehicles that GM in January 2010, the gain drops to 21.8 percent, but considering that GM sold nearly two-and-a-half-times as many physical vehicles as Chrysler, The General is taking the crown. Solid double-digit gains across the brands put GM on top, with Buick putting up a 32-percent gain, Cadillac climbing 49 percent, Chevrolet jumping 19 percent and GMC improving by 30 percent.
Runner-Up - Automaker: Chrysler
Three-tenths of a percent ain't much, but we've got to draw the line somewhere. While Chrysler had a strong January, things weren't quite as rosy under the Pentastar as they were in the RenCen. Dodge climbed 22 percent, Jeep rose 47 percent and Ram gained 18 percent. All well and good, but unfortunately, they were held back by the Chrysler brand. The changeover from the old Sebring and 300 to the just-released new models saw both cars take a hit and as a result the brand ended the month down seven percent.
The folks in Dearborn car relate. While the Ford brand came through with a respectable 22-percent improvement in sales, Lincoln nearly erased it with a 21-percent drop. Overall, the Ford Motor Company posted a 13-percent bump for the month.
Biggest Winner - Brand: Cadillac
It's amazing what a healthy dose of awesome can do for your sales. Cadillac's sudden burst of energy is directly attributable to the recent additions to the CTS line, namely the CTS-V Wagon and the CTS Coupe/CTS-V Coupe. Enthusiasm for the model line pushed it all the way past the red-hot SRX into the top sales position in the brand with 4362 sold to the SRX's 4236. There's other good news at Cadillac as well, as the Escalade also posted gains for all models. The DTS and STS apparently found their way onto a clearance rack or something, because post of those cars posted solid gains as well. Despite all this, it was a narrow victory as Jeep was right behind with a 47-percent improvement for the month.
Biggest Loser - Brand: Lincoln
Seven. That's how many Ford models single-handedly outsold the entire Lincoln brand in January. Lincoln was easily outsold by every other domestic brand last month, even Chrysler. The Chevrolet HHR outsold the entire Lincoln brand. You get the point, so what's Lincoln's problem? Only two of their vehicles actually saw improved sales in January and one of them was the dead-man-walking Town Car. The other was Lincoln's cheapest offering, the MKZ. Navigator sales fell 20 percent, MKX sales dropped 30 percent, MKT sales tanked 46 percent and MKS sales cratered 53 percent. Only the MKX and MKZ sold more than 1000 vehicles in January. All told, the brand moved just 5558 vehicles last month, down 21 percent. Whatever the plan is that Ford has for Lincoln, they need to fast-track it.
Biggest Winner - Model: Jeep Grand Cherokee
Sales of the new Grand Cherokee are as unstoppable as the Jeep is. The big 'ute saw its even-bigger sales streak continue to dominate in January with an impressive 130-percent bounce in sales. 7612 copies found homes (2000 more than Lincoln, but who's counting?) in January as the Grand Cherokee continues its five-month streak of triple-digit gains. After surviving an odd coup attempt by the Caliber, the Grand Cherokee has claimed the Biggest Winner title four out of the past five months. Its fraternal twin, the Dodge Durango, is also worth mentioning as sales of the new model are off to a strong start, though its long absence from the market will skew results for months to come.
Biggest Loser - Model: Lincoln MKS
Sales are down the aforementioned 53 percent, falling from 1280 in January 2010 to just 601 in January 2011. It was outsold by the Town Car. I'll stop picking on Lincoln now.
I've been giving the Detroit Three's trucks this space in the past, but there doesn't seem much point as the results never change. Ford easily outsells Chevy and Dodge is always third.
The Asian Automakers
Biggest Winner: Mitsubishi
Say what now? Yep, Mitsubishi is not only still here, but they had a really good kick-off to 2011. So good, in fact, that Mitsubishi outsold Lincoln (sorry). 5714 units shipped meant a 37-percent gain in the brand's sales over January 2010 and marked the company's best month since August 2009. Credit a strong start for the new Outlander Sport with 1065 sold, covering 20 percent of Mitsubishi's total sales and extended its growth streak into its fourth month. Lancer Evolution sales also rebounded with an 18-percent gain over January 2010.
Biggest Loser: Lexus
At least Lincoln's got company. Sure, Chrysler was down, but all three of its models are transitioning over to updated pieces. Lexus, other the other hand, has no such excuse. Toyota's luxury brand saw its sales drop 17 percent in January, mostly on the backs of its cars. Every single Lexus passenger car lost sales in January 2011, led by the HS and its 77-percent dive. GS followed suit with a 39-percent drop, along with LS and its 33-percent fall. Top-seller ES wasn't immune, with its sales down 24 percent and runner-up IS was just barely ahead with a 10-percent drop. Things were only slightly prettier on the SUV side of the brand, where LX eeked out a half-percent gain and RX managed a 3.4-percent bump. Those were quickly erased by GX, which dropped 26 percent. They did, however, sell 4 LFAs, so that's something.