December’s biggest loser–perhaps after Suzuki exiting U.S. operations–is fellow fledgling Japanese automaker Mitsubishi. Unable to gain any traction all year, Mitsubishi was down 18 percent in December from 2011, and finished the year down sharply in the red. The Outlander Sport was one bright spot, as the crossover was able to capitalize on a general crossover fever in the U.S. After Suzuki’s departure, Mitsubishi insisted it would continue its own U.S. operations, but clearly something will have to change.
Acura sales were up sharply in December, and Acura parent Honda, fared even better. In the post-tsunami, earthquake era, the two are finally reaping the benefits of healthy production and delivery levels. The MDX has been Acura’s best-seller, and Honda’s tried-and-true nameplates–the Accord and Civic–returned to form in both sales numbers and in the critical eyes of the media. Honda had received a surplus of criticism aimed at the 2012 Civic, and the automaker responded by refreshing the vehicle for 2013, ahead of schedule. We’ve driven the new Civic, and if its continuous improvement Honda is after, it was able to achieve it with the 2013 model.
Jeep had a great 2012 overall, but sales of the Jeep Liberty dragged the automaker down in the last month of the year. On the bright side, the Wrangler and Cherokee sold about the same this December as the year prior, and are up overall on the year. The Cherokee–Jeep’s most important model–sold 154,734 models in 2012, up 21 percent from the year prior. The Jeep Compass may be in need of an overhaul, and was the only model to decline both in December and on the year.
Mercedes-Benz posted a gain of nearly 10 percent in December 2012 over the prior year, but that should come as no surprise as the German luxury automaker posted record sales on the year. Eclipsing the 300,000 mark, Mercedes-Benz was spearheaded by its perennial number one C-Class. Following closely behind was the E-Class, and the automaker’s popular M-Class had a record year leading the automaker’s SUVs. Steve Canon, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz, said “a strong product offensive backed our retail network’s commitment to providing a world-class ownership experience. We’re going to ride that momentum into 2013 with new products across the entire model line from entry point to flagship.”
Mazda took a gamble, and in December it continued to pay off. The Japanese automaker has developed its Skyactiv strategy aimed at improving efficiency, and so far it’s resonating with buyers. The 2013 Mazda CX-5, the first fully Skyactiv model, has been a resounding early success, leading the automaker to increase production to help meet soaring demand. December was Mazda’s best since 1994, and 2012 was the best sales year since 2007. The trend will likely continue as the 2014 Mazda6 goes on sale in North America in January. We got to drive the European version a few months ago, and were impressed.
Source: BMW, Suzuki, Volkswagen, Lincoln, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Honda, Acura