The Ford F-150 pickup had a very good December — and a nice 2012, as Detroit carmakers saw sales of pickups recover. But Japanese carmakers also fared well.
All the major automakers who sell vehicles in the United States have reported December sales and there are two main storylines:
•Trucks are back
•The Japanese are, too
Let's tackle the second one first. After the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, Toyota and Honda lost significant market share in the U.S., where both had thrived up to that point. The catastrophes severely disrupted the global automotive supply chain. Although both companies operate plants in the U.S., they weren't able to built enough vehicles to meet rising demand.
Nissan fared better, largely because its supply chains are less concentrated in Japan.
General Motors reclaimed the top spot in U.S. market share, and Ford was able to surge past Honda, which was entering something of an identity crisis as U.S. consumers fell out of love with the Accord and Civic sedans they had reliably purchased for years.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Signs stand in front of the General Motors world headquarters in Detroit, Michigan. The U.S. Treasury will sell its remaining stake in the company over the next year or so.
The day has finally arrived. The U.S. Treasury will sell off its stake in General Motors, the automaker that, along with Chrysler, was bailed out in 2009 before it declared bankruptcy and returned to the public markets via a massive $20 billion IPO in 2010.
The government put $50 million into GM and has gotten back about $30 billion. That figure includes a pre-loaded GM buyback of 200 million of its own shares from the Treasury at $27.50 a pop, a modest premium on Tuesday's closing price that amounts to $5.5 billion.
The remaining $2o billion (more or less) and the government's 300 remaining shares will be dealt with in slow motion fashion over the next 15 months, to avert a big dump of shares on the market. To make back the $20 billion, GM's stock price would have to rise to $72, a highly unlikely event. So the Treasury is admitting that it will "lose" money on the deal.
At this week's L.A. Auto Show, Jaguar-Land Rover (JLR) pulled the cover off the new F-Type for the first time in the U.S. (it had already debuted in Paris earlier this year) and unveiled the new Land Rover Range Rover, its top-of-the line SUV.
In top trim, the F-Type comes with a supercharged V8 engine that makes almost 500 horsepower and can do 0-60 in 4.2 seconds. It costs $92,000. It was also mobbed by photographers at the L.A. Auto Shows media preview days pretty much all day long.
JLR ensconsed its new Land Rover Range Rover in a shallow pool of water filled with stones, perhaps to depict the machines august stream-fording capabilities. The Range Rover is ideal for the aspiring country squire of means — and he'd better have the means, given the $83,500 price tag for the 2013 model.
Earlier Wednesday, I blogged about how the 2012 L.A. Auto Show is less about green cars and concept cars than it is about cars as rolling platforms for smartphones and apps. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of save-the-world and see-the-future cars in the mix (as well as one or two rides designed to frighten small animals)! It wouldn't be the L.A. Auto Show without them!
Flip through the slide show for some highlights of the good, the bad, and the high-concept.
2014 Ford Fiesta
The redesign of Ford's popular subcompact comes with an interesting new wrinkle: a 1-liter, 3-cylinder turbocharged version. That's just one more cylinder than a lot of motorcycles. The turbo — Ford calls it EcoBoost — squeezes more power of of engines that are highly fuel-efficient. The styling may be a bit too Euro-hatchback for a lot of Americans, but the trend of smaller engines delivering the same power, performance, and comfort of their larger siblings isn't just a trend a this year's auto show. It's a trend in the entire auto industry.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Ford saw fairly weak year-over-years sales improvements for October but still hung into its number two spot in the ferociously competitive U.S. market.
October U.S. auto sales are in the books, as every carmaker who sells vehicles has now reported.
Some of the notables were Chrysler, with a 10.2 percent increase over last year, its best October since 2007; Volkswagen, with a 20.4 percent surge from last year; and Toyota, whose nearly 16 percent uptick year-over-year shows that the biggest Japanese automaker is poised to regain the market share it lost to General Motors and Ford after the tsunami and earthquake last year.
The real story is how tightly bunched GM, Ford, and Toyota are in terms of U.S. market share. They aren't separated by much more than a point or two: GM has about 18 percent, Ford has 15-and-a-half; and Toyota has about 14.
That's more than a third of the market right there. The remaining two-thirds is being fought over, at various price levels, by no less than 17 automakers. Okay, you can take Ferrari and Maserati out of the competition — neither marque sells more than 300 cars a month. But other companies are aiming to compete and compete vigorously, if the world's most competitive auto market.