America’s Automakers Weather a Stormy 2021


Tacoma Trail Edition. Toyota

To say that headline is an understatement is akin to saying Vesuvius barely covered Pompeii. The last calendar year saw plenty of struggles for those trying to move metal, many of which resulted in empty dealer lots bereft of product to actually sell. A colleague in the industry told this author he had an up who strolled into his showroom loudly declaring “I’m looking for a ’22 Suburban,” to which my friend replied “Me too, buddy.”

Yeah, it was that kind of year.

Given the lackadaisical approach to sales reporting these days (the era of monthly reports is over and the age of getting an update every 10 days is long gone) we must wait for the end of a quarter in order to receive comprehensive numbers from most automakers. This clicks in with year-end of course, permitting us to run this Excel table which hasn’t graced these digital pages in far too long. A few figures are still trickling in, so please ignore any gaps in the data.

Most OEMs skidded like bald tires on Michigan ice in the final quarter of 2021, unsurprising given the dearth of new product thanks to supply chain hiccups and what can be charitably described as a lack of semiconductor chips. Given this, we’d hesitate to read too much into the off-a-cliff 43.1 percent tumble at GM or the 21.5 percent freefall at Honda, though it’s worth noting the corporate twins of Hyundai and Kia seemed to weather the rough seas better than most.

More telling are the year-end figures, especially since the industry seems to be roughly flat compared to 2020 (barring any major surprises from VW, who’s yet to report as of this writing). The aforementioned Hyundai and Kia grew last year, along with Honda and Nissan to name just a few. Again, given the shutdowns of 2020, it’s tough to justify making sweeping statements based on these numbers alone. It’s been a weird couple of years.

Many outlets (including this one) have prattled at length about Toyota besting General Motors on its home turf, outselling them by 129,663 units throughout the whole of 2021. That’s a big deal, especially since GM has had a lock on the #1 spot for, well, just about ever. Globally, the Toyota crew (and VW) have climbed over The General to sit atop the totem pole but to perform that same feat in the American market is more than a simple footnote.

Do you know someone who bought a new vehicle in 2021? Did you? Sound off with your experiences in the comments below.

[Image: Toyota]

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