Expect welcome news from the Detroit auto show

January 12, 2015

The North American International Auto Show officially kicks off today in chilly Detroit, a location that Jalopnik’s Chris Harris likened to “choosing to have your wedding in a graveyard.” But cold and curmudgeons aside, the data portend well for the auto industry in 2015.

As this Reuters graphic shows, U.S. auto sales were up 5.6 percent in 2014, to more than 16.5 million. The industry last sold 17 million vehicles in 2001, but General Motors CEO Mary Barra sees that figure as feasible this year. GM pulled in the biggest market share in 2014, with 17.8 percent of the total, while Fiat Chrysler enjoyed the biggest year-over-year increase in sales, although that bump was just 1.1 percent. Ford lost 0.9 percent of its share, but remained in second place with 15 percent.

A November Data Dive post highlighted the direct and immediate correlation between gas prices and sports utility vehicle sales, so oil’s decline and the general strength of the domestic economy augur well for vehicle sales, independent of fuel consumption. “It may be a coincidence that gas prices are so low right now, but it sets the stage for Detroit for big vehicles and sports cars. This is the least green show in years,” Edmunds.com’s Jessica Caldwell told the Detroit Free Press

Over two dozen exotic and luxury vehicles revved the engines of connoisseurs at a limited-ticket event on Saturday, a showcase that hoped to whet the appetite of a healthy high-end market. As this Reuters graphic describes, the U.S. luxury auto market did well as a whole in 2014, with seven out of eight brands showing year-over-year improvements, adding up to a gain of 100,000 sales.

Meanwhile, the environmentally-minded need not despair: General Motors will preview the Chevrolet Bolt, a $30,000 electric car designed to compete with the Tesla Model 3 when both are released in 2017. Fuel-efficiency standards set for 2025 are on the not-too-distant horizon, so fuel economy and responsibility remain on manufacturers’ radars, even as this year’s showcase highlights fun more than frugality. But needless to say, manufacturers are hoping to ride the recent wave of consumer confidence to year-end sales that feel more like a honeymoon than a wake.

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