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US Auto Sales: Sporty Models in Disguise

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Special From LMC-Auto.Com
To The Auto Channel
By Augusto Amorim, Senior Manager
Americas Vehicle Sales Forecasts

Oxford UK November 6, 2019; One of my neighbours recently traded in his Audi A5 for a BMW X4. And the vanity license plate of a Ford Mustang that I used to see all the time is now attached to a Porsche Cayenne.

The latest sales figures point to this type of swap as an ongoing trend. Of all the bodystyles in the US market, Sporty saw the steepest sales decline in the year to September. Demand plunged by 11.4%, to 342,918 units, making Sporty the smallest segment in the country. The last time that coupés and convertibles saw growth was in 2015, driven by the renewal of the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger in late 2014, and the first full year of sales of models like the Lexus RC and Subaru WRX in 2015.

It is true that these models command higher volumes as soon as they hit showrooms, but consumer preference is also a factor, as evidenced by the increasing availability of sportier SUVs. My neighbour’s new X4, for instance, has a coupé look, while the Cayenne can be as powerful as any other Porsche.

SUVs are not alone in stealing clients from the Sporty sector. The Ford F-150, which currently tops the US sales charts, offers a version to appeal to those seeking performance. Although it may be hard to believe that a 231.9 inch/5.89 metre vehicle has much in the way of sporty appeal, the F-150 Raptor offers 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque. This compares to 310 hp for the Mustang’s base engine. And yes, Ford lists the F-150 Raptor as a performance model, alongside the GT and special editions of the Mustang.

The Raptor is far from being the most popular F-150. Ford sold 24,845 Raptors last year, just 4% of all F-150s. This inched up to 4.2% in the January-August period, on sales of 17,013 units. More importantly, however, the Raptor commands a higher price. Ford currently offers a US$2,500 retail incentive for the most popular XLT, bringing its price down to US$33,605. The Raptor, on the other hand, retails for US$54,800, with no special deals available.

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Ford is not the only OEM disguising Sporty models. Crosstown rival Dodge does it with the Charger sedan, although one could argue that by adopting this strategy, Dodge is effectively just extending the Challenger coupé.

The Charger Hellcat’s V8 engine generates 707 hp, more than twice as much as the base engine’s 300 hp. But the Hellcat represented just 2.1% of the Charger’s total sales in the year to August, while a true sports car like the Challenger saw share soar to 7.2% in the same timeframe.