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Success stories of 2016: US

For the second year, in what we hope will become an annual tradition here at CarSalesBase, we are using the incoming new year as motivation to reflect back at 2016 and look at its success stories (see here for the 2015 surprises, and here for the 2015 disappointments). Let us know in the comments below if you agree or disagree!

1. Jaguar

For the past two decades, ever since Ford decided to make Jaguar into a global competitor to luxury car brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the British brand has suffered from false dawns and unfulfiffled promises. After doing surprisingly well in the US selling the much-derided X-Type and the uber-conservative S-type, with sales peaking at over 61,000 units in 2002, things took a turn for the worse, with sales dropping to around 15,000 a year, where they have been up until 2015.

This year, however, Jaguar is looking to sell over 30,000 cars for the first time in over a decade, more than doubling last year’s sales. The reason for this upswing is a barrage of new models, with particular success coming from the F-Pace SUV and the mid-sized XE (averaging about 1,500 and 1,000 units per month, respectively). The only bligth on the brand’s copybook is the relative failure of the new large XF to connect with the buyers, with sales in recent months substantially below the levels reached by its predecessor this time last year, no doubt hurt by cannibalization from its new stablemates.

2. Ram and Jeep

Ram and Jeep have done very well for FCA in 2016, being the only shining stars from among the many brands under its umbrella. 2016 is the first year that the Ram brand, spun off from Dodge in 2009 to sell commercial vehicles, placed in the top 10 of all US brands. It did so on the back of a very healhty growth of over 12 percent compared to 2015. More interestingly, it’s the new models that did best in 2016, with both the Ram ProMaster and Ram ProMaster City gaining over 40 percent in sales volumes. Still, the brand remains hevily reliant on the venerable Ram Pickup, which accounts for over 90 percent of its sales.

Success at Jeep, which ranked sixth from among all US brands in 2016, is also notable – it recorded the second-highest rate of sales growth compared to 2015 among top-10 brands, second only to Ram. The biggest contributor to the brand’s rising sales has been the new Renegade, which almost doubled its sales compared to 2015, although both the oldest model in the range, the Compass, as well as the “daddy” of the range, the Grand Cherokee, had a healthy gain in sales. While the Cherokee may have lost a bit of sales due to cannibalization from its newer, smaller brother, 2017 is looking bright for the brand, with a new Compass coming out, as well as an updated Wrangler.

3. Volvo XC90

It was clear before it even hit the market that Volvo XC90 would be a crucial car for the now Chinease-owned company. If it succeeded, the hope was that it would mark the beginning of a resurgance under the new stewardship; if it failed, it would have proven right though who thought that a brand like Volvo would wither under the Chinese owner. In the end, the numbers speak for themselves – sales in 2016 will top 30,000 for the first time in almost a decade, a three-fold increase over 2015. In fact, the almost-forgotten XC90 did well enough to best another important newcomer to the Large SUV sector, Audi Q7.

4. Infiniti QX50

The sales performance of Infiniti QX50 is probalby the surprise of the year. The model, now in its tenth year on the market, was never receaved that well in the US, only selling more than 10,000 units in its first full year: 2008. The sales in 2016, on the other hand, are likely to top 16,000 units, an almost four-time increase on the previous year! The reason for this is plain to see – while giving the model a facelift in 2014, Infiniti decided to replace the US model with the long-wheelbase version previously reserved for rear legroom-obsessed China. In what proved to be a masterstroke move, Infiniti immediately addressed the biggest weakness of the original car – poor space for the family.

5. Subcompact SUV segment

The final success story of 2016 has been the entire Subcompact SUV segment, increasing its sales by over 50 percent over the first three quarters of 2016 compared to the year prior, a rate of growth more than double that for the second-fastest growing segment (20 percent for the Small Pickup segment). What is remarkable is that out of the seven cars in the segment, only the five-year-old Nissan Juke lost volume, while all the rest gained significantly: sales of the segment-leading Jeep Renegade and the second-placed Honda HR-V almost doubled in 2016, while the newcommers Mazda CX-3 and Fiat 500X broke the 10,000 sales barrier for the first time. Even the other elder-statesmen of the segment, Buick Encore and Chevrolet Trax, recorded double-digit growth on last year.