Without a doubt 2014, was a banner year for the U.S. auto industry. Sales by American dealerships amounted to 16.5 million vehicles, a total not equaled since the pre-recession days of 2006. Boosted by mammoth truck, SUV, and crossover sales, automakers found themselves raking in record profits that are only expected to increase in 2015. A continuing slump in gasoline prices certainly won’t hurt.
Looking at the biggest gainers, it was Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) leading the pack among major automakers with its 16% increase (year over year), followed by Nissan at 11% gains in the U.S. Isolating each individual brand under the larger corporate umbrellas, it’s clear luxury cars and trucks are sparking the most movement stateside.
Here are the seven auto brands that made the biggest gains in 2014.
Audi’s ambitions in the luxury car space are unmatched. According to Bloomberg, Volkswagen’s premium brand plans to invest $28 billion to expand its model lineup and continue its attempt to knock BMW and Mercedes off the podium. Things kick off with Audi’s unveiling of the Q7 SUV at the Detroit Auto Show. (We’re curious about the plug-in diesel model that may appear later.)
This exciting time follows a year of impressive growth. Audi increased U.S. sales by 15.2% in the U.S. in 2014, year over year, for a total of 182,011 vehicles to American buyers.
Overall, luxury auto sales jumped 7% in 2014, and Ford’s premium brand was one of the surprise drivers of that growth. All told, Lincoln sales grew 15.6% over the prior year’s performance, which quieted some of the doubters. It won’t surprise many that SUV sales were behind the movement. Even when people laughed at the Matthew McConaughey commercials for the Lincoln MKC, Lincoln was making a statement.
Lincoln sales grew 25% after McConaughey took the MKC for a spin, and it was the car he advertised that was the brand’s top seller. While 94,474 sales is not a huge number, Ford took a step forward with its premium brand last year.
The story of Subaru’s growth in the U.S. market is being driven by its standard four-wheel-drive lineup replete with crossovers. In models like the 2015 Forester (pictured), efficiency and top safety ratings come in an affordable package. Subaru’s 21% growth in the U.S. market (513,693 sales) shows there are more than enough consumers sold on the automaker’s formula. In 2014, it marked the sixth straight time Subaru has broken its own sales record.
Few automakers sell on a volume as low as Mitsubishi (0.5% market share) does in the U.S., but 2014 marked a time of significant growth. Brand sales leaped 24.8% in 2014 on the back of 77,643 units delivered to American buyers. That was only the second time Mitsubishi sold such a high number of vehicles to U.S. consumers in the past six years. The Outlander Sport (up 25%) and Mirage (up 469%) did most of the heavy lifting in 2014.
After Subaru, Fiat-Chrysler’s 16% jump was tops among automakers, and the Ram brand was an enormous bright spot. Ram grew 27.5% on 469,135 truck sales in 2014. Its colossal December (up 35%) was one of the drivers of this growth, with the EcoDiesel model continuing to grow in popularity. Truck, SUV, and wagon sales outpaced car (coupe, sedan, and hatch) sales in the U.S. every month of the year, the first time that happened in a decade.
Speaking of Fiat-Chrysler’s exponential growth in truck and SUV sales, the Jeep brand posted gains of 41.2% in 2014 with 692,348 units delivered on the year. On the U.S. sales charts, that included the Jeep Grand Cherokee (22nd place, up 5.5%), the Jeep Cherokee (24th place, up 592%), and the Jeep Wrangler (25th place, up 12.8%). It is safe to say Jeep is hitting the mark with its new line of vehicles, which cleared the record one million sales mark globally in 2014.
Luxury car buyers were out in force in 2014, and it turns out many of them were heading straight to the Maserati dealerships. The brand posted gains of 169% on the U.S. market in 2014 with 13,411 units sold, which was easily a record for the Italian brand. Both the Ghibli and stunning Quattroporte were on fire throughout the year. To keep the flame going, Maserati is bringing the Ghibli SQ4 Ermenegildo Zegna edition to the Detroit Auto Show.