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Detroit automakers lead surge in California auto sales

Detroit automakers lead surge in California auto sales
Surging sales of Jeeps in California are leading a Detroit automaker resurgence. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Auto sales are booming in California, helped by a resurgence of the Detroit automakers.

New-vehicle registrations in the state topped 1 million during the first six months of 2015, an 11.5% gain over the same period a year earlier, according to the California New Car Dealers Assn. That tops the 3.1% sales gain experienced by the industry nationally.

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A combination of low interest rates, attractive lease deals and continued improvements in fuel economy and technology contributed to the statewide sales gain, the dealer trade group said in its quarterly report.

Sales are expected to reach 2 million this year, the best showing since 2006, when almost 2.1 million sold. The trade group expects another increase in 2016.

The big domestic auto companies — General Motors, Ford and Chrysler — are leading the sales growth.

Their combined sales increased 14.4% during the first half of the year, far ahead of their 2.5% national gain. Their share of the California market grew to 28.4%, up almost a full percentage point from the same period a year earlier. Jeep, with a 34.4% sales gain, and Chevrolet, with a 13.8%, gain contributed to the improvement.

Japanese brands saw their market share tick down to 48.5% from 49%. Toyota and Honda remain the biggest sellers of vehicles in California, however.

European brands dipped to 15.3% from 15.5% South Korean-brand sales dipped to 7.8% of the market form 7.9%.

With sales of 36,861, the Honda Civic was the state's most popular vehicle through the first half of the year. The Toyota Prius was second at 34,008 followed by the Toyota Corolla at 32,383. The Toyota Camry was fourth at 31,913 but leads the rival Honda Accord by only 13 cars.

The Ford F-Series truck was the top pickup with sales of 20,195, nearly a third of the large pickup truck market in California.

There's a dogfight for top luxury seller, with fewer than 400 cars separating the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (5,409) from the BMW 5-Series (5,267) and the electric Tesla Model S, (5,148.)

Sales of hybrid and rechargeable cars are losing ground.

Hybrids accounted for 5.5% of the California auto market during the first six months of the year, down from 6.2% during the same period in 2014. The Prius accounted for 61% of hybrid sales during the first half.

Plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles accounted for 2.9% of the market, down from 3.1%

A quirk in the automotive product cycle may have contributed to the decline. Chevrolet is just about to launch sales of a much-improved redesigned Volt plug-in and Tesla is expected to soon start production of its Model X luxury electric crossover.

Follow me on Twitter (@LATimesJerry), Facebook and Google+.

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