Those in the auto industry can step back and appreciate this: For the Detroit Three and anyone in the car industry, these are the best of times.
In 2015, automakers sold more cars and trucks in the U.S. than any year in the history of the industry. The final tally topped 17.47 million, surpassing the prior record of 17.35 million from 2000.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said it sold more vehicles than in any year since 2005.
Ford had its best year since 2006.
General Motors sold nearly 3.1 million vehicles, a 5 percent increase over 2014.
“It’s a great time to be in the automobile business, and it’s particularly sweet for those who lived through the dark days of 2009 and 2010,” said Tom Libby, an analyst for IHS Automotive.
What’s more, the industry and the Detroit Three are healthier now than in 2000 — the last time the industry sales were this robust. Back then, the industry ended on a sour note as December sales fell, the nation was bracing for a recession, the Detroit Three were losing market share and GM was getting ready to idle eight plants in the U.S. and Canada.
This time around, the U.S. economy is still improving, the Detroit Three are holding steady when it comes to market share, and the industry is selling its cars and trucks at higher average transaction prices than ever before. In 2015, the average new car transaction price for a new car was $33,188, according to IHS Automotive. That’s up 20 percent since 2005, when the average price of a new vehicle was $27,655.
It also helps that pickup sales are roaring and Americans are embracing the small and midsize crossovers made by the Detroit Three.
Need evidence? Sales of FCA’s Jeep brand soared 25 percent in 2015, Ford sold more than 780,000 pickups and GM counted its subcompact Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore crossovers among its hot sellers for the year.
To be sure, troubling reminders of how fragile the global economy is are on full display this week. China halted trading on Monday after stocks fell dramatically following a disappointing manufacturing report that showed its economy is slowing down. In the Middle East, tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran are escalating and concerns about regional strife are rising. Both of those situations drove down U.S. stock markets and could have negative implications for the auto industry.
In Michigan, where the cycles of the automotive industry can swiftly usher in periods of prosperity and pain, such events must always be watched carefully.
But auto executives are not worried yet. In fact, automakers think they will sell slightly more cars and trucks in 2016, likely setting another industry record.