If success for the auto industry is measured by matching lofty pre-recession levels, then the worst for car companies appears to be over. Automakers sold 1.4 million vehicles in the United States in June 2014, which marked the highest volume since July 2006.
Back in 2006, General Motors was still the world’s leading automaker in sales and production. Now embroiled in a monumental recall scandal, GM is shrugging off the impact of the bad press and somehow posting impressive summer sales. One Edmunds analyst told the New York Times the recall may in fact be helping GM by getting old customers into dealerships to see the automaker’s new products. While they wait for an old Cobalt or truck to be updated, they become wowed by a sparkling Sonic or Tahoe sitting on the dealer’s lot.
The sales figures back up the theory. Several GM automobiles topped the list of largest gainers in U.S. the auto industry in June. Here are the 10 vehicles posting the most impressive gains this summer, with a minimum of 4,300 units sold. Sales statistics are courtesy of Goodcarbadcar.net, a site that exhaustively organizes auto sales totals, while MSRP quotes come from manufacturer websites, excluding destination charges.
10. Buick LaCrosse (33.3 percent)
Between the Encore (with a lower sales volume) and the LaCrosse, GM’s Buick division had several strong sellers in June. The LaCrosse ($33,635 for 2015 models) posted 33 percent gains in June over its performance in 2013. Through the first half of 2014, sales of the LaCrosse are up 3 percent over the prior year. Sales of the Encore (up 93 percent in 2014) are gaining ground on the LaCrosse fast, but for now the LaCrosse is the biggest gainer with a considerable volume (5,332 cars sold).
9. Nissan Versa (33.4 percent)
The Nissan Versa is in the top forty in U.S. sales for 2014, but in June it had a huge month, posting gains over 33 percent with 11,613 units sold. Its fuel economy ratings in the S Plus trim (40 mpg highway, 31 mpg city) are surely driving sales in the summer for this affordable subcompact ($11,990 for base S trim) by Nissan. Versa models are up 7 percent overall in 2014.
8. Chevy Sonic (37 percent)
The Chevy Sonic, the second of five GM cars on this list, posted 37 percent gains in June over its 2013 stats with 9,718 cars sold on the month (up 12 percent on the year). Like the Nissan Versa, Sonic drivers likely gravitate toward the car’s excellent fuel economy (40 mpg highway). Sonics are available in sedan ($14,170) or hatchback ($14,770) models, both of have available turbocharged engine options for additional torque.
7. Toyota 4Runner (42 percent)
Toyota’s midsize SUV ($32,820) posted a big June with 5,761 units sold. That number represented a 42 percent jump over June 2013, which is consistent with the 4Runner’s trending upward in 2014 (up 39 percent on the year compared to 2013). Compared to Toyota’s fuel-efficient compacts and hybrid lineup, this vehicle fills the slot big U.S. vehicle consumers crave.
6. Ford Expedition (44 percent)
The Ford Expedition SUV ($41,975) came up big for the Blue Oval in June, posting a 44 percent increase in sales (over June 2013) with 4,621 units sold on the month. Equipped with a standard 5.4-liter V8 capable of 310 horsepower and 365 pounds-feet of torque (85 percent at 1,500 rpm), the Expedition can tow over 9,000 pounds, making it a summer vacation mainstay. Sales of the Expedition are up 25 percent through the first half of 2014.
5. Nissan Sentra (68 percent)
The top five vehicles on this list are positively surging on U.S. sales charts, and none sold a higher volume than the Nissan Sentra in June (17,097 units). That sales performance marked an improvement of 68 percent over the Sentra’s figures in June 2013, while its year-over-year gains are almost equally impressive (up 41 percent in 2014). Through the first half of the year, the Sentra ($15,990) is No. 21 on the U.S. vehicle list. As with many other top sellers, the impressive fuel economy of 40 mpg highway in the FE+S trim ($17,240) set this compact apart.
4. Chevy Suburban (73 percent)
GM’s critics wondered if the investment in big trucks would pay off even before the recall debacle hit the company. Sales of the Chevy Suburban ($47,595) in the summer have validated that strategy for the time being. U.S. auto consumers went for 6,584 models of the Suburban in June, which marked a 73 percent jump over the June 2013 statistics. Through the first half of 2014, sales are up 8.8 percent year-over-year.
3. BMW 5 Series (77 percent)
BMW’s 5 Series lineup did major damage in June, selling 7,940 models (up 77 percent over June 2013) while beating out the Ford Mustang and the Chevy Camaro in their phase-out years. Still, for two cars that have traditionally represented the American summer, the 528i sedan ($49,500) and its 5 Series siblings pulled off a considerable upset on the sales U.S. charts. Overall, 5 Series models are up 7 percent in 2014. The 2.0-liter, four-cylinder twin turbo engine in the base 528i delivers 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.
2. Chevy Tahoe (93 percent)
Yet another big GM vehicle making huge gains in June 2014, the Chevy Tahoe full-size SUV ($44,895) nearly doubled its sales last year with 11,147 models sold to U.S. consumers. The Tahoe is making GM’s truck strategy work so far in 2014 with sales up 14 percent on the year for the Tahoe, which gets 23 mpg highway in its most efficient model and has up to 355 hp on tap in available engines.
1. GMC Savana (129 percent)
Topping the list of all gainers on U.S. sales charts in June 2014 was the GMC Savana, the passenger van that offers fuel economy of 14 mpg combined; It may not sound like much, but there are few passenger vans with a better miles-per-gallon clip (the Ford Transit and it’s 16 mpg rating, for example). Now that the Econoline vans from Ford are out, the Savanna is the natural substitute for those unwilling to switch to the new Euro-inspired Transit line who still want the large, boxy passenger carriers. U.S. consumers picked up 4,333 models of the Savana in June, which marked an increase of 129 percent over June 2013. The Savana’s performance is just as remarkable on the year for GMC. Through the first half of the year, the Savana has soared 98 percent over sales tallies from 2013.
GM’s big trucks brought the automaker to a surprising overall sales gain at a time when negative press would be expected to dog a car company. Apparently, most U.S. considers consider the old GM to be a thing of the past.