Annual auto sales topped 17.5 million units in 2016, setting a second straight all-time record and marking seven consecutive years of industry growth. This year, the auto industry also benefited from relatively low gas prices, a burst of year-end incentives and high consumer demand for trucks and SUVs.
It all came together in December, when the three best-selling vehicles in the country were pickups, the next three best sellers were SUVs, and three cars conveniently finished out the year’s top nine.
Best-selling Truck: Ford F-Series
In terms of overall annual sales, it was a familiar face at the head of the pack: The Ford F-Series was the best-selling vehicle in the nation for 2016 for the 35th year in a row. That meant 820,799 deliveries last year, representing a 5.2 percent increase as compared with 2015. The forecast for 2017? More of the same, thanks to a next-generation EcoBoost engine, a new 10-speed automatic transmission and an updated F-150 Raptor that carries both. In Ford’s high-performing off-road pickup, that combination delivers 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque.
The Chevrolet Silverado also finished in its usual place on the sales leaderboard, as runner-up to the F-Series. In 2016, though, despite 574,876 sales, the Silverado lineup actually lost some ground. Volume slipped by 4.3 percent. On the other hand, part of that fall no doubt had to do with the success of another Chevy pickup. Remember that, at the same time demand for the Silverado was slipping, sales of the midsize Chevrolet Colorado were soaring with a 28.8 percent increase last year on the strength of 108,725 sales.
The Ram pickup filled out the top trio of vehicles, and with a noticeably higher growth rate than either its Ford or Chevrolet rivals. Backed by 489,418 sales last year, Ram pickup truck volume jumped by 9 percent over 2015. This brand also is looking to rev up demand yet further in 2017, with special editions like the Ram 1500 Rebel Black. A blacked-out version of one of Ram’s most trail-friendly pickups, it’s set to debut at the upcoming North American International Auto Show in Detroit. A dedicated Raptor-fighting Rebel TRX may be in the cards as well.
Best-selling SUV: Honda CR-V
If you look at total annual sales, not just the December results, the three most popular cars of last year did outsell the three most popular SUVs. But in this case, it’s those final-month numbers, and especially the growth rates, that are likely to set the tone for 2017. The top three SUVs all scored double-digit sales gains in December, when the top three cars were all in the red.
The Honda CR-V, for example, clocked in with a 21.1 percent increase in deliveries last month, on its way to a record annual total of 357,335 sales. With a volume increase of 3.4 percent for 2016 as a whole, the CR-V also completed its fifth consecutive year as the best-selling SUV in the country. Certainly goosing CR-V sales at the end of last year is the fact that Honda has released a completely redesigned 2017 CR-V. Among the upgrades are an available turbocharged engine, sharpened styling and more infotainment and safety technologies.
The CR-V also is locked in a tight battle with the Toyota RAV4, which increased sales 11.6 percent, to 352,154 units. As 2016 came to an end, the CR-V and RAV4 were only about 5,000 units apart. Similarly, Toyota is attempting to keep pace with Honda in the content race, making its Safety Sense P technologies standard on all trims, adding a luxury-oriented Platinum grade at the top of the line. The automaker is also delivering a sportier SE grade for the RAV4 Hybrid.
And both the CR-V and the RAV4 are going to face stiff competition from the refreshed Nissan Rogue in 2017. The Rogue came in third for 2016, with 329,904 sales and a 14.9 percent surge in sales volume. Its revisions for 2017 include a hybrid version of its own. Perhaps more telling, however, is that the Rogue’s December sales handily exceeded those of the CR-V. The Force is strong with this one, thanks to Nissan’s addition of a Star Wars-themed Rogue One limited edition model.
Best-selling Car: Toyota Camry
With today’s auto buyers more focused on trucks and SUVs than ever before, even the highest-selling car of the past year saw volume fall. Thus, the Toyota Camry did continue as the best-selling passenger car in the United States for the 15th straight year. Yet its 2016 sales volume, 388,618 units, reflected a decrease of 9.5 percent from 2015. Toyota hasn’t stopped improving its midsize sedan, either. More infotainment technology has been added to a number of 2017 Camry models, including a connect navigation app and wireless device charging.
Toyota also claims the second position on the car-only sales chart, with the Toyota Corolla. Per the company, Corolla sales advanced by 2.7 percent last year with 378,210 deliveries. Just keep in mind that those results combine sales from the Corolla sedan and the new Corolla iM hatchback (and the previous Scion iM, which was on sale since the beginning of the year).
Changing customer tastes even managed to slow down the Honda Civic by the end of the year. The third-best-selling car of 2016, the Civic delivered 366,927 units last year, up 9.4 percent versus 2015. But although the lineup expanded to three members during the past year, after the hatchback joined the coupe and sedan, overall Civic sales slid lower in three of the past four individual months. That said, Honda also adds three more high-performance Civic models for 2017: Si coupe and sedan editions, as well as a Type R hatchback.
Minivan Bonus Coverage: Toyota Sienna
The Chrysler Pacifica brought plenty of fresh attention to the minivan segment in 2016, but it was the Toyota Sienna that took home the sales crown by a very narrow margin. Deliveries for the Swagger Wagon dropped by 7.1 percent last year, reaching 127,791 units. Meanwhile, the Dodge Grand Caravan, buoyed by a strong start to 2016, grew sales by 26 percent and delivered 127,678 units. As for the Pacifica, it sold 62,366 units in about seven months, and Chrysler is expanding its roster with a plug-in hybrid model for 2017.