This 2019, resolutions are more ambitious than ever. FCA 2018 auto sales show a record year—an upward trend that the automaker has all intentions of riding through the new year. General Motors hired a new president of a familiar lineage, Mark Reuss. CES is staking its claim as a legit auto show, thanks to humanity’s never-ending obsession with driver technology. And off-road racing has no time for your BS! It’s time to go!
FCA 2018 Auto Sales
Fourth quarter sales are in, and FCA US has reported its highest calendar year of retail sales in 17 years. Leading the pack are the iconic Jeep, RAM, and Dodge brands, who each saw record sales for both the individual month of December as well as the overall year. Alfa Romeo saw a slight decline over the holidays but still finished 2018 on a record high note, selling almost twice as many vehicles as it did in 2017. Chrysler and FIAT each gave a less-than-stellar performance, showing yearly sales declines of 12% and 41% respectively. (Ouch.)
But despite a softening of the two name brands that actually make up the acronym FCA, the world’s eighth largest auto manufacturer remains strong. As Americans continue to indulge their love of capable 4x4s, Jeep and RAM show continued growth—and potential. The RAM 1500 (which just won Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year) led its brand’s success, as the commercial van segment under the RAM umbrella saw some impressive numbers too, with ProMaster sales reporting the best December ever for the model.
But of course, Jeep takes the cake when all is said and done. (Much to no one’s surprise.) In fact, before the fourth quarter even hit, FCA had already sold more Wranglers than the previous year (check out the chart here.) Overall Jeep brand sales rose 10% just in December while yearly sales rose a walloping 17%.
Jeep Shows No Signs of Slowing Down
As the release of the JL and debut of the Gladiator bolster the brand’s position in the market, Jeep will undoubtedly ride that wave into 2019 and beyond. It’ll surely need the momentum to take on the return of another retired darling—the Ford Bronco, due to arrive sometime in 2020. Most anticipate the two to go head-to-head, with the expectation that the smaller Ford crossover (affectionately dubbed the “Baby Bronco” by media outlets) will be a competitor to the Jeep Renegade.
Those in the Jeep camp will be glad to hear that the brand has taken FCA 2018 auto sales to heart, with an aggressive five-year plan laid out to keep profits high. With redesigns of the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, resurrections of the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, the addition of a plug-in hybrid powertrain to the Wrangler (Whaaattt?) and introduction of two new crossover models, Jeep sees Ford’s bet and raises.
GM Gets a New Prez
GM, who clearly rode out of 2018 on the struggle bus, just announced a new president, former executive vice president for global product development, Mark Reuss. This may not come as a surprise, considering Reuss was in contention for the CEO gig before Mary Barra secured the position in 2014. This time around, he is replacing Dan Ammann, who has moved to Cruise Automation, GM’s autonomous vehicle division. Largely considered a true gearhead among enthusiasts, Reuss has the track record to back up the passion. Aside from wearing many hats at the company since he joined as an intern in 1983, Mark Reuss is the son of Lloyd Reuss—another longtime GM employee who himself was president for two years in the early ’90s.
Even after his father’s firing, Mark Reuss stayed on board with GM. His duties have varied, including everything from engineering to marketing. Stars on his resume include rebuilding the development of the Corvette and Camaro brands in the early ’00s, being named head of North American Operations, then head of global product development, and then head of Cadillac, to now taking title of President. He’ll add overseeing GM’s quality control operations to his already long to-do list. Here’s hoping Reuss’s passion is enough to bring the automaker up and out of its current slump.
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) May Be the New Official Start to Auto Show Season
Auto shows are expensive endeavors and many carmakers are now choosing to focus their efforts elsewhere—like digital marketing initiatives and modern-format auto events (think Goodwood Festival of Speed). This, combined with innovative strides in driver technology, has led to CES morphing into its own brand of car show.
As vehicles become more and more tech-dependent, that which entices consumers fundamentally changes. Drivers want connectivity, infotainment, mobility services—and where better to find the innovative cutting-edge offerings than a giant tech show in Vegas? This year’s show runs January 8-11, and among many other exhibitors and topics of discussion at the conference, the 2019 iteration will feature presentations on the future of ride sharing, 5G-friendly vehicles, and public transportation. Plus, some sweet concepts, like Kia’s self-driving car, will be in attendance.
To some, this spells the end of the no-nonsense, fuel-injected era. However, most know that it is not death, but a new freedom exploring the ways connectivity of vehicle and driver have rapidly advanced. Crucial safety features like lane keeping assist, or prototypes for eco-friendly engines had humble beginnings as mere ideas once, too. That is why the auto world chooses not to scoff at ideas like the flying car (yes, the conference will cover that, too), but rather, embrace it and expand the appreciation for how we move.
But what does this mean for the Detroit Auto Show? It used to be the big new-year-kickoff to the season, but has seriously waned in recent years, with nearly all German automakers save for VW pulling out this year. For 2020, the show has been rescheduled for June. Whether this seasonal move will be enough to reinstate the show to its former glory and remain relevant is doubtful, but at least attendees won’t have to battle a Michigan winter to enjoy the attractions.
Around the Circuit
The Roar Before the 24 took place this weekend, and the Dakar Rally got under way. If you’re not sure what the Dakar is exactly, it would not be a cop out to tell you it is an intense off-road race that has everything. No, really. This year’s race features 167 motorcycles, 126 UTVs, and 41 trucks. Buggies, cars, and quads are also legal vehicles, and many of them will be in the race for fun and support. If you’re interested, but afraid you might have missed all the action, fear not! The LONG race runs until January 17th, covering most of Peru— a true tour de force, so strap in!
The Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals will return for 2019 next weekend for some high-flying action, but not before one of its greatest causes kicks things off. January 13th is the fifth annual Racers for Autism event, where auctions, barbecue, and comedy will set the tone for an already fun weekend. In its first four years, the extra event has raised $430,000 for Today’s Champions – Empowering Those With Autism, a 501c3 non-profit charitable organization. Now there’s something that makes the ride that much sweeter!