For South Florida auto dealers, 2015 a banner year – Miami Herald

Posted: Thursday, January 07, 2016

From luxury brands like BMW and Bentley to stalwarts Toyota and Honda and budget-friendly Kia, 2015 was a banner year for sales at South Florida auto dealerships. But while more cars were driven off the lots, some of the sales came at a discount.

Nationwide, automakers sold more vehicles than any year in the history of the industry.

Fort Lauderdale-based AutoNation, the country’s largest dealership, said Wednesday it sold 343,753 new cars and trucks last year. Of those, more than 55,000 vehicles were sold in South Florida. Statewide, sales were up 18 percent.

Nationwide, publicly traded AutoNation grew new car sales by almost 36,000, or 9 percent, in December 2015 over December 2014, outpacing the U.S. industry increase of 5 percent. But the high volume came with “significant retail discounts,” especially in the luxury segment, the company reported. In a release, AutoNation said it expected declines in profit margins for both the fourth quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016.

In Miami-Dade, privately held Braman reported it sold more than 10,000 vehicles in 2015, a company record. The BMW brand led sales at the downtown dealership, which also sells cars from MINI, Hyundai, KIA, Cadillac, Bentley, Bugatti and Rolls-Royce.

“It was a bit of a milestone for us,” said General Manager Steve Grossman. “We have great people and a brand new facility that we just finished in a fabulous city.”

Southeast Toyota, owned by JM Family Enterprises, reported a record of 68,421 vehicles sold. The company is one of the nation’s largest Toyota dealers, accounting for 18.6 percent the Toyota sales nationwide.

Rick Case Automotive Group, which sells 11 brands, said it sold 36,325 vehicles. The company’s Volkswager, Fiat and Alfa-Romeo dealerships were the country’s largest by number of sales, the company said.

Nationally, automakers sold 17.47 million new vehicles, surpassing the prior record of 17.35 million from 2000. It is a staggering turnaround for an auto industry that fought for its life half a decade ago. Last year’s estimated $437 billion in car sales were aided by low gas prices, abundant credit and a strengthening economy.

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.

One notable exception was German automaker Volkswagen, which posted a decline partly because of an emissions-cheating scandal that has curtailed the availability of certain diesel-powered vehicles under investigation in the United States and elsewhere.

In December, manufacturers sold 1.64 million vehicles, which represented a 9 percent increase over the previous year. For all of 2015, industry sales increased by about 6 percent.

Analysts said the seasonally adjusted sales rate for December had slipped from the torrid pace set in the previous three months. “The strong exit to 2015 bodes well, and we expect the market momentum to continue, with sales projected at 17.8 million in 2016,” said Christopher Hopson, an analyst with the research firm IHS Automotive.

Material from Miami Herald wire sources was used to supplement this report.

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