Based on numbers alone, American roads still belong to the usual suspects. The top-selling vehicles in the first four months of 2014 were three brands of pickups, the Toyota Camry, and a bunch of cars trying to be the Toyota Camry.
A more interesting and eclectic list, however, shows the best-performing models—vehicles that have been accelerating fastest from their sales pace last year. We took the entire U.S. fleet, stripped out all-new models, and ignored offerings that sold fewer than 5,000 vehicles. Here’s how the field finished:
January-April 2013 vs. 2014: percent change in models sold (total vehicles sold)
• Chevrolet (GM) Corvette: +199% (11,693)
• Lexus (7203:JP) GX: +135% (6,546)
• Lexus IS: +119% (15,238)
• Buick Encore: +91% (15,040)
• Mercedes (DAI:GR) S-Class: +74% (7,278)
• Acura (7267:JP) MDX: +70% (19,777)
• Nissan (7201:JP) Juke: +68% (19,377)
• Lincoln (F) MKZ: +58% (12,272)
• Subaru (9778:JP) Forester: +54% (46,937)
• BMW (BMW:GR) X3: +53% (46,937)
Most notably, drivers are absolutely in love with the new Corvette, as is nearly every auto writer on the planet. Chevy pretty much knocked it out of the park and with a base price of $53,000, and the car is finding fans among regular people—drivers who aren’t centimillionaires, never noodle around a track, and haven’t the foggiest idea what a torque curve is. Meanwhile, Chevy production managers aren’t holding the line on inventory. It’s the peoples’ sports car, and they are supplying it as such.
The rest of the list is heavy on “updated” or even more aggressively retooled models. Each represents a win by the car companies behind them—vehicles that deliver what they promise, stoke some consumer passion, and shift into a promising slice of the market. (The angry new Lexus IS, it should be noted, is striking a similar chord as the Corvette.)
In a way, these are the most impressive cars of the moment. After all, Ford Motor could probably put out a cardboard F-150 and still sell 50,000 a month. Likewise, automakers have aggressively retooled plenty of models recently that failed to gain much momentum with buyers.
Toyota Motor, for example, rolled out a much improved Highlander SUV this spring, but sales are up only 23 percent this year through April. The story is similar for Kia Motors’ (000270:KS) new Soul, a mini-utility mash-up that looks like a tiny van. The car certainly is not a flop, but its 17 percent increase in sales appears sluggish compared with Nissan’s Juke, which sits in a similarly quirky segment of the car market.