The Curious Conundrum of Catatonic Camaro Sales…

Since June 2010 the Camaro has averaged 8120 sales per month–well, until the 6th gen at least.

In what was supposed to be the year of the Camaro, GM’s new uber pony has averaged roughly 6,000 sales per month since the start of the year, and that’s without distinguishing between the roughly 14,000 5th gen Camaros sold this year.

Early on we knew Chevy was only shipping highly optioned SS and V6 cars to the dealers, the 2.0T and convertibles didn’t even begin rolling out until sometime in March/April (incidentally April was the 6th gens best month to date).  Ok fine, we’ll wait for things to pick up once the sunshine shows.

But then we got May numbers, down 21 percent from April, WTF?

Then June came and brought a further 14 percent decline, no really WTF?

Image Courtesy: Road & Track
Image Courtesy: Road & Track

Through the first 6 months of the year the Camaro is down 25,000+ sales to the Mustang, so what gives? From where I’m sitting it’s a culmination of several factors.

To start, the 6th gen car–despite it’s brand new bones–simply looks like an evolution of the 10 year old 5th gen design; in profile the two are virtually indistinguishable.

Next comes sticker shock, the price of the Camaro SS alone has jumped between 8-10 percent, depending on packages. Coupled with evolutionary styling and Chevy is hard pressed to find takers outside of a diehard pool of Camaro people.

This is substantiated when you listen to what Jim Cain, GM’s senior manager of Chevrolet business communications, told TTAC about the early sales mix.

“The early customers tend to be the most hardcore enthusiasts who are buying their dream car,” Cain says. “These customers are much more likely to check all the boxes — they want the most features and the most performance they can afford. As such, the first year of sales we expect to skew higher for V-8 models, manual transmissions, and higher trim levels.”

Tim Cain (no relation to GM’s Jim Cain) from Good Car Bad Car tells GMI “the average Camaro consumer, not the enthusiast, but a typical buyer, can’t quite tell the new car is new.

“As a car which outsold the Mustang five years running from 2010-2014, the new car doesn’t seem new, so it’s behaving almost as a continuation of the old model and losing sales as if it’s an aging variant of the previous-generation car.”

Aside from a blowout in April, the Camaro has been on a downward slide since March:

Screenshot

GM’s Cain also told TTAC “Camaro retail sales are up 13 percent so far this year. Fleet sales are down 53 percent,” while adding that over 25 percent of Mustang sales are ear marked for fleet duty.

In 2015 both the Camaro and Mustang fleet sales totaled roughly 18 percent of annual sales– the Camaro just shy of 80,000 cars and the Mustang closer to 120,000.

If we take GM’s 53 percent fleet reduction figure at face value it makes sense that Ford has picked up the slack GM is shunning.

Image Courtesy: Camaro5
Image Courtesy: Camaro5

Exacerbating the problem is the Camaro’s positioning in the marketplace.

Where Ford has made painstaking efforts to position the Mustang as a stylish daily driver, Chevy is pushing the Camaro’s performance prowess and marvelous mechanicals–something which doesn’t really resonate with non-enthusiast buyers.

Ford is reaping the rewards of their efforts, seeing huge spikes in ownership from the millennial demographic; even more surprising however, is the Mustang’s success with female buyers.

“Women like it because it is a practical choice,” Erich Merkle, Ford’s U.S. sales analyst, told Bloomberg. “It looks great, and it provides good performance and fuel efficiency.”

Additionally women are more likely to opt for the 2.3L EcoBoost engine over the V8 or V6.

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Outright, the Camaro is a better performing cart, I don’t think anyone is debating that, but the fact it’s so performance oriented is potentially alienating the lifestyle buyer.

The Mustang offers a more supple ride, geared more towards comfort and driving enjoyment then out and out lap times; it’s interior offers nicer touch points and a degree of sophistication over the Camaro; and lastly the Mustang has a somewhat more usable rear seat and trunk.

Image Courtesy: Motor Trend
Image Courtesy: Motor Trend

GM does a great job building cars that perform, but where they lack is connecting with consumers and making those vehicles as desirable as the market expects. GM has absolutely nailed the performance pedigree, but in doing so have reduced its day to day viability, while simultaneously pricing the Camaro well above the competition.

“It’s a sports car even more than the new Mustang is a sports car, but it’s not the best daily driver because of, for instance, visibility, ” continued GCBC’s Tim Cain.

“It’s worth noting that GM claims the Camaro isn’t losing in the minds of the collective consumer at all. GM insists it’s gaining ground, and that the lost volume stems only from lost fleet sales. Argue the business case if you want: in support of fleet boosts versus attacking the fleet business model. But GM says the new Camaro engages more buyers, not fewer buyers, on the actual retail front.”

But not more retail buyers than the Mustang.

If you look at the two cars respective inventory levels–32,200 Mustangs and 26,000 Camaros– and factor in the rate of monthly sales, the Mustang is sitting on 86 days of supply, while the Camaro clocks in at 136, nearly double the industry’s 70-day average.

Production is up, inventory is up the only thing lacking is buyers. So really, what gives?

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