Friday, November 1, 2013

Car Sales Rise: GM leads Detroit 3 gains; consumers 'resilient'

Sales rise, SAAR falls in another quirky month

GM leads Detroit 3 gains; consumers 'resilient'

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The October adjusted sales rate eased to 15.22 million, from September's 15.26 million.

Photo credit: Bloomberg

U.S. auto sales rose 10 percent in October, returning the industry to double-digit increases after a September slump.

But on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, October trailed September's tepid performance.

Here's one way to explain the different trend lines: It was another month of quirks.

September's 4 percent decline from year-earlier results broke a streak of 27 straight monthly gains for the industry. The setback stemmed from an anomaly that this year counted Labor Day weekend sales as August deliveries.

In October, it was a rare event of a different sort: a partial U.S. government shutdown through Oct. 16. That appeared to chill buyers' enthusiasm until the last two weeks of the month.

In the end, General Motors executives said consumers seemed to focus more on underlying positive economic factors.

"When you consider all the other positives -- fuel prices, low interest rates, housing, autos, the availability of consumer credit -- all of those things that have been driving the economy are still there," said Kurt McNeil, GM vice president of sales operations.

With a 16 percent gain, General Motors had the biggest increase among major players. It was followed closely by Ford Motor Co. and Nissan North America at 14 percent. Chrysler Group gained 11 percent.

Analyst Jesse Toprak of said car buyers quickly returned to the marketplace in the second half of October.

"Consumers were pretty resilient despite the government shutdown and the scare over the debt ceiling," he said. "Instead, they responded to having the best product choices in decades and attractive financing rates."

Volkswagen Group of America was the only major automaker to record a loss, down 9 percent overall and 18 percent for its namesake brand.

But three others lost market share. Toyota Motor Sales finished just below the industry average with a 9 percent increase. American Honda rose 7 percent. And at Hyundai-Kia, a 1 percent increase reflected a 7 percent advance for Hyundai and a 6 percent drop at Kia.

The SAAR eased to 15.22 million last month. The figure was down from September's 15.26 million and below most forecasters' expectations in the mid-15 million range.

On a unit basis, monthly gains had been in the single-digit range most of the year until a 14 percent increase in July and a 17 percent jump in August.

Some highlights:

Pickups cool off: Sales of full-sized pickups rose 13 percent, cooling off from the 2003 pace. It's a sign that the government shutdown shook the confidence of small business at least a bit.

Detroit 3 big pickups are up 20 percent through 10 months. But in October, the Ford F series gained 13 percent, GM's Chevrolet Silverado-GMC Sierra twins rose 11 percent and Chrysler's Ram had an 18 percent increase.

Nissan's aging Titan fell 38 percent to 984 units in October. With a redesigned Tundra hitting the market, Toyota said big pickup sales jumped 23 percent to 9,913.

Close shave: The Ford Fusion missed outselling the Nissan Altima by just 45 units, 21,785 to 21,740. A year earlier, the Altima's October lead was 11,933 sales. Altima volume dropped 12 percent last month, while the Fusion jumped 71 percent from a year ago, when the redesigned model was arriving in showrooms.

Spiffs up: October incentive spending rose 5 percent to $2,297 per vehicle from a year earlier, estimated. Using a different formula, put the increase at 3.5 percent, to $2,379. Both said October spiffs fell 3 percent from September levels.

Transaction prices up, too: Transaction prices for light vehicles averaged $32,184 in October, said Kelley Blue Book. That's up 1.2 percent from September's $31,817, but is down fractionally from $32,247 in October 2012.

[Sent from Ralph Paglia's iPhone]

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