November 2009 Auto Sales Analysis

After October's hopeful results, November auto sales slid backward to the post-Clunkers doldrums of two months ago. So, while the financial markets are recovering and the TV talking heads debate whether the recession had ended, it's clear that there's no incipient recovery in the automobile business. There, the recession continues.

What is interesting about November is how widespread the declines were. The market as a whole slipped 11% from October, and the trend was powerful enough that 32 of the 37 top brands found themselves in negative territory. The five marques that actually had better sales in November were a ragtag bunch: Jaguar, Jeep, Mercury, Volvo, and Saturn, none of which is having a particularly good year overall.

Another way of assessing November is to look at the month's five best-selling vehicles (see the list at the end of this report). November's group of five is the same as last month, and even though their relative rankings barely changed, every one of them was off significantly from its October figure.

Next month should see slightly higher volumes, thanks to the traditional end-of-the-year blowout sales and massive incentives, trumpeted by wall-to-wall TV commercials. But even if we see an uptick in December, it's clear that 2009 will end much like it began, with automobiles a tough sell to a fearful and recession-battered public. Excepting any more massive government giveaways, automobile sales will be lucky to see a recovery in 2010.

November vs. October sales, percent change [Source: Automotive News]

Only one automaker had a better November than October.

Jaguar-Land Rover +9%
With the new XJ announced and revealed, but not yet on sale in America, it was the XF whose November sales gain of 44% (or 295 cars) powered Jaguar ahead in November. And with Land Rover sales flat, the XF essentially put the company in positive territory all by itself.

Some did well by doing less bad than the average.

Porsche -1%
Panamera sales just about equaled October's, while the Cayenne gained (+34%) and the 911 declined (-27%).

Chrysler -3%
An increase at Jeep (+14%) nearly offset declines for Chrysler (-2%) and Dodge (-10%). The company's performance would be more encouraging if many of the big gainers had not been models with a short future: the Chrysler PT Cruiser (+130%), the Dodge Sprinter (+115%), and the Jeep Commander (+95%). The positive results from the Jeep Patriot (+68%), the Dodge Journey (+48%), and the Jeep Liberty (+29%) were perhaps more meaningful. But many core models dropped significantly, including the Chrysler 300 (-34%), the Dodge Charger (-30%), the Dodge Caliber (-29%), and the Dodge Ram (-20%).

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