New-car sales in October built on the surprising strength seen last month, maintaining an annual pace of better than 13 million units. Overall volume was up by 8% over last October, and the brisk sales pace was the best since February. Not even the slap-happiest Pollyanna would say that the rebound is due to a strengthening economy, but at the same time, automakers have not had to blast cars out of their showrooms with a fire hose of incentive money. Instead, the upswing appears to be due to pent-up demand. Demand for Japanese cars is getting easier to meet as inventories recover, but Toyota and Honda still came in under last-year's totals. Compared to the recent past, however, things went from bad to considerably less bad, which counts as good news, these days.
SALES RESULTS FOR OCTOBER 2011, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS OCTOBER 2010
GENERAL MOTORS +2% (continuing nameplates only)
Whereas trucks drove GM's increase in September, in October, cars outpaced trucks but both increases were modest. Unlike last month, when all four divisions contributed, this month only Chevrolet was in positive territory. Just under a quarter of GM sales were to fleets.
Cars were up 14% at Chevrolet and that was almost all the Cruze. Its 183% increase over last year looks spectacular but its total of 14,295 units is not nearly as good as it has been (it reached 20,000 earlier this year). Still, it was Chevy's bestselling car. The Camaro (+22%) was the only other car to beat last October. Oh, and the Volt topped 1000 units for the first time. On the truck side, the Equinox (+18%) continues to do well, as did the big vans. The Traverse (-13%) slipped the most.
The Regal (+40%) continues to lead the charge but it wasn't enough to prevent an overall decline for Buick, with the LaCrosse (-9%) and Enclave (-4%) both down a bit and the departing Lucerne (-53%) down a lot. The new Verano hasn't reached dealers yet.
Only the SRX (+13%) was able to best last year's figures. The CTS (-8%) fell back but the Escalades dropped more.
After a torrid September, trucks cooled in October, so naturally GMC cooled as well. The Terrain, once again, was the biggest gainer for GMC (+17%) while the big SUVs dropped the most.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +12% (Ford and Lincoln)
Car sales swung back into positive territory, the F-series had a banner month, and the Explorer lead the SUVs higher, making October a healthy month for Ford. Lincoln, however, was a drag on the party.
The F-series enjoyed monster results, again topping 50,000 units. The new Explorer continues to do well (3 times as well as the old model), as does the far-from-new Escape (+31%). The Fusion (+4%) enjoyed a record month and the Fiesta increased (+7%) but the Mustang (-8%) dropped.
Lincoln's smaller sedan, the MKZ (+6%), and its smaller crossover, the MKX (+5%), managed to eke out small gains, but they couldn't overcome drops in demand for the MKS (-10%), the MKT (-27%), and the end of Town Car production.
CHRYSLER GROUP +27%
Chrysler managed to achieve the exact same 27% increase in October as it did in September, but this time it wasn't enough to stay ahead of recovering Toyota. All Chrysler divisions showed significant increases over last year. As usual, though, Chrysler's incentive spending was the highest of the major players.
The 200, now selling at five times the rate of the Sebring, surged past the sinking Town & Country (-25%) to become the most popular Chrysler model. After a big upswing last month, sales of the new 300 fell in October (-29%).
The Avenger followed in the tire tracks of the 200 with a big increase (+145%), just as the Grand Caravan shadowed the Town & Country, and suffered a decline (-14%). Most Dodge models were down, but Journey sales increased by a third and the addition of the Durango helped give the brand a hefty overall increase.
The big Ram pickup enjoyed another big month, although it -- just barely -- got squeezed out of the top five nameplates.
Jeep put in another good performance, thanks to the revived Compass (which had been nearly dead), the Liberty (+51%), the Patriot (+22%), and the Wrangler (+25%). The Grand Cherokee, however, is starting to cool (-13%), although it remains the brand's bestseller.
Sales of the Fiat 500 slipped again in October.