When new-car sales had a hiccup in September, we wondered if that was the start of a moderation indicating that pent-up demand was beginning to get sated. Instead, we saw in October that demand is still strong, and sales jumped by 10% versus a year ago. They might have been even better, but the first two weeks of the month were sluggish as the theatrics in Washington undermined consumer confidence. October's annualized sales rate of 15.2 million vehicles was not as good as we saw during the torrid summer months, but it's better than almost anyone was predicting at the beginning of the year. All three domestic automakers saw increases of greater than 10%, putting them ahead of the industry overall. Transaction prices set a new record but incentives are starting to creep up a bit. Analysts expect that the latter to increase as we get toward the year's end, giving car buyers some help dealing with steep sticker prices -- and also greasing the wheels of the marketplace to keep the surprisingly powerful auto-sales recovery rolling along.
OCTOBER 2013 SALES RESULTS, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS OCTOBER 2012.
GENERAL MOTORS +16%
After a couple months of market-share declines -- which were noted in a Government Accounting Office report and rebuked by GM North America president Mark Reuss -- GM rebounded in October. All four divisions were up by double digits. And unlike last month, GM was also comfortably ahead of second-place Ford.
The addition of the Encore was again was a huge factor for Buick. In October, however, it was buttressed by the refreshed Regal (+47%), which finally reversed a string of down months.
The ATS and the XTS are running neck-and-neck to be the bestselling Caddy sedan. It's too soon to tell whether the new CTS (-12%) will also be a contender for that title. All would have to double their sales to reach the SRX (-3%), however.
The Silverado new-model changeover seems to have settled out, as the Silverado added some 10,000 units to its prior-month total. The new Corvette was also gangbusters in October, roaring out of showrooms at triple the rate of the previous car. Midsize sedans did well: Impala (+40%) and Malibu (+64%); so did tiny ones: Sonic (+25%) and Spark (+10%). They might have squeezed out the Cruze (-16%) and the Volt (-32%).
The Sierra (+13%) didn't jump the way the Silverado did, but it did add 2000 units compared to last month. The big SUVs also posted some impressive gains.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +14%
Ford's strong sales performance in October allowed it to gain market share, and easily kept Ford ahead of Toyota in second place among all carmakers. Ford, however, had the industry's highest incentives last month, so those sales came at a cost.
Another 60k-plus month for the F-series (+13%) gave Ford a solid foundation. Building upon it were the Fusion (+71%), the Escape (+12%), the Mustang (+30%), and the Taurus (+23%). The Focus (-18%) was down again, however, and was joined by the C-Max (-21%).
The MKZ (+80%) appears to finally be gaining traction, and the brand got an assist from its other models as well. Only the MKT was below its prior-year total.
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES +9%
Toyota was a mixed bag in October, particularly the Toyota division. Lexus, on the other hand, is improving, while Scion has become a real trouble spot for the automaker.
The new Avalon enjoyed another month of triple its previous sales, the new Tundra was up by nearly a quarter (+23%), and the new Corolla edged ahead (+13%). Also put the RAV4 in the win column, with sales up by two-thirds. Against that we have the Venza (-37%), the Prius (-7%), and the Yaris (-70%) -- the latter plunging to well below 1000 units.
The new IS (+69%) is gaining strength, in an encouraging sign for Lexus. The brand's SUVs all were up over last year, but the car side saw declines for the CT (-30%) and the GS (-15%).
Again this month, the FR-S (+11%) was the only model to beat last year.