When Superstorm Sandy pummeled the East Coast at the end of October, its breadth and destructiveness were enough to drag down new-car sales for the month. But already in November, carmakers were seeing Sandy’s opposite effect: a surge in new vehicle sales as buyers pocket their insurance checks and headed out to dealerships to replace their storm-ruined cars. (It’s estimated that as many as 250,000 cars were destroyed.) That tailwind added to the trend of increasing volume driven by an aging national fleet, low interest rates, and improved credit availability. Overall, sales jumped 15% compared to last year, and the annualized clip topped 15 million units, the fastest pace so far in 2012.
NOVEMBER 2012 SALES RESULTS, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS NOVEMBER 2011
GENERAL MOTORS +3%
GM’s 3% increase was well shy of the industry overall. With Cadillac and Buick up significantly, and GMC scratching out a 1% increase, the blame must lie with Chevrolet, which was flat. Looking more closely, however, we see that Chevy cars did well, but it was trucks that dragged the numbers down.
GM claimed that its pickup sales were hurt by competitors’ steep discounts, and you can see the effect on the Silverado (-10%) and the Colorado (-33%). Large SUVs declined as well. The Volt (+33%) was up versus last year but down from recent months, while the Spark added 1709 units, which was just ahead of the Volt total but less than half that of the Sonic. Chevy’s bestselling car was the fleet-fattened Cruze (+27%).
Like Chevrolet, GMC’s pickups both slipped: the Sierra (-2%) and the Canyon (-29%). The Acadia crossover (-26%) joined the big SUVs in the down column. The Terrain (+44%) was the bright spot.
Again, the Verano provided the momentum at Buick, although it might be stealing some sales from the Regal (-48%). This month, the Verano got some help from the Enclave (+23%), which was up while its GMC and Chevrolet siblings were down.
The ATS and the XTS have added significantly to Cadillac’s volume, more than offsetting declines for the CTS and the Escalades.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +6%
Like General Motors, Ford’s sales increase lagged the industry, and like General Motors, Ford could lay some blame on its below-average incentive spending.
The F-series had its third huge month in a row, selling some 56,000 units. The new C-Max saw its volume jump by half versus October, and the Focus had another big month (+56%) as well. The worst news was the second straight decline for the Fusion (-24%).
The Lincoln MKT was up 66%, but its figures are still only in the hundreds. More significant was the drop for the MKZ (-36%), although that comes just ahead of the launch of the new version.
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES +17%
Toyota looked good, coming off a bad year in 2011.
Despite revitalized competition, the Camry (+23%) continues to steam ahead. The ancient Corolla/Matrix (+40%) shows no sign of slowing down, but the Yaris (-61%) sure does. All Toyota trucks beat last year, with the smallest volume model, the Land Cruiser, posting the biggest percentage increase (+84%).
The new GS is now running even with the IS as the second-bestselling Lexus sedan, after the ES. The LS (+37%) enjoyed a bounce but the CT (-28%) fell.
The FR-S continues to account for much of the growth in Scion volume — much, but not all. Credit also the iQ, although it sells at about half the rate of Scion’s sports car.
CHRYSLER GROUP +14%
Chrysler racked up yet another year-over-year sales increase. What was notable in November is that it did so with below-average incentive spending.
In a relatively stable month for the Chrysler division, the 300 (+17%) nudged ahead and the 200 (-9%) declined, while the Town & Country was about even.
The Dart is now outselling the old Caliber nearly by a factor of four. The Grand Caravan (+42%) and the Journey (+77%) were also major players driving Dodge ahead.
The Compass (-36%) and the Liberty (-19%) continue to stumble, while the Wrangler (+12%) posted the only significant increase.
The big Ram made a big gain, although some said that the Ram’s outsized gains came via outsized incentives.
Fiat sales more than doubled in November.
AMERICAN HONDA +39%
Honda’s huge percentage increase wasn’t just due to depressed sales last year. In fact, the month just ended was the best November in Honda’s history.
Honda dealers were told to aggressively sell down the 2012 Civic ahead of the recently unveiled updated version, and aggressively sell they did. With the help of some hefty incentives, Civic sales reached 30,000 units, surpassing the Toyota Camry and making the Honda Civic the bestselling passenger car in the land. The CR-V (+33%) was the bestselling SUV. The Accord — both old and new versions were sold in November — was no slouch either, up 83% versus last year but actually down a bit from October. Even the hapless Crosstour (+71%) and Ridgeline (+38%) got in on the action. Not so the CR-Z (-20%) or the Insight (-68%), however.
The ILX became the bestselling Acura last month, but it still trails behind both of the brand’s SUVs. Of them, the RDX (+129%) looks poised to overtake the MDX (+2%).
The Sonata added 2000 units (+13%) against heavy competition, and the Elantra (+28%) benefitted from better availability. Decliners included the Accent (-30%) and the Veloster (-18%).
Like the Sonata, the Optima (+33%) was able to make headway in the crowded midsize market. All three of Kia’s small cars managed gains, but the Sportage (-30%) slipped.
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA +13%
Nissan saw its sales leap in November, but many of those new Nissans were blasted out of the showroom with a fire hose of incentive money, as Nissan’s spending topped the industry.
Nissan’s increase came mostly on the truck side, thanks to the new Pathfinder (+250%) with an assist from the Rogue (+17%). Of the passenger cars, the Altima was flat, but still on the high side of 20,000. The Cube climbed and the Leaf leaped — the latter outselling the Chevy Volt for the first time in months. The new Sentra, however, sank (-9%).
The new JX continues to propel Infiniti’s growth, but it does so without cannibalizing sales of the QX — at least judging by the QX’s November results (+47%). The brand’s most worrisome vehicle is the M (-15%), which is selling fewer than 1000 cars per month.
Big gains for niche products like the SL, SLK, and the G-class were good, but a hefty increase for the E-class (+60%) was better.
The ForTwo did much better than last year, but not as well as last month.
Three were sold.
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP +31%
Another double-digit increase for the Volkswagen Group is no longer news, but these two tidbits from the company’s press release stood out: VW had its best November since the days of the Super Beetle (1973); and better than 1 in 5 VW’s sold were diesel-powered.
The Passat (+75%) was back up over the 10,000-unit mark, where it joined the Jetta (+11%). Of its trucks, VW got the biggest percentage increase from its biggest volume player, the Tiguan (+52%). The Eos (-19%) was the lone VW in the negative column.
After a big jump last month, the A3 fell back (-19%), as did the R8. But that was the extent of the bad news for Audi, as all the other models increased. Most notable were the A4 (+34%), the A5 (+39%), the TT (+32%), and the Q7 (+92%).
The new Boxster is back in the game for Porsche, but the (old) Cayman is still sitting on the sidelines. The new 911, however, nearly doubled, and the Cayenne rocketed ahead (+80%). Add it up, and Porsche managed not merely its best November performance but the brand’s best month ever in the U.S.
BMW GROUP +39%
BMW had a great November, except for the fact that the flagship brand was (just barely) outsold by Mercedes-Benz. As intense as that rivalry is, there couldn’t have been much sadness in Woodcliff Lake with numbers like these: 3-series (+42%), 5-series (+64%), 6-series (+67%), X3 (+51%).
Both the Countryman, and the non-SUV Minis were up last month — the former slightly more than the latter.
Rolls-Royce delivered one more car this November than they did last. Good show!
Thank the new Impreza, the new XV Crosstrek and, to a lesser extent — a much lesser extent — the BRZ for Subaru’s huge percentage increase over its supply-weakened November 2011 total. Actually, we’d be remiss in not recognizing the Outback (+39%) and the Legacy (+29%) too.
Mazda joined in the good times in November, with contributions from the expected players — CX-5 and Mazda3 — as well as unexpected ones — Mazda5 and Mazda2.
As usual, the XC60 (+167%) did most of the heavy lifting for Volvo, but it didn’t do all of it, as the S80 (+19%), the XC70 (+16%), and the S60 (+5%) also helped.
Mitsubishi was one of only two manufacturers that couldn’t beat its year-ago sales, although the Outlander Sport (-34%) at least gave it a try.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER -7%
All three Jaguar models were down, and by roughly equal measures.
Land Rover -4%
The Evoque (+35%) and the Range Rover Sport (+7%) couldn’t keep Land Rover in the black.
Suzuki announced that it is bowing out of the U.S. auto market, and its dealers did a good job of clearing inventory in November.
TOP 10 BESTSELLING NAMEPLATES IN NOVEMBER
1. Ford F-series 56,299
2. Chevrolet Silverado 30,674
3. Honda Civic 30,075
4. Toyota Camry 28,765
5. Honda Accord 26,248
6. Ram pickup 24,337
7. Toyota Corolla/Matrix 22,616
8. Honda CR-V 22,333
9. Ford Escape 20,970
10. Nissan Altima 20,305