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.
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES -8%
Toyota couldn’t quite muster a year-over-year gain in October, despite the prediction of Toyota boss Bob Carter. But things did get less bad, as Toyota’s year-over-year decline dropped by more than half, and the company was finally able to pass Chrysler to retake the number three spot.
The new Camry (-12%) slipped a bit, and in the process lost its bestselling car status to the Honda Accord. The redesigned Yaris is doing well; it tripled the sales of the old model. On the truck side, the RAV4 (-27%) continues to struggle but the Tacoma (+13%) added sales.
Every Lexus model was down in October. The HS (-74%) was the worst, percentage-wise, but the RX (-22%) suffered the biggest volume loss.
The new tC had been keeping Scion in positive territory, but it too fell in October (-11%); the four-door models, however, dropped more. Not that it’s likely to have a huge impact, but new iQ minicar is not yet in stores.
AMERICAN HONDA -1%
Honda was almost, but not quite, able to avoid a decline in October. It did, however, manage to pass Nissan and move into the number five spot among major manufacturers. In other good news, the Accord beat the Camry to become the bestselling car.
The Accord was flat compared to a year ago, but flat is pretty good, as it was enough to pass the Fusion, Altima, and Camry. The CR-V (+7%) did better than flat, and was the bestselling utility vehicle in October. The Pilot (+53%) also enjoyed a strong month. There was still plenty of bad news for Honda, though, particularly among small cars: the CR-Z (-80%), the Insight (-75%), and the Fit (-36%)
The TSX (+32%) had another good month, aided by the addition of the TSX wagon. The RDX (+23%) was Acura’s other gainer. At the other end of the spectrum, sales of the RL (-91%) have all but stopped, with only 22 cars trickling out of dealerships last month.
HYUNDAI – KIA +22%
The Koreans again far outpaced the industry. This time, Hyundai’s increase just beat Kia’s. Even so, Hyundai-Kia slipped behind awakening Honda.
The Sonata (+4%) was back in the black this month, and took fourth place among midsize sedans behind the Accord, Camry, and Altima. The new Elantra (+37%) continues to do the well, but the new Accent (-10%) was down again. The Veloster enjoyed 3724 sales in its first full month.
The Optima is on fire (selling at four times its previous pace); the Sportage (+32%) is the next-biggest gainer. The Forte, facing newer competitors, (-18%) was down.
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA +18%
Nissan did much better than a year ago, but its increase wasn’t quite as big as in September.
The Altima had another good month (+15%), and remained in the number 5 spot for all nameplates. The Sentra (+41%) and the new Versa (+47%) did well, but Cube sales (-85%) have collapsed. Again, nearly all the trucks did better than last year, lead by the Pathfinder (+41%).
Infiniti fell back in October, with all models declining save the QX56 (+8%).
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP +36%
The fresh product is driving results at Volkswagen. The new Passat is selling at 9 times the rate of the old one, and the new — not New — Beetle is doing twice the volume of its predecessor. Even the Touareg was able to triple its (very small) previous volume. The Jetta (+9%), however, has cooled.
Unlike VW, Audi’s increase is the result of contributions from nearly every member of its model lineup. Only the A3 (-34%) and the Q7 (-10%) didn’t pitch in.
BMW GROUP +17%
The patterns are holding at BMW. The new X3 is doing well, but it’s just over half the pace of the X5, which saw some gains (+26%). The 5-series (+2%) has slowed but the 6-series is up. The Z4 continues on its teeter-totter, down 47% this month. Meanwhile, the 1-series (-40%) remains stuck in down mode.
Much different results for Mini compared to last month; this time, the standard Mini was down just a little (-14%) so the added volume of the Countryman easily pushed the brand into positive territory.
For the third month in a row, Rolls-Royce sold exactly 30 cars, versus 43 last year.
Mercedes powered ahead in October, on the strength of the C-class (+88%, with the addition of the new coupe), the new CLS (which tripled), the new M-class (+45%), the SLK (+58%), and, not to forget, the Sprinter (+105%). The E-class, however, is sinking (-19%), and that traditional breadwinner for the brand fell well behind the C-class in volume.
Last month Smart was finally in the plus column. Alas, it didn’t last.
Maybach seems to have settled in at a consistent 4 cars per month, whereas last year Maybachs were flying off dealer lots at a rate of 5 cars per month.
SUBARU OF AMERICA -12%
Subaru lost ground again this month, on declines for the Forester (-19%) and the about-to-be-replaced Impreza (-46%). The Outback and the Legacy were essentially flat. The habitually underachieving Tribeca, however, endeavored to help (+51%), but its volume is still tiny.
After soaring in September, Mazda was pretty static in October. The Mazda2 did well (+52%), as did the Mazda6 (+39%), and the CX-7 (+13%). Against that were declines for the Mazda3 (-8%), which is facing tougher competition, the Mazda5 (-18%), and the Miata (-35%).
Once again, the S60 was strong enough to grow Volvo’s sales, with a little help from the C30 (+38%). All other Volvos were down.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER +8%
Jaguar managed to stay in positive territory, with the XJ this time contributing the most (+12%).
Land Rover +11%
Land Rover’s 11% just beat its increase for the previous two months. This time, both Range Rover models moved in lock step (+18%), and both Land Rovers fell back.
After several months of increases, Mitsubishi suffered a setback in October, and was passed by both Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover. A big drop for the Galant (-70%) and one for the Lancer (-20%) was too much to overcome despite the addition of the Outlander Sport.
All Porsches were down in October, save the Cayman (+31%). The Cayenne remains the brand’s top seller.
After a couple of up months, Suzuki suffered a downturn. All models were behind their year-ago numbers except, strangely, for the Equator pickup.
Another frightening month for Saab, as none of its three models was able to sell even 200 units. And the headlines out of Sweden surely did not bring dealers any comfort.