U.S. auto sales slipped slightly in October yet the industry is in a position to chalk up its second-strongest selling rate of the year after a robust September.
With all but one automaker reporting, light-vehicle sales declined 1 percent for the month. BMW, citing technical difficulties, has delayed its release until Thursday.
AutoData estimated Wednesday afternoon that the month’s selling rate would be 18.1 million vehicles; General Motors earlier in the day predicted 18 million. A result in that range would be the second-strongest month of the year and much higher than most analysts’ projections. The runner-up so far in 2017 has been February, which saw a rate of 17.5 million.
Previous forecasts from LMC Automotive, Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds saw a 2 percent to 4 percent decline in October. As BMW of North America accounts for just 2 percent of the U.S. market, its results aren’t likely to nudge the preliminary tally by much.
Ford, Nissan, Honda, Volkswagen, Toyota and Subaru posted higher sales tallies. FCA US, General Motors and Hyundai-Kia fell.
The U.S. new-vehicle market, after seven straight annual gains capped by a record 2016, was off 1.7 percent through September.
Here’s how major companies fared in October, followed by forecasts for the
Ford posted a 6.4 percent gain in October sales on stronger truck, crossover and fleet deliveries. Volume rose 6.8 percent at the Ford division but fell 1.8 percent at Lincoln.
Ford said truck sales increased 11 percent and SUV volume rose 5.3 percent, offsetting a 2.4 percent dip in car volume. Retail volume rose 3.5 percent and fleet deliveries rose 15 percent.
GM sales fell 2.2 percent behind a drop of 3.8 percent at Chevrolet. Volume slipped 4.5 percent at Buick and 0.1 percent at Cadillac, but rose 4.6 percent at GMC.
While GM’s truck and crossover sales were strong, car volume skidded 24 percent to 52,800 units last month.
A 19 percent surge in light truck volume — an October high — helped Toyota Motor Corp. post a 1.1 percent gain in volume last month. Deliveries rose 2.5 percent at the Toyota division but slid 7.7 percent at Lexus. Combined car demand at Toyota and Lexus skidded 15 percent.
“The first month of the final quarter of 2017 saw sustained strong sales for the industry, and we expect that momentum to continue through the last two months of the year,” said Jack Hollis, group vice president and general manager of the Toyota division.
Strong truck and crossover demand helped Nissan Motor Co. sales rise 8.4 percent last month to 123,012 — an October record — with a 10 percent gain at the Nissan brand offsetting an 8.1 percent decline at Infiniti.
Lower fleet sales — 23,220 units, down 43 percent in October — continue to undermine overall results at FCA US, which reported a decline of 13 percent. Five of FCA’s six major brands — Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, Ram and Fiat — posted declines.
Strong demand for cars helped counter weaker light-truck volumes at Honda Motor Co., which posted a 0.9 percent overall gain in October volume. Sales rose 1.2 percent at the Honda division but dropped 1.3 percent at Acura. American Honda’s car sales, led by the Honda Civic and redesigned Accord, rose 5.9 percent while light truck demand slid 3.6 percent. All of the Honda brand’s light trucks, except the Pilot, posted declines last month.
Volkswagen sales were up 12 percent to 27,732 on growing sales of its new crossover lineup. Audi extended its industry-best sales streak to eight consecutive years, rising 9.6 percent to 19,425 with strength from its Q5 and Q7 crossovers.
Subaru of America narrowly extended its streak of monthly sales gains to generate its best October ever. Sales in the U.S. were up 0.5 percent to 54,045 vehicles for October. The winning streak is now at 71 months for monthly sales increases.
Hyundai Motor America said its October sales fell 15 percent to 53,010 vehicles, despite a 49 percent boost from the Genesis brand. Elantra sales slipped 7 percent to 14,733 vehicles. The Tucson compact crossover posted an 8 percent gain to 8,731 deliveries. Santa Fe crossover deliveries ramped up 15 percent to 13,024 vehicles.
At Kia, sales dropped 9.4 percent to 44,397 vehicles, paced by a 29 percent fall in Soul sales to 9,254 deliveries. The Forte compact sedan gained 15 percent to 9,219 deliveries. Cadenza sales improved to 1,021 deliveries from 289 during the same month last year.
Analysts polled by Bloomberg had expected the seasonally adjusted sales rate for October to come in at 17.6 million, one of the highest rates of the year, but down from September’s torrid 18.58 million pace and just below October 2016’s 17.85 million rate. A SAAR of 17.5 million or higher would be well above the industry’s sales pace in the first eight months of the year. GM today pegged the October SAAR at 18 million.
Incentives averaged $3,901 per vehicle in the first 17 days of October, J.D. Power says, topping the month’s previous record set last year, by $66. Power says average transaction prices across the industry also set an October record, rising $615 from a year ago to $32,185, suggesting that rising discounts are not putting a dent in profits. For the month, ALG estimates new-vehicle incentives averaged $3,820, up 8.4 percent from October 2016 but down 1.7 percent from September. Among major automakers, GM and Nissan offered the biggest deals last month, ALG says. (See chart below.)
ODDS & ENDS
- Automakers are struggling to move lagging 2017 inventory off dealer lots. In October, 72 percent of new vehicles sold were 2017 models, Edmunds said, while last October, 60 percent of new vehicles sold were 2016 models.
- There were 25 selling days last month compared with 26 in October 2016.
- U.S. consumers had four weekends to shop for vehicles last month compared with five in October 2016.
- Among major automakers, only Fiat Chrysler is still looking for its first monthly sales gain this year. Among major brands, Jeep and Hyundai have yet to post a monthly sales advance.
NOTABLE & QUOTABLE
Kelley Blue Book estimates average transaction prices for light vehicles in the United States came in at $35,263 for October, $101 higher than October 2016 and $128 higher than September 2017.
“Transaction prices continue to rise at a slower pace than we’ve seen recently. Prices in the third quarter were up just 1 percent after averaging 3 percent gains in the first half of the year. While Kelley Blue Book expects solid sales in October 2017 with a 17.9 million SAAR, flat transaction prices combined with ever-growing incentive spending signal headwinds for the new-vehicle market as 2017 nears its end.”
— Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book
October incentive outlays for U.S.