November Sales Uptick Feeds Industry ExpectationsBy AutoObserver Staff December 1, 2010
Holiday spirits are bright across most of the U.S. auto industry this week after carmakers posted November sales about 18 percent higher than a year earlier, and at a strengthening seasonally adjusted annual rate sales pace of about 12.2 million units for the second consecutive month.
Major automakers shared nearly equally in the good news. Even Chrysler's sales rose by 17 percent. But Toyota Motor Sales USA proved the notable exception, with a decline of 3 percent for the month on an unadjusted basis.
U.S. auto sales totaled about 872,751 for the month. That was below the October 2010 total by approximately 7 percent, but the typical seasonal dropoff from each October to November is about 10 percent.
"So that's even a little stronger than the seasonal norm," said Jessica Caldwell, lead U.S. industry analyst for Edmunds.com. She noted that the increase occurred in the larger retail sector of the market rather than fleets, reflecting growing consumer demand, and that it came despite an overall flat level of incentive spending by automakers compared with October.
"There was some strength in the market this month," Caldwell concluded. "It's good news. We're not back to 16 million [sales a year], but it's better than we were."
Automaker executives mostly agreed.
"The overall market shows signs of improvement with consumer confidence increasing slightly," said Jim O'Donnell, BMW of North America president and CEO, whose sales rose 27 percent for the month.
It's OK to Look Ahead
Auto company executives have been predicting nearly since the beginning of 2010 that full-year sales would come in around a total of 11.5 million to 12 million, or up 10 percent or more from a year ago. And with anything approaching a decent December, that expectation easily will be fulfilled.
More important, some of them on Wednesday dared to preek ahead to what they believe will be an even better 2011. None questioned the early consensus forecast that sales next year could total 13 million, representing a second consecutive year of double-digit increases.
"Without a doubt, this fourth quarter will be the fourth [period] in a row that the sales rate has increased substantially, sequentially," said George Pipas, Ford's head of U.S. industry analysis. "That's a good sign as we approach 2011.
In fact, in Ford's initial disclosure of its first-quarter U.S. production plans, Pipas said that the company would make 635,000 vehicles during the period, which would represent an increase of 61,000 vehicles made during this year's first quarter. Ford's November sales rose 20 percent.
"Consumers have a slightly more positive overall outlook," said Jim Bunnell, head of U.S. sales operations for General Motors, whose sales rose by 11 percent in the month. "Pent-up demand is still building."
Economy Helping Now
In fact, one of the most promising signs for the industry is that U.S. economic fundamentals continue to pick up steam.
"Several economic indicators now support ongoing improvements in the pace of economic activity," said Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, Ford's chief economist, citing a decent increase in holiday-shopping activity compared with last year, an uptick in consumer confidence readings, continued expansion in manufacturing activity, and pieces of positive news on the jobs front.
True, the 9.6-percent unemployment rate and the continued vast weakness in the nation's housing markets are strong offsetting factors to the good economic news. But Hughes-Cromwick said that, "taken together, the latest batch of data suggest we have seen restructuring in household balance sheets - and the fundamentals for the consumer continue to improve."
For example, she said, creditors have been more willing to grant consumer loans. "And we expect continued gains in business spending," she said.
Strength Across Segments
Another positive factor in the November sales reports is that nearly all segments of the market seem to be expanding again.
"Consumers are coming back into some segments that were abandoned during the [economic] crisis due to sticker prices of gas," said Al Castignetti, vice president and general manager of the Nissan division of Nissan North America. "Body-on-frame vehicles across the industry have started to come back to life. Gas prices have stabilized and consumers have become accustomed to paying $2.50 a gallon."
Indeed, pickup-truck sales have continued to build, and they should be helped by the imminent launch of the 2011 version of the Ford F-150, the nation's best-selling vehicle.
Cars and crossover vehicles starred for Ford and others. And luxury vehicles continued their sales comeback.
"Luxury buyers have more confidence and clarity on their situation," said Ben Poore, chief of Nissan's Infiniti brand. "The improving stock market has put real gains back in the pockets of the luxury customers and that makes them want to get back into the market. They now have a confidence in the future that is driving sales."
GM: Back to Selling Cars and Trucks
The IPO circus is over. The executive merry-go-round has slowed. The "old" brands are all but written off. Now General Motors Co. is getting down to the business of what it's been saying its business should be: creating desirable cars and trucks and selling them at a profit.
To that end, GM turned in what was a fairly industry-standard November, posting an 11-percent overall sales increase as company executives discussed the possibility customers may be getting more confident about buying a new vehicle.
"Consumers have a slightly more positive overall outlook," said Jim Bunnell, head of GM's U.S. sales operations. He also said GM was satisfied with its November performance on several fronts, including the mix of fleet sales (28 percent), a decrease in incentive spending compared with last month - and a vast decrease compared with November, 2009, according to Edmunds.com's
proprietary True Cost of Incentives (TCI) metric - and the fact that a healthy 89 percent of sales in the month were new 2011 models. Last year, just 38 percent of GM's November sales were vehicles from the new model year.
GM's mix of 2011-model sales was the highest among the Big 6 automakers, according to analysts at Edmunds.com.
The Buick division led GM with a 35.9-percent gain compared with November, 2009, as the all-new 2011 Regal chipped in 1,979 incremental sales and the Enclave and LaCrosse gained by 24.7 percent and 19.7 percent respectively.
Each of Buick's existing models is up substantially for the year (apart from the running-out Lucerne), including a substantial 141.2-percent climb for the LaCrosse large car; Buick's year-to-date sales total also is looking more in the pink, with 138,294 units sold through November, a 53.5-percent improvement compared with the same period last year.
Despite what Bunnell called a current "robust demand" for pickups, it was the truck-rich Chevrolet division that saw the smallest gain compared with last November: 17.6 percent. Although sales for Chevy's fullsize Silverado pickup gained 15.9 percent compared with last year and the midsize Colorado was up 21.4 percent, the Chevrolet division is contending with the run-out of the Cobalt compact car. The growing availability of its replacement, the Cruze, should begin to take up the slack - November demonstrated Cruze sales are beginning to plump, with 8,066 sold.
Chevy's big stories continue, however, to be its mainstream family vehicles, the Equinox and Malibu. The Equinox nameplate posted its best-ever sales month in November, with 15,387 sold and a year-to-date increase of 73.2 percent. The Malibu's less showy 4.8-percent gain compared with last November masks the midsize sedan's consistent strong performance over the past several years. The car so far has sold 187,250 units this year, a 31.7-percent increase compared with year-to-date 2009.
GM officials also spoke of the generous incentives that abounded in the luxury market in November, saying GM's Cadillac luxury division attempted to hold competitiveness without joining in the bonanza. Helped by the appearance of the all-new coupe, the CTS was Cadillac's best performer for the month, racking up a 37.8-percent sales gain in November. The SRX crossover also gained by35.7 percent and is up a whopping 196.6 percent for the year to a total of 45,229 units.
Cadillac's other models are withering, however, with the STS down 27 percent year to date (to a total of just 4,144 units) and the aging Escalade was off 16.7 percent in November and is down 6.1 percent for the year, to an also meager-looking 13,832 units.
At GMC, sales were up 29.5 percent for the month, led by a 60.2-percent hike for the Terrain midsize crossover and a 42.9-percent improvement for the Acadia fullsize crossover, which is continuing with a solid year; its 60,677 sales through November represents a 26.8-percent gain over the same period in 2009 - and could be one reason for the fullsize but truck-based Yukon's slide of 4.5 percent so far this year to less than 25,000 units.
Ford: Whistling Dixie
Ford led major makers with a 20-percent sales increase for November compared with a year earlier, to 147,338 vehicles. And year-to-date, Ford's sales gains have outpaced the industry's by about double.
Another superlative: Ford is ensured a back-to-back annual market-share increase this year for the first time since 1993, with an expected rise for 2010 to about 16.5 percent from 15.3 percent last year and 14.2 percent in 2008.
"Usually, you measure market-share growth in tenths of a point," Pipas noted. "In this century, only one other company [Toyota] gained a full point of market share at least two years in a row."
Pipas and other company executives attributed Ford's outsized gains to a continued stream
of appealing and top-quality products, especially its new Fiesta subcompact, Focus compact, and Edge crossover-utility vehicle. The company's share of the car and crossover segments overall hadn't been as high in five years.
Fiesta and Focus combined, for instance, captured almost 10 percent of the total small-car market, noted Ken Czubay, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing. Fusion, Ford's compact sedan, broke its previous full-year sales record of 181,000 units during November - with a full month yet to go and 196,000 sales already notched.
Czubay also said Ford just began this week building a new version of its Explorer SUV at the company's Chicago assembly complex, whiere it also builds the Taurus sedan. A new version of Focus is due in dealer showrooms next year. And Ford has begun shipping the 2011 version of the F-150, whose overall powertrain lineup offers a 20-percent improvement in fuel efficiency over trhe old engines.
Also interestingly, Ford has noticed a welcome improvement in its regional fortunes with some of its new models and with sales overall.
In the Southeast, for example, Ford sales rose by 29 percent in November, Czubay said, against an industry increase of about 19 percent. And in the West, Ford sales rose by about 33 percent while industry sales incrased by about 24 percent.
"Ten of our 25 top-selling dealers for Fiesta in November were in California," Czubay said. "Fiesta has really caught on in this critical market for us."
Lincoln sales for November were up by 19 percent, an encouraging result for the company's luxury brand that all year has been badly lagging the gains of the brand with its name on the headquarters building. Sales of the Lincoln MKZ, for instance, were up 48 percent for the month versus a year ago.
Toyota: Stuck in Neutral
The end of 2010 can't come soon enough for Toyota USA executives, who reported November sales of just 129,317 vehicles, down about 3 percent from a year earlier - alone among major (and most minor) automakers for the month.
Bob Carter, general manager of the Toyota division, explained that while Toyota's fleet business "hit the lowest level for the year," Toyota's retail sales once again led the industry. November of 2009 saw 100,000 retail sales by Toyota; this November, they gained to 105,000 retail sales.
"This growth in retail sales and decline in the dependence on fleet sales are positive signs the industry will continue its gradual recovery as we close out 2010," Carter said.
He also noted that the Toyota Camry sedan was "back on track" to be the best-selling car in America, this for the ninth straight year.
But such remarks glossed over the painful reality that Toyota simply hasn't been able to overcome the hits to its brand and reputation caused by its massive and periodic safety recalls over the last year.
Carter conceded that early in the year, Toyota suffered mightily in its previous ability to attract buyers from other brands. "That has always been important to Toyota, and I noticed a sharp decline in our ability to do that earlier in the year," he said. And Carter allowed that, even now, "I'm not suggesting the opinion of the [Toyota] brand is where it was 18 months ago."
Yet Carter said that, by July, Toyota had recovered its ability to draw non-Toyota owners to its brands and vehicles, and that existing owners of its products never abandoned the automaker in big numbers despite its woes this year.
But there's another angle. "There's a lot of talk about Toyota's image and their reputation for quality, which is a big player" in the company's problems in the U.S. market, said Edmunds.com's Caldwell. "But another big factor is that they have few new products.
"So they have basically no new products, and they're stripped of their bullet-proof reputation" for quality. "That doesn't leave a manufacturer in a strong spot. It's totally uncharacteristic of how their dealers are used to operating. In fact, the lack of profitability at the dealer level is one big concern that we need to watch."
Meanwhile, Lexus continued to slug it out with Mercedes-Benz for full-year sales leadership in the U.S. luxury segment. Lexus sales in November were a couple hundred units shy of a year earlier, but for the year to date, Lexus sales were up by 8 percent.
LX sales increased by 35 percent, and GX sales were up more than six times over last November.
Honda Still Seeking Open Ground
American Honda Motor Co. Inc. kept pace with the broad industry's solid November results, posting a 21.1-percent sales increase compared with November 2009.
But somehow, with full-year sales up just 5.9 percent, Honda's 2010 hasn't seemed particularly thrilling, despite comparatively hefty sales numbers from its volume car lines and other automakers, such as Hyundai and Nissan, for example, seem to making market-share inroads in secondary segments in which Honda has little presence.
The Accord, for example, was up 5.8 percent in November and is up 6.9 percent for the year - it's certainly better than having sales
in arrears, and the gains seem mundane compared with other competitors hottest models until one sees the Accord's year-to-date total of 279,00 units, meaning it is likely to become one of the year's few 300,000-plus sellers.
Much the same for the Civic, which enjoyed a 16.3-percent gain in November but is 1.9-percent behind last year's 11-month sales pace. Honda has sold 231,955 Civics so far this year.
Honda's light truck sales are steadily improving, with the Odyssey breaking out to a 31.7-percent gain in November thanks to availability of the heavily revised 2011 model. Odyssey sales also are up 9.7 percent year-to-date. The Pilot, which has stumbled around either side of the sales ledger this year, is firming up for a solid finish; November sales were up 11.9 percent and the
Pilot is 23.8 percent ahead of last year's sales.
Honda has not confirmed there will be a next-generation Ridgeline midsize pickup, but its 14,931 sales to date cannot be encouraging product planners. The CR-V continues to anchor Honda's presence in the light-truck segments with a 25.4-percent gain in November and a 5-percent improvement year-to-date, to 180,589 sales.
The company's Acura upscale division marked out a solid November, with total sales improving 17.1 percent. The gains were led by the RDX compact crossover, which improved 20.2 percent and the TSX entry-level sedan and its 16.7-percent increase. All Acura models save the RL flagship gained in November and year-to-date sales for every Acura model are ahead of last year's pace.
Chrysler: Strong Signs of Life
Chrysler reported U.S. sales of 74,152 units, a 17-percent increase over November 2009.
"We are pleased with the sales momentum that has been building this year, and elated now that we are showing off the vehicles that we've been talking about," said Fred Diaz, Chrysler's lead executive for U.S. sales.
The Dodge brand, for example, debuted six 2011 models during the just-completed Los Angeles Auto Show, including its all-new Dodge Charger and Durango, and a 2011 Journey crossover. Under the Chrysler brand, the new Town & Country minivan and 200 sedan will be first to arrive in dealerships, next year.
In the meantime, for November, Chrysler was glad that it already has introduced the new Jeep Grand Cherokee. Sales of the new version were up 256 percent in November over sales of the previous Grand Cherokee a year earlier. That result led the Jeep division to an overall 48-percent sales increase for the month.
Ram Trucks posted a 67-percent increase in November. "Even the Ram is cashing in on the hot truck market," said Edmunds.com's Caldwell.
She said that the fact that Chrysler's sales increase was in line with the industry's overall total was worth noting in itself. Also notable for Chrysler in November was that its overall incentive spending, on average, per vehicle was below $3,000.
"For a long time, they had to offer huge deals" just to get consumers to look at Chrysler vehicles, Caldwell said, including spending on average of more than $5,000 per vehicle in one recent month.
"With a lot of new vehicles on line soon, it'll definitely become clearer what's going to happen to Chrysler," Caldwell said. "They had high fleet sales, and high incentives, to bridge that gap over the last couple of years, but now the question will be: Will the new products be accepted by the marketplace? We'll see relatively shortly."
Nissan: Buyers Back Across All Segments
Nissan North America sold 71,366 Nissan and Infiniti brand vehicles in November, up nearly 27 percent from 56,288 vehicles sold in the year-ago November.
Nissan Division posted sales of 63,184 vehicles, up 25 percent for the month; Infiniti sold 8,281 vehicles for a hefty 45 percent hike.
In an interview with AutoObserver, Al Castignetti, Nissan Division vice president and general manager, said sales increases were mostly across the board and suggest customers in all segments are returning to the market.
"Consumers are coming back into some segments that were abandoned during the crisis due to sticker prices or gas (prices)," he said, noting trucks, SUVs and small cars in particular.
In recent months, Nissan has seen a surge in sales of trucks and SUVs, which continued in November. Sales of the freshened Armada soared 83 percent; Frontier sales rose 57 percent; and Titan sales were up 20 percent.
"Body-on-frame vehicles across the industry have started to come back to life," he said. "Gas prices have stabilized and consumers have become accustomed to paying $2.50 a gallon."
But, at the opposite end of the spectrum, sales of small cars rose as well. Castignetti does not attribute the small car sales increases to slightly higher gas prices but rather to those who had been frozen out of the new-car market getting back into the segment.
"The small car segment was absolutely beaten up during the crisis but we're seeing a resurgence of people starting to get back into the market," he said.
Nissan sold 6,724 Versa cars, a 21-percent rise to set a new November record. The quirky Juke is off to a fast start, outpacing Nissan's internal projections
by 40 percent with 3,373 delivered in November. The Cube was left out in the cold, with sales down 36 percent.
The middle of the market remained strong as it has all year. The venerable Altima had its second best November ever with sales of 18,372 sold for a 19-percent increase. The Rogue crossover set a new November record with 8,252 sold for a 67-percent increase.
Maxima sales were down 14 percent and Nissan's sports cars - the 370Z and GT-R - continued their slump.
At Infiniti, Vice President Ben Poore declared the luxury buyer is back. In the first half of the calendar year, luxury sales amounted to between 9 and 10 percent of the total market. In recent months it has risen to a more healthy 11 to 12 percent, he noted.
"Luxury buyers have more confidence and clarity on their situation," he said. "The improving stock market has put real gains back in the pockets of the luxury customers and that makes them want to get back into the market. They now have a confidence in the future that is driving sales.
Only one Infiniti model showed decline - the G coupe - and barely. Poore noted that Infiniti's new products are doing "phenomenally well."
Sales of the recently freshened body-on-frame Infiniti QX56 were up 148 percent to 1,326 vehicles for its best sales since March 2005 - in a market that was much more vibrant than the current one, Poore noted.
Sales of the M totaled 1,112 for a 167 percent increase. The freshened G 25 sedan gained 36 percent. The EX had its best month this year with sales up 28 percent.
For the 11 months of this year, Nissan North America has sold 814,810 Nissan and Infiniti vehicles, up 17 percent over the 2009 period.
Hyundai Hammers Towards A Fantastic Finish
Hyundai Motor America is finishing up 2010 as the year's definitive sales juggernaut: the month's increase of 45.2 percent was a November record for the brand, while the company also breezed past its previous U.S. sales record, ringing in at the end of the month with a total of 493,426 vehicles sold. The brand's previous full-year sales record was 467,009 in 2007.
The company's remarkable connection with consumers also means it finally will break the half-million-unit sales mark that has been prized by Hyundai management for a number of years. And the company said it embraces what the broad November sales may portend: a turning point in the industry's halting recovery.
"We are encouraged by a second consecutive month of strengthening industry retail sales. With Hyundai's rapidly expanding lineup of fresh, fuel-efficient and high quality products, we're positioned right in the sweet spot for this recovery," said Dave Zuchowski, executive vice president of sales.
Hyundai's outsized sales gains been personified by the performance of the all-new Sonata midsize sedan and Tucson compact crossover, and November sales for both were indicative of their contribution. The Sonata was up 72 percent compared with last November, to 14,031 sales and through November, the new sedan's sales were 180,659 compared with 109,543 for the first 11 months last year.
The Tucson's climb, meanwhile, has been almost as outrageous. In November, sales were 3,042, compared with 888 in November 2009. And year-to-date, Tucson sales have leaped 245 percent, to 35,553.
Other of the brand's big gainers for November included the Elantra compact car, up 41 percent; the Genesis lineup of near-luxury sedan and sport coupes, up 71 percent and the Veracruz large crossover, whose 747 sales represented a 63-percent gain compared with last November.
Year-to-date, only three of Hyundai's eight active nameplates are trailing their like-2009 totals: the Accent subcompact (-23 percent); the Azera sedan (-17 percent) and the Veracruz (-18 percent).
Hyundai also said this month it plans to beginning reporting as a footnote to its auto sales the number of vehicles sold each month that have at least a 40 miles per gallon highway fuel economy rating. For November, the company said it sold 192 of its all-new 2011 Elantra compact, all models of which achieve the 40-mpg highway rating.
"The 2011 Elantra is the first of four planned 40-mpg vehicles in Hyundai's lineup," said John Krafcik, HMA president and CEO. "But for us, leadership isn't how many low-volume special-edition 40-mpg models we offer, but rather how many 40-mpg vehicles consumers actually buy. We aim to lead the industry in the sales of 40-mpg vehicles, and to make this a challenge that everyone can follow, we'll be the first to report our monthly 40-mpg vehicle sales tally. We'd love to see others follow our lead."
Kia: New Annual Record Is Foregone Conclusion
Kia Motors America sold 26,601 vehicles, a 48.2-percent increase over the same period last year and the company's eighth monthly sales record this year.
Kia sales for the year so far are up 16.8 percent from the first 11 months of 2009 and has already exceed its previous full-year sales record set in 2007.
"Surpassing our previous best annual U.S. sales mark in just 11 months is the ultimate proof of the dramatic impact Kia's design-led transformation is having on the brand in terms of increased consumer awareness and consideration of Kia," said Byung Mo Ahn, group president and CEO of KMA and Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia.
The new 2011 Kia Sorento led the charge with sales of 9,618 units. The Sorento has been Kia's best-selling vehicle each month since going on sale in January. The new 2011 Optima, built in Georgia, is just arriving in showrooms - only 135 were sold in November. The standard issue Optima will be followed in coming months with the addition of new-powertrain versions, marking Kia's first turbocharged and hybrid vehicles.
The Sorento and Optima, combined with Kia's other new models - the Soul, Forte and Forte Koup, and Sportage - accounted for 84.3 percent of the Kia's monthly sales volume.
So far this year, Kia has sold 325,824 vehicles, up from 279,015 in the same year-ago period.
BMW Group: 5-Series Leads the Way; Mini Steady
Both portions of BMW's U.S. Group (BMW and Mini) reported November sales gains, with BMW's November sales up 30 percent from 2009, and Mini netting an 8-percent sales increase. BMW sold 20,297 vehicles in November, pushing year-to-date sales up a total of 11.8 percent to 196,833. Mini added 2,786 automobiles in November to its total YTD sales, but is still down 1 percent from last year at 41,324.
The new 5-Series is posting strong numbers for BMW (up 58 percent to 5,042 units), with some credit to an all-wheel-drive trim being added to the lineup. "November is normally a tough month, but we increased our sales momentum thanks to strong demand for our all-wheel-drive vehicles, the X5 and X6 in particular, and now that it's available, the 5 Series with AWD," said Jim O'Donnell, President and CEO of BMW of North America.
The BMW 1 Series saw a 40.7-percent monthly sales increase (1,019 units) from November 2009, while the perennially top-selling 3 Series was up 36.6 percent to 8,928 units. BMW's SUVs did well in November, with the X5 up 24 percent to 3,436 units, and the X6 up 30.8 percent to 561units.
Subaru: Ho-Hum, Another Record
Sounding like a broken record, Subaru of America is breaking records - again.
Selling 20,792 vehicles in November, Subaru had its best November in history, sales that were up 22 percent from last November. Subaru already is on course for a record-breaking 2010 since it eclipsed 2009's full-year sales on Nov. 3. Company executives predict the year will end with sales in excess of 250,000 vehicles.
November also saw individual records broken for Legacy sedan, Outback and Forester. The Impreza line saw a 33-percent jump in sales. Even the usually trailing Tribeca had a 2-percent sales hike.
So far this year, Subaru has sold 237,126 vehicles for a 23-percent increase over the 11 months of 2009. In just over three years - among the industry's worst in recent history -Subaru sales have grown by nearly 50 percent. "We have a formula that works," said Timothy M. Colbeck, Subaru senior vice president of sales. "Our vehicles are right-sized, come with all-wheel drive standard, and are known for safety, reliability, fuel economy and spirited driving. Add into that mix excellent value for money and it's clear why we are seeing sustained demand for our brand."
Volkswagen: Jetta, Touareg Lead Charge
On the strength of two new models - the Jetta and Touareg -- Volkswagen of America saw a 24-percent sales increase to 20,189 vehicles sold in November compared with a year ago.
The Jetta, recently revamped to appeal to a wider audience, is doing just that with 11,153 sedans and wagons sold, a 40-percent hike over last year. The freshened Touareg, available with a hybrid option, had its best month since December 2007, more than doubling sales from last November.
The Routan minivan had a 99-percent increase; Golf and Tiguan also posted sales rises. Volkswagen said it sold 4,304 diesels.
"It's no surprise the all-new Jetta and Touareg models did well for November but it's also good to see increases from models such as the Routan, Tiguan and Golf," said Mark Barnes, Chief Operating Officer, Volkswagen of America, Inc. "Our TDI clean-diesel products continue to gain popularity as customers realize the benefit of this product."
Sales dropped, however, for the soon-to-be-replaced New Beetle and Eos as they did for the Passat and CC.
Daimler AG: Mercedes-Benz Steady Climb; Smart Fading
The Daimler AG brands Mercedes-Benz and smart are on different tacks, with Mercedes continuing a steady U.S. sales climb while smart continues to fade.
Mercedes-Benz posted its best November sales figures since 2007 (19,037), a 13.3 percent increase from November 2009. Though sales remained steady from last month (19,076), year-to-date sales are up 19.4 percent to 203,468.
Smart followed its dismal sales figures from October (367 units) with an even worse performance (211 units) for November. Smart is hoping the new interior it previewed for the ForTwo at the Los Angeles Auto Show will do something to help spark interest in the 2-seat city car.
Mercedes-Benz did well across its product lineup, with the all-new E-Class retaining its best-seller status in the U.S. model mix (up 3.4 percent from November 2009 and 46.9 percent year to date). The S-, CL-, CLS-, R-, M-, G-, and GLK-Class all saw sales gains from November 2009, with the notable exception being the C-Class sedan, up 13.2 percent for the year, but down 2.3 percent from November 2009.
Mazda Reports 7.4 Percent Sales Increase for November
Mazda North American Operations sold 15,304 vehicles in November, an increase of 7 percent from last November.
The Mazda3 led the sales charge with 6,474 sold, a 9-percent increase from a year ago. The Mazda6 posted a gain of 21 percent for sales of 2,789 units.
Mazda's CX-7 and CX-9 crossovers had combined sales of 50,000 vehicles in November: 25,375 for CX-7 and 25,616 for CX-9. Each model is up approximately 40 percent from a year ago.
The Mazda 2 had sales of only 462 units. Mazda5 sales were down 22 percent. The sportscar sales malaise continued industrywide and afflicted the MX-5 Miata - sales down 23 percent to only 323 sold - and the RX8s sales plummeted 51 percent to a mere 88.
Mazda already has surpassed the 200,000 mark this year; sales totaled 208,087 vehicles in the first 11 months, outpacing the same period a year ago by nearly 10 percent.
Audi: Still On Track For A Record Year
Audi of America Inc. reported its best-ever November sales month, with the brand continuing to set an all-time annual sales pace. November is the eighth record-breaking month of 2010 for Audi, and marks the fourth month in a row where the brand has set record sales.
"It is no surprise that Audi continues to remain in the coveted pole position within the luxury vehicle market with an exceptionally strong brand identity," said Audi of America Chief Operating Officer Mark Del Rosso.
Audi sales were up 37.5 percent from November 2009 to 9,365 vehicles. Year-to-date sales are up more than 20 percent from 2009 to 91,083. Audi is hoping to eclipse its all-time sales record it set in 2007 of 93,506, and it should easily surpass that mark next month.
November saw the A3 set an all-time sales record (788 units), with the diesel A3 TDI accounting for nearly 70 percent of the A3 sales mix. The new flagship A8 sedan had a solid sales start (310 units), the A5 had a record November (1,181), and Q5 sales were up 53 percent, putting it second in model-line sales behind the A4.
Mitsubishi: Biggest Sales Hike in a Decade
Thanks to the first full month of sales of the new Outlander Sport, Mitsubishi posted sales of 4,306 vehicles for a 47-percent increase from November last year. That marked the biggest year-over-year percentage increase since June 2000.
"The excitement of our sales team and dealer partners for the new Outlander Sport was contagious, because customers responded in a big way," said MMNA President & CEO Shin Kurihara. "And the showroom traffic translated into increases for Outlander and some of our other vehicles, as well."
Outlander sales were up 64 percent from a year ago, bringing them 23 percent higher for the year to date. In November, Mitsubishi launched a marketing program for the Outlander Sport by holding what it billed as the world's first online test drive of a vehicle. About 52,000 people participated, as Live Drive earned its way into the Guinness Book of World Records.
The Outlander's halo apparently rubbed off on other Mitsubishi models. Endeavor sales nearly quadrupled, pushing year-to-date sales 34 percent higher. Galant sales were up almost 4 percent compared to last November and are up 6.6 percent year-to-date. Lancer Evolution sales were up more than 46 percent.
For the year so far, Mitsubishi sales are about 2 percent ahead of last year.
Volvo: Sales Decline 12%
Volvo was one of the few automakers in November to report a sales decline; its sales fell 11.9 percent to 4,078 vehicles. Its sales are down about the same amount for the first 11 months of the year.
Of Volvo's 10 models sold in the U.S., only the new S60 saw higher sales - 369 sold versus 35; and the XC60, of which Volvo sold 1,128 for a 3-percent increase. Every other Volvo car had a double-digit sales drop; SUV models had sales dips of 1 percent or less.
Land Rover Rises; Jag Lags
Jaguar Land Rover North America sold 4,039 vehicles in November, a 22-percent increase the 3,319 sold in November 2009.
Of the totals, Land Rover sold 2,922 vehicles, up 35 percent; Jaguar sold 1,117 cars, down 3 percent.
"In November, we saw stability in the market as our newest products, the 2011 Jaguar XJ and the 2011 Land Rover models continued their steady increase in sales," said JLRNA President Gary Temple.
The Range Rover Sport was the brand's volume leader, with sales of the redesigned L4R posting gains. The Jaguar XJ is the brand's bestseller even at only 512 sold in November. The automaker said half of XJ sales are conquests from other brands.
For the year, the automaker, now owned by India's Tata Motors, has sold 40,329 vehicles for a 21 percent increase over 2009. Jaguar has sold 12,160 vehicles for a 14-percent increase. Land Rover's sales so far this year totaled 28,169 SUVs for a 24-percent rise.
Porsche: Panamera Boosting Bottom Line
Porsche's November sales climbed 49 percent from the same period one year ago. Though month-to-month sales dropped slightly (2,416 compared to 2,647 in October), overall year-to-date sales (22,753) are up 29 percent from the same point in 2009.
Much of the growth can be attributed to the addition of the Panamera to the Porsche lineup, with its year-to-date sales (7,041) close behind those of the U.S. sales stalwart Cayenne SUV (7,234). Having just launched at the end of 2009, the Panamera contributed only 726 units to total sales in 2009.
November sales of 911 models were up from last year (476 vs. 395) but trail last November's running total (5,228 vs. 6,295 in 2009). Boxster sales were up 31 percent for November, but the mid-engine category remains flat for Porsche, with combined Boxster/Cayman sales down 8 percent from November 2009 and YTD Boxster/Cayman sales also down nearly 8 percent.
Suzuki: Second Month of Higher Sales
Long-suffering Suzuki appears to have broken out of its doldrums with its second consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases. In November, Suzuki sold 2,332 vehicles for a hefty 51-percent increase from November 2009.
Kizashi sales totaled 729. It wasn't on sale a year ago, but its November sales were 25-percent higher than October's. Even Equator truck sales rose 113 percent to 119 vehicles. Grand Vitara sales climbed 21 percent to 339 vehicles.
For the year so far, Suzuki has sold 21,347 units, a 42-percent decline from the first 11 months of 2009.
Saab: Somewhat Improved from Year Ago
Saab sold 397 vehicles in November, not very many, but an improvement from the 371 sold last November when the Swedish brand looked as if it might go out of business completely.
Of the 397 Saabs sold in November, 306 were of the 9-3 model; 91 were of the new 9-5 flagship sedan.
Plenty of vehicles are in dealer inventories as the European factories crank out production. Saab reported it had a total of 4,457 vehicles in dealer stock; 3,089 were 9-3s and 1,368 were 9-5s.
Graphics provided by Edmunds.com analysts Ivan Drury, Mark Holthoff and Jeremy Acevedo.