October Auto Sales Settle Into Comfy Gait

By AutoObserver Staff November 1, 2011

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If all of 2011 had been as uneventful as October, the U.S. auto industry might have called it a rewarding year. October auto sales were 1,020,101 units, up 7.4 percent from year-earlier sales of 950,000 units. More importantly, the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of car sales hit 13.2 million during the month, just shy of the year’s high in February. Firming economics, greater availability of credit, stabilizing gasoline prices and a return to form by beleaguered Japanese brands gave the market its greatest semblance of normality since last year.

A lot of the increase had to do with the release of demand that had been deferred by consumers earlier in the year when they couldn’t obtain Toyota and Honda small vehicles because of those companies’ supply-chain problems, and were equally pressed to locate other small cars, such as the Ford Focus and Hyundai Accent. “Things are normalizing a bit,” said Don Johnson, General Motors’ vice president of U.S. sales operations, noting that Japanese manufacturers “have started to regain their footing, which has expedited the higher SAAR.” As a result, Al Castignetti, vice president and general manager of the Nissan Division, predicted that “the fourth quarter will be the strongest of the calendar year” for sales for his brand and maybe the industry. “Coming off October I feel more confident than ever.”

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Chrysler, with a 27-percent sales increase, and Hyundai, with a 22-percent gain, were the clear leaders among major automakers. Chrysler keeps on coming off its 2010 low with new products and rising popularity of old ones, while Hyundai has begun overcoming some of its supply constraints of earlier in the year and has a new product, the Veloster, to generate showroom traffic. Overall, too, the market in October shifted significantly away from the small vehicles that had dominated it for a year and back toward the seasonal favoring of utility vehicles and trucks – assisted, of course, by gasoline prices that have continued to ease from the first-quarter spike of more than $4 a gallon. “Demand is spreading more among segments,” Edmunds director of pricing and industry analysis Jessica Caldwell said.

Economic indicators for the U.S. have improved a bit in recent weeks from the alarms of August. Credit availability remains improved, which, Castignetti said, is “making all the difference in the world.” Demand pent up not only from the last several months but from the last three years is being satisfied more and more. And while the industry’s overall days to turn has fallen to 48 days, the lowest monthly number since Edmunds.com began measuring this statistic in 2002, “prices are still easing somewhat, with better inventory and more choices for consumers,” Caldwell said. Toyota is confident enough that its inventories are fully healthy that it is launching its winter-holiday sales promotions today, at least three weeks earlier than usual, said Bob Carter, Toyota Division General Manager.

Sure, there are hiccups and potential hiccups aplenty. Volkswagen of America saw sales in its eastern region increase only by 14 percent during the month because of the freak snowstorm over last weekend, while other regions around the country posted gains of 27 percent to 33 percent. One new development that will clearly disrupt the industry going forward: the flooding in Thailand. Honda already said it must halve its North American production at some point soon because of supply disruptions from plants there, and Toyota executives said that their U.S. plants will see some minor slowdowns of production lines as the company assesses the ultimate impact on its own supply lines.

GM: Best October Since 2007

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General Motors Co. reported sales of 186,895 vehicles in October, up 1.9 percent from October 2010 and down 9.8 percent from September. It was GM’s best October since 2007, according to Edmunds.com’s records. “Last October was one of our best months in 2010, so increasing on that was going to be challenging,” said Don Johnson, GM vice president of sales operations. GM retail sales, which were up 3 percent from a year ago, accounted for 77 percent of all GM sales; fleets represented 23 percent, even lower than Edmunds.com had forecast; the company has been reducing its fleet sales mix throughout the year. By segment, GM car sales rose 4 percent, crossover sales dipped 1 percent and sales of trucks, vans and SUVs inched up 2 percent. Johnson said 2012 models accounted for 80 percent of car sales and about half of truck and crossover sales. Edmunds.com’s analysis shows incentives on 2012 models are about half of the amount GM is spending on incentives to clean out 2011 models.

Of GM’s four brands, only Chevrolet posted a year-to-year sales increase for the month. Chevrolet sales were up 6 percent from October 2010. The division, which accounts for 70 percent of GM’s U.S. sales, sold just over 14,000 Cruze models, more than double the number sold a year ago but the second consecutive month the brand has sold fewer than 20,000, a pace the car had struck to put it in first place among compact cars. The smaller Sonic had its second full month of sales with 3,833 sold in October. GM executives said the Sonic is selling at an average transaction price of more than $17,000, about $1,500 more than the Aveo it replacees and $1,000 more than competitors in its subcompact class. Sonic sales have yet to catch up to the sales pace of the Aveo, but clearly, inventory is just being built. Edmunds.com’s analysis shows the Sonic moves off the dealer lot faster than any GM vehicle – it is delivered and then sold to a customer on average in a scant 11 days.

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The plug-in hybrid Volt, which had its best month ever, is next, moving off the lot in 18 days. More than 1,100 Volts were sold in October, the first month Volt sales hit the 1,000-unit mark. The company said it now has 2,200 dealers selling the Volt, a total that will rise to 2,600 dealers in all 50 states by year-end. The Equinox, another one of GM’s fastest sellers, had sales up 18.3 percent. Silverado pickup truck sales rose 6.9 percent. Camaro sales were up 22 percent, beating its rival, the Ford Mustang.

As for the other divisions, Cadillac sales were down 11.9 percent with every model posting a sales decline from a year ago but the SRX crossover. Cadillac is ditching old models aimed at elderly buyers and clearing the way for two new sedans – the ATS and XTS – that go on sale in 2012 and are aimed at younger buyers. Buick, which for the past two years has been one of the fastest-growing brands, had a 7-percent sales decline with only the new Regal posting higher sales. GMC sales were down 4.6 percent, with only the Terrain, another of GM’s fast-selling models, and Sierra pickups gaining. Year-to-date, GM sales are up nearly 15 percent with all brands gaining over 2010.

Ford: Comparisons Stiffening

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Ford reported October sales of 167,803 vehicles, up 6 percent over 157,935 vehicles a year ago. As the company has gained market share over the last couple of years, its year-on-year comparisons have become more difficult to beat. But Ford executives cited a combination of strong utility-vehicle sales, up 38 percent, and continued improvement in truck sales, up 8 percent over a year ago. So far this year, the Ford brand was America’s best-seller, with sales totaling about 1.7 million vehicles, up 17 percent over the first ten months of last year. The company’s expected 1-percent market-share gain in the United States would be its third consecutive year of share improvement.

Ford-brand utilities sold 472,000 units, Czubay said, up 31 percent over a year ago. He added that 93 percent of total utility volume for Ford now comes from car-based platforms, including the new Explorer, for which October sales increased by 225 percent over the previous version; retail sales of the new model have tripled over those of the previous-generation Explorer, he said. Czubay also noted the amplification of a long-term switch in the nature of Ford sales. “Just a few years ago, 70 percent of our retail sales were truck and truck-based-SUV sales,” Czubay explained. “But this year, almost two-third of our sales are cars and car-based utilities.”

Czubay largely credited the converging, improved fuel-economy performances of cars and CUVs for the pattern. He said this is also reflected in “accelerating” cross-shopping by Ford buyers among its CUV and car models – especially in consideration of Fusion and Escape by the same buyers. “The value proposition evens out” because of improved fuel economy by Escape, he said. “It makes sense. Ford utilities now are powered almost exclusively by 6-cylinder engines that are achieving fuel economy approaching that of many passenger cars,” Czubay said. Sales of Escape totaled more than 19,000 units, up 31 percent from a year ago, and for the year, the model punctured the 200,000-volume mark, with 207,000 sales, also up 31 percent from last year. Meanwhile, sales of Ford’s other utility nameplates, Edge and Flex, declined by 10 percent and 6 percent in October. As a CUV, Edge clearly is being somewhat cannibalized by Escape and Explorer, while the Flex people-mover has just never caught on with the American public.

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Ford-brand car sales for the month were flat with a year earlier. The biggest problem was Focus, whose October sales were flat and were up only 2 percent over a year earlier. A few months ago, Czubay continually cited tight availability of Focus as one reason that the nameplate wasn’t exceeding year-earlier sales performance in a U.S. market thirsty for fuel-efficient small cars. This time, he didn’t mention supply constraints, yet defended Focus sales levels as “on plan.” Czubay insisted that Ford has been “meeting our sales targets on Focus,” citing how well the nameplate has performed within its segment and its growth in segment share since summer. Fusion sales gained 4 percent and Fiesta sales rose by 7 percent in October over a year earlier, indicating that Ford’s small-car trio now is encountering stiffer year-to-year sales comparisons because of how sales of all three of those models burgeoned late last year as fuel prices began to rise toward $4 a gallon.

Ford’s best-selling vehicles, F-Series trucks, posted an 8-percent sales gain in October, assisted by stabilizing gasoline prices, strong seasonal demand and the continued popularity of 6-cylinder-engine options in those vehicles. Czubay said models with 6-cylinder power now comprise more than half of all F-150 sales and the turbocharged EcoBoost V6 alone makes for about 40 percent of all F-150 sales. EcoBoost “is attracting customers who want better fuel economy and also to get the capabilities” that a pickup truck can provide, he said. But Ford’s luxury brand, Lincoln, remained moribund in October, with an 11-percent decline during the month. For the year, Lincoln sales were up just 1 percent over 2010 as the brand and its dealers await a planned stream of new-product launches in 2012.

Chrysler: Retail Boom

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The Chrysler Group LLC reported U.S. sales of 114,512 units in October, up 27 percent compared with year-earlier sales of 90,137; it was the company’s best October sales since 2007. The gain was driven by a 40-percent increase in retail sales compared with a year ago, the company said. Chrysler has beaten the average industry sales increase in nine out of the last 10 months and marked 19 straight months of year-over-year sales gains. “In what is turning out to be a strong new-vehicle sales industry, we continued to outperform,” crowed Reid Bigland, president and CEO of Chrysler’s Dodge brand and head of U.S. sales.

Leading Chrysler’s continued 2011 surge were sales of the Chrysler 200, which at nearly 70,000 year-to-date, have more than doubled year-earlier sales of the Sebring it replaced. Also, just about anything with “Jeep” on it sold well, making for the brand’s best October since 2006 and the 18th consecutive month of year-to-year sales gains for Jeep. The compact Compass, for example, set its new sales record with 5,179 units sold, nearly 600 percent more than a year ago. Compass has become a strong fourth high-volume nameplate for Jeep, after the Grand Cherokee, whose sales declined by 13 percent compared with a year ago, to 11,084 units; Wrangler, up 25 percent to 9,892 units and Liberty, up 51 percent to 5,997 units.

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For the Chrysler brand, sales of its new 2012 300 fullsize sedan, at 3,701 units, were behind a year ago by 29 percent despite heavy advertising of the nameplate’s refined new styling and interior improvements. Town & Country minivan sales declined another 25 percent as the segment wobbles in favor with American consumers. Ram pickup sales advanced 21 percent despite the persistence of fuel prices that exceed $3 a gallon and problems in the economy. It was the Ram brand’s best October sales since 2007.

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Dodge posted a 25-percent increase in October sales compared with a year ago. The new Durango began a potential return to significant volumes with sales of 3,864 units during the month and nearly 43,000 for the year since the nameplate’s return after a long hiatus. Otherwise, Dodge nameplates were all over the board, with the Journey CUV posting a 36-percent sales increase and sales of the Caravan minivan down by 13 percent. Sales of the Avenger were up 145 percent; sales of the gas-eating Challenger were down 3 percent.

Toyota: This Is The Month

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Toyota Motor Sales USA posted October sales of 134,046 units, a decline of 4 percent from 145,474 sales a year ago. And while company executives confessed their disappointment that the month’s results weren’t a bit better, they vowed that November – with inventories of all major product lines now amply supplied, a new 2012 Camry in full production, the early launch of their brands’ iconic holiday-seasonal promotion programs and a bit more strength in the U.S. economy – would allow the Toyota sales formula to shine again as it hasn’t for nearly a year.

The brightest spot for Toyota was strong demand for 2012 Camry, which finally is reaching full-volume production. “It’s off to a flying start,” Carter said. Toyota began the month with fewer than 13,000 new Camrys in stock, and sales topped 22,000 units in the month. Toyota is shipping another 35,000 Camrys in November, he said, including the first of the new Camry Hybrid. America’s best-selling car “is getting strong reviews,” Carter said. Toyota also is finding that buyers favor more richly-contented versions of the new model than of the old one. The up-ladder SE Sport model, touting 18-inch alloy wheels and projector-beam halogen headlamps, accounts for nearly 40 percent of sales of the 2012 Camry so far, Carter said, outpacing the LE one notch down, the nameplate’s traditional volume leader.

But overall, October was a bit of a disappointment. “I thought a month ago that we would exceed our year-ago October,” Carter said. “Unfortunately, we came up a little short.” Carter blamed most of the slight shortfall from his prognostications on two factors: languishing production of Corolla and a slower-than-expected replenishment of inventories of other major nameplates. Sales of Corolla in October were 10 percent less than a year ago, he said, mainly because of the transition of production of the subcompact for the U.S. market to a new Toyota plant in Blue Springs, Miss., near Tupelo. “We started the month with [fewer than] half the Corollas we had in stock a year ago and we just couldn’t overcome that shortage” during the course of the month, he said. “But Corolla production started at [Blue Springs] last month and are being shipped to dealers to help rebuild inventories.”

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Toyota faced similar slower-than-hoped-for replenishment of RAV4 and Tundra. The company only “recently recovered” full production of the two models, Carter explained, part of the recovery of 40,000 units of inventory during the month, thanks to a surge in output as Toyota finally returned, completely, to the desired production level for every model. RAV4 inventories, for instance, were only 6,000 units in August; since then, Toyota has recovered to an inventory of about 15,000 of the compact crossover, “but that’s still well below what we would have had in stock a year ago,” Carter said. And typically, RAV4 inventories are 15,000 to 20,000.

But “going forward,” Carter vowed, “shortages are behind us. From an inventory-supply situation, we really are at a much different place at the beginning of November than we were a month ago.” For that reason among others, Toyota launched its winter-holiday sales promotions on Tuesday instead of waiting until right before Thanksgiving, as last year, or until after Thanksgiving, as traditional. “This year, because of production disruptions we had throughout the year, and now we have the inventory we need coming out of that, we've decided to start early,” said Mark Templin, general manager of Toyota's Lexus luxury brand. “Before long you'll be seeing our traditional icon of the holidays, the big red bow.”

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Enhanced 0-percent-interest loans and special leases on many Toyota and Lexus models already are in place under the umbrellas of these popular holiday programs. But presumably because brand stewards understand that American consumers aren't quite ready on the day after Halloween to shift into a Christmas commercial consciousness, marketing of the promotions won't start until “closer to Thanksgiving week,” Carter said. Templin added, “We’ll be just as happy making this a November and December to remember.” There was no early word on whether any of either brand's competitors would join them in making merrier incentives quite this early, though just about every automaker now annually stages some kind of formal winter-holiday promotion program that crescendos at the end of the year. But Edmunds.com’s Caldwell believes it could work for Toyota. “Special messaging helps a lot” with any incentive program, she said. “Sometimes automakers scratch their heads about what other kinds of tricks they can pull out of their bags. This looks like something they could use.”

Meantime, Toyota did have some other good news in October: Sales of its pickup trucks heated up by 7 percent, led by a nearly 20-percent increase in sales of its compact Tacoma model compared with a year ago. Also, Toyota has just begun selling a new version of its Yaris subcompact and the Prius V. Production of Prius models is “back to normal levels,” Carter reported. Lexus sales jumped by 20 percent from September, though they were still down 11 percent from the year-ago October, as inventories were replenished. Sales of the flagship RX CUV were up by about 30 percent and LS sales were the best for any month of the year so far. The CT 200h hybrid hatchback “continues to exceed expectations,” Templin said, by selling at 150 percent of initial projections. “We have good, healthy inventory heading into the most important time of the year.”

Honda: A Struggle To Break Even

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Short of a NASA discarded satellite falling on headquarters, there’s probably not much else that can happen to Honda this year. In March, it was the magnitude-9 earthquake in Japan that crippled global production for months. Now, vehicle and component-making operations are underwater in Thailand, causing new supply disruptions. So American Honda Motor Co. Inc.’s 98,333 sales in October – a half-percent decline – was comparatively good news that indicated the company was beginning to get a handle on its earthquake-caused supply problem. “As dealer inventories continued to replenish in October, we saw increased momentum over last month’s sales,” said John Mendel, American Honda executive vice president of sales, in a release. “We look forward to continued strong demand for our products despite these continuing challenging times due to the flooding in Thailand and ensuing production limitations.”

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Reflecting the difficulties Honda’s had with regaining lost ground, sales for the Civic compact car still were off, October’s 16,173 sales representing a 1.9-percent decline. The Accord midsize sedan countered, however, with a 9.4-percent gain to 22,589 sales. With replacement for the best-selling CR-V compact crossover in the wings, CR-V sales nonetheless posted an 11.2-percent jump to 19,326 sales, while the Pilot midsize crossover was the brand’s best performer for the month, leaping 58.5 percent to 12,466 sales. But Honda continues to struggle with the aging Fit subcompact, which was off 33.1 percent in October, to 2,822 sales. And sales plunged for the unloved Insight hybrid, its 492 sales marking a 74-percent decline. The CR-Z hybrid coupe fared no better, dropping 78.9 percent and finding a scant 289 customers. On Honda’s truck side, decliners included the now-out-of-production Element and a 27.2-percent drop to 880 sales for the Ridgeline pickup, a vehicle to which Honda recently committed to a new generation.

At Acura, sales were led by the TSX entry-level sedan and its 37.3-percent gain to 2,977 sales, followed by a 27.6-percent increase for the RDX compact crossover, which sold 1,632 units in October. Every other Acura model posted a sales decline; the midsize MDX dropped 2.8 percent to 3,691 sales, the TL and RL sedans were off – including a stunning total of 22 units for the RL flagship (-90.9 percent) – and the ZDX wagon crossover declined 29.9 percent to 131 sales for the month. Except for a 0.3-percent improvement for the RDX, year-to-date sales for every Acura model were down.

Nissan: Division Records

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Nissan North America, Inc., including the Nissan and Infiniti brands, reported October sales of 82,346 vehicles units versus 69,773 units a year earlier, an 18-percent increase. Nissan Division sales set a new October record, increasing 22.1 percent for the month to 75,484 units. Sales of Infiniti vehicles decreased 13.5 percent from the prior year, however, to 6,862 units. Al Castignetti, Nissan Division vice president and general manager, said Nissan showroom traffic and sales were strong and consistent throughout the month, until the snowstorm hit the last weekend of the month in the Northeast, Nissan’s strongest market. “Sales would have been even stronger without the storm,” he said in a phone interview with AutoObserver.

Still, setting new personal bests for October were the Versa, Altima and Rogue crossover. Versa was led by the all-new 2012 sedan. In only its second full month of sales, the Versa had sales of 8,889 vehicles for an increase of 47.1 percent. Dealers sold 21,838 Altimas, a 15.1-percent rise. The Rogue had sales of 10,034 vehicles, a 13.2=percent increase. Nissan sold 849 Leaf models in October, pushing the electric car’s total to 8,066 since it was introduced in December 2010. Castignetti said he expects “the fourth quarter will be the strongest of the calendar year” for Nissan Division sales and maybe the entire U.S. auto industry. “Coming off October, I feel more confident than ever,” he said. “We’re starting to see even further easing of credit, so people who are in the marketplace are able to secure financing. That’s making all the difference in the world.”

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The Infiniti premium-vehicle division, which had been disproportionately hurt last spring by production disruptions caused by the March 11 earthquake in Japan, didn’t fare as well. “We were off a bit but had returned to growth in September,” said Ben Poore, head of the Infiniti division, adding supplies were low of key models. “We suffered the first couple week of the month and were not able to get enough inventory to make up for it.” He said he expects a much better close-out to the year due to inventory replenishment, enhancements to new models and a 30-percent boost in media spending for the luxury brand.

Hyundai: Blast-Off In October

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With a record October’s 52,402 sales total under its belt, Hyundai Motor America surpassed its 2010 full-year sales, with a 10-month total of 545,316 compared with its 538,228 sales for all of last year – which itself was a record for the South Korea-based automaker. “Breaking our all-time any-time sales record set in 2010, with two months left in the 2011 calendar year, is an accomplishment we take great pride in and is clearly indicative of consumer acceptance of our bold line-up of award winning products,” said Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai Motor America executive vice president of national sales, in a statement. “The overall sales environment appears to be stabilizing, despite continued fluctuations in traditional economic indicators, and we believe those market dynamics position Hyundai well to finish the year on a strong note.”

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Uh, excuse us, Dave – “finish the year on a strong note,” sounds like the hopeful lament of a sales chief who hasn’t had a very good year so far. Instead, it might be the understatement of the month’s sales releases. After all, the already-zooming Elantra compact car was up 37 percent to an even 13,000 units, you got a hefty 3,724 incremental sales from the all-new Veloster coupe and even sales for the booming Sonata midsize sedan were up 4 percent to 18,205. Just about every other vehicle in the lineup posted sales gains in October. The Santa Fe midsize crossover pumped out a 45-percent gain (although it’s still down slightly for the year) and the shapely Tucson compact crossover had a 24-percent gain to 3,777 sales.

What wasn’t to like in Hyundai’s October sales report that showed year-to-date sales up 21 percent? The all-new Accent subcompact was down by 11 percent – could be all the other well-executved new models in the segment mean it won’t be a slam-dunk for Hyundai – and full-year sales are tracking only about 1,500 units ahead of last year. Markedly higher pricing for the new-gen Accent might also be crimping sales in the price-sensitive segment.

Kia: Blockbuster October

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October sales for Kia Motors America set a new record at 37,690 and like affiliated brand Hyundai, propelled Kia to 10-month sales that already surpassed a record full-year sales total in 2010. October’s results pushed Kia past the 400,000 sales mark for the first time in its U.S. history, with the company’s year-to-date total of 405,095 roundly whipping the 356,268 Kia sold in all of its record 2010. This despite the fact sales for Kia’s best-seller, the Sorento midsize crossover, were down by a half-percent and the Forte compact car dropped by 18 percent to 4,712 sales. Measured against that is the breakout performance of the Optima midsize sedan, which was up 528 percent to 8,616 sales for the month and the 64,353 Optimas sold so far this year is nearly a tripling of last year’s pace.

An all-new Rio subcompact was just hitting showrooms in October, too, and sales were up by 11 percent to 2,005. Kia’s other big story as the year winds down is the Sportage compact crossover; sales in October were up by 31 percent to 3,519 and year-to-date Sportage sales, at 40,628, are better than double last year’s total for the same period. The Soul compact hatchback was up 16 percent to 7,109 sales. Apart from the Sorento’s flat month and the big drop for the Forte, other decliners for the brand were few, with the winding-down Borrego moving 10 units compared with 835 last October and the Sedona minivan dropping slightly to 1,541 sales compared with 1,655 in October, 2010.

Volkswagen: Busting Out

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Volkswagen of America Inc. reported a 40-percent increase in October sales, to 28,028 units compared with 20,084 units a year earlier. The brand’s year-to-date U.S. volume through the month equaled the entirety of VW’s 2010 sales. “We hit it out of the park” in October, said Jonathan Browning, CEO of VW of America, crediting the company’s sales team and dealer network. He noted that VW achieved its sales gain despite beginning the month with a tight 31-day supply of vehicles, according to Autodata, while he said that Toyota, Honda and Nissan had 34, 34 and 38 days’ supply available at the start of October. “We went into the month relatively lean on inventory yet managed to achieve tremendous growth and maintain our momentum,” Browning said.

The biggest product news for VW was the volume ramp-up of its just-launched new, lower-priced, U.S.-built Passat. The midsize sedan sold 5,040 units for the month as the company geared up output at its new Chattanooga, Tenn., plant, comprising the best month for the overhauled nameplate since December 2005. “Passat already has made some inroads in the midsize sedan segment,” Browning said. The 2012 Beetle, also recast with more male-friendly styling and features, sold 1,516 units in October as production in Mexico begins to ramp up. The company’s Jetta compact sold 13,058 units, a 9-percent increase over a year ago and sales for the GTI increased by 33 percent and Golf sales by 34 percent. Sales of VW’s Touareg and Tiguan SUVs also rose.

VW reported that its clean-diesel TDI models accounted for 21 percent of all of the brand’s October sales, and are up 37 percent for the year-to-date. The company has been popularizing diesel with new models for three years now, especially its Jetta SportWagen model, which is 80 to 90 percent diesel sales. But Browning said VW has experienced some short-term tightness in TDI supplies, especially of the SportWagen models, whose overall sales eased by 14 percent during October. Despite renewed supply disruptions for Honda and Toyota’s not-quite-yet-flush inventory status, Browning said, “I wouldn’t say we’re making any adjustments” based on the continuing problems of its main Japanese rivals. “We’re plowing our own furrow in terms of our products and our go-to-market status. We’re satisfied with the momentum we’re building and we’ll continue to do that. We’ll manage the competitive environment as we go forward.”

BMW: Gains All Around

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The BMW Group, including the BMW and Mini brands, reported October sales of 27,288 cars and SUVs, up 17.5 percent from a year earlier. Both brands posted gains, with Mini recovering nicely from an October slump to turn in a 37.1-percent increase over October 2010 for total sales of 5,415 cars. Sales for the BMW brand rose 13.5 percent to 21,873 for the month on the strength of a strong 79.4-percent hike in sales of its crossovers. The introductions of the new 528i and the full 6-Series lineup completed BMW’s model-year changeover but weren’t able to boost sales of the brand’s car models, which finished October 2.6 percent lower than a year earlier. Only the 5- 6- and 7-Series cars posted gains for the month. BMW's sales gains came with a massive 49.4-percent increase in incentive spending, according to Edmunds.com figures. The company led the industry for October with an average of $3,434 in incentives per vehicle.

Still, the overall results were quite positive, said Ludwig Willisch, president and CEO of BMW of North America. “Auto sales are probably the best indicator of economic direction and the critical fourth quarter has made a good start, fueled by demand and boosted by new models,” he said. With the full lineup of 2012 models now in stock, Willisch said he expects “a strong run” over the final two months of 2011. For the BMW brand, the 3-Series remained the top nameplate with 7,748 October sales representing a 9.1-percent dip, followed by sales of 5,044 5-Series models, a 2.4-percent gain and 3,997 X5 crossovers, a 25.6-percent increase. Sales of 2,321 X3 crossovers represented a 25.3-percent drop from October 2010 volume, and sales of 475 X6 crossovers were off 5.8 percent.

Rounding out BMW’s car lineup, sales of 1,103 7-series sedans represented a 62.2-percent gain and dealers sold 414 6-Series models, up from just 48 a year earlier. The Z4 sportscar accounted for 92 sales, down 47.1 percent, while sales of the 1-Series were off 40.4 percent at a volume of 679. In the Mini stable, the Cooper hardtop lineup led the parade but its 2,077 sales were down 25.3 percent from a year earlier. In second place was the Countryman model, introduced 10 months ago and posting its best month ever with 2,012 sales. The Mini Cooper Clubman line accounted for 513 sales, a 24-percent dip from a year earlier; the Coupe, which wasn’t sold a year ago, posted 414 sales and the Cooper convertible’s 399 sales were down 19.6 percent from October 2010.

For the first 10 months, the BMW Group has sold 246,602 cars and SUVs for a 14.6 percent gain from the same period last year. BMW models accounted for 81 percent of the group’s total year-to-date sales, with volume of 199,552 sales representing a 12.9-percent gain from the first 10 months of 2010. Mini’s 10-motnh sales total of 47,050 vehicles represents a 22.1-percent gain.
 
Mercedes-Benz: Record October

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Mercedes-Benz USA reported the company's highest October volume on record, with sales last month of 24,449 vehicles. That's a 28.2-percent improvement from October a year ago, when the automaker sold 19,076 vehicles. On a year-to-date basis, the 206,632 vehicles sold represent a 12 percent increase over the 184,431 vehicles sold during the same period last year. It is proving to be a particularly strong autumn for Mercedes-Benz; a month earlier, the company reported September was its highest-volume September on record. The C-Class and E-Class model lines were the highest-volume performers for October.

The all-new 2012 C-Class compact sedan – designed for younger and first-time Mercedes-Benz buyers – led the pack with sales of 7,084, up 87.9-percent from October 2010. The midsize E-Class full-size sedan followed with sales of 4,516 and the all-new M-Class midsize crossover finished third in volume with monthly sales of 4,091. Additionally, sales of the 2012 CLS-Class sedan posted a 192.3-percent increase for the month and sales of the new SLK roadster were up 58.2 percent over October 2010.

Total diesel units sold for October were up 110.9 percent, with sales of 1,930. That compares with 915 units sold in October of last year. At the high end, the company sold 13 of its SLS AMG sports cars, bringing its year-to-date sales to 467. Sales of Sprinter Vans also increased by 104.8 percent for October with sales of 1,485, bringing a year-to-date total of 13,937 (up 119.4 percent). Sales of the Smart fortwo city car totaled 327 vehicles for the month, compared to the 367 sold in October 2010.

Subaru: Model Debut Slows Sales

2011 October Subaru Sales.jpg

Subaru of America Inc., which finally returned to full production in September after struggling with shortages of vehicles built in quake- and tsunami-ravaged parts of Japan, had a 12-percent drop in October vehicle sales from a year earlier. Sales fell because prospective buyers held off on purchasing the Impreza compact in order to wait for the 2012 version to debut next month. Subaru sold 20,081 vehicles last month, down from 22,720 a year earlier, as Impreza sales plunged 46 percent to 1,993 vehicles, while sales of the Forester small SUV dropped 19 percent to 5,385 vehicles. Such declines more than offset record-October sales for Subaru's Legacy midsize sedan and Outback crossover. October sales of the Outback, which has accounted for almost 40 percent of Subaru's U.S. vehicle sales this year, rose 2.3 percent from a year earlier to 8,891 vehicles, while Legacy sales rose 0.1 percent to 3,546 vehicles.

"We once again broke 20,000 sales in a month, despite our low inventory," said Thomas J. Doll, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Subaru of America, in a statement. "Based on the continuing strong demand for our products, increased supply through December and the launch of the all-new Impreza, we expect to finish 2011 with the fourth consecutive year of sales growth for Subaru." Year-to-date sales are little-changed at 215,631 vehicles, with Legacy and Outback sales both up more than 10 percent from a year earlier.

Mazda: Best October Since 2007

2011 October Mazda Sales.jpg

Mazda North American Operations reported its best October sales in the United States since 2007, with 18,326 vehicles sold, representing an increase of 1.7 percent versus October of last year. Year-to-date sales through October are up 8.7 percent versus last year, with 209,641 vehicles sold. The midsize Mazda6 sedan recorded its best October since 2008, with sales of 3,438 vehicles, accounting for a 38.8-percent increase. Mazda's CX-7 midsize crossover realized a 13-percent increase with 2,807 vehicles sold, marking its best October since 2007. CX-7 sales were up 31.9 percent on the year with 30,642 vehicles sold. Mazda2 subcompact car sales are up 51.7 percent with 954 vehicles sold in October. Year-to-date Mazda2 sales are up 584.6 percent.

Audi: Best October Ever

2011 October Audi Sales.jpg

Audi of America reported October 2011 U.S. sales of 10,225 vehicles, it's best October in history and the brand’s tenth consecutive record sales month this year. October sales were up 25 percent compared with last October’s 8,128 units; they are up 16.5 percent for the year to date. Audi has managed record sales in 14 out of the past 15 months. Audi’s year-to-date sales of 95,206 vehicles already ranks as the second-best year in the U.S. for Audi, trailing only the record 101,629 sales established in 2010. "As we head into the fourth quarter, it is clear that consumers are eager to drive the superior lineup of Audi vehicles," said Audi of America President Johan de Nysschen. "Sales continue to reinforce that Audi holds a desirable position within the high-end sector of the premium car market due to our exceptionally engineered vehicles. All signs continue to point toward 2011 winding up as one of the best years for Audi in the U.S. market."
 
Four Audi models recorded year-to-date sales increases of more than 25 percent – the A8, Q7, R8 and TT. The October-to-October gainers were the A8 with sales of 382 units, up 991 percent compared to last October; the TT with sales of 194 units, up 133 percent; and the A6 with sales of 1,186 units, up 43.9 percent. The Audi Q5 (2,610) and A4 (2,613) were neck-in-neck in the race for October sales-floor champion. For Audi models available with diesel powerplants – the Q7 and A3 -- the oil-burner mix was 43 percent for the Q7 for October and for the year to date and 45 percent of A3 sales in October and 55 percent for the year to date.

Volvo: Double-Digit Gain

2011 October Volvo Sales.jpg

Volvo Cars of North America reported U.S. sales of 4,899 units, a 22-percent increase from the 3,996 units sold in October 2010. The S60 sports sedan was the top seller in October with 1,746 units sold, while the XC60 (858 sold) and XC90 (849 sold) finished the month second and third, respectively. S30 sales for October mirrored September sales with 317 units sold and compared favorably to the 230 S30s sold in October 2010. The S70 saw a modest increase in October sales, to 284 units sold last month, up from 268 units sold last October. Volvo's October sales also included a 27.8 percent hike in C30 sales to 317 units. Sales of the rest of the line were down. Year-to-date sales are up nearly 27 percent over the first nine months of 2010 to 5,042 units.

Mitsubishi: Sales Surge Ends

2011 October Mitsubishi Sales.jpg

Mitsubishi Motors North America saw a 14-percent sales downturn in October, to 4,378 cars and trucks. The dip ended a 13-month string on consecutive year-over-year sales increases. For the first 10 months, however, Mitsubishi’s sales total of 70,253 vehicles represents an industry-leading 51.1-percent increase from the same period in 2010. While still numbered among the industry’s biggest incentive spenders, Mitsubishi cut the value of its sales inducements by 14 percent in October, which didn’t help its volume. The value of the average Mitsubishi incentive for the month – $2,084 – dropped below spending levels for both Mazda and Nissan, an unusual event. Mitsubishi’s crossovers accounted for more than half the company’s total U.S. sales, with the Outlander Sport continuing its run as Mitsubishi’s top-selling model.

The company’s dealers sold 1,286 Outlander Sports versus just 30 a year earlier. Sales were helped by a new ad campaign touting the company’s decision to start manufacturing the Outlander Sport at its plant in Normal, Ill., next year. The standard Outlander crossover accounted for 775 sales, down 4.4 percent from a year earlier, while the Endeavor, with 222 sales, was off 50.3 percent. Among Mitsubishi’s car models, the Lancer lineup of compacts remained the leader with 1,305 sales, down 19.7 percent. The midsized Galant with 553 sales was off 70 percent from October 2010 totals while the Eclipse coupe and convertible models combined for 129 sales, down 48.2 percent from a year earlier. Mitsubishi had hoped to get a boost from the introduction in October of its all-electric “i” city car. But production of the North American model didn’t begin in Japan until the end of the month and no U.S. sales were booked.

Porsche: Down For October

2011 October Porsche Sales.jpg

Porsche Cars North America, Inc. announced October 2011 sales of 2,270 vehicles, a decrease of 14 percent compared to the same period last year, when it sold 2,647 vehicles. Year-to-date in 2011, sales are up 23 percent compared to the same 10-month period last year. So far this year, the company has sold 24,934 cars, which compares with 20,337 vehicles last year. "We're very pleased with our year-to-date results," said company president and CEO, Detlev von Platen. "October's sales numbers are expectedly down compared to last year, due to the fact that we are in the midst of a change-over with our all-new 911 model going on sale early next year. In addition, we have very low inventories of our Boxster and Cayman models."

In October, Porsche sales were down across the entire model lineup. The Cayenne SUV once again led all Porsche sales for the month of October with 1,032 sold; it is up over 77 percent year to date. The Panamera sedan was Porsche's second most popular model, with 611 sales in October, down 18 percent from last October and down 8 percent for the year so far. The mid-engine Boxtser/Cayman series saw sales of 186 units from 233 last October, and 911 line had sales of 441 units, down from 528 units a year ago.

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bc1960 says: 9:21 PM, 11.01.11

"all-new 2012 C-Class compact sedan"

The only C-Class which is all-new is the re-introduced coupe; the 4-doors are mildly facelifted along with powertrain and other equipment revisions.

openeyes1 says: 10:44 PM, 11.01.11

Its amazing how myopic the American auto consumer is, unable or unwilling to see that their continued preference for gas guzzling SUV's, is putting this country at even greater economic risk.

When eleven of America's top retired Generals speak about the great danger on our national security, by being too dependent on foreign oil, many America's would prefer to keep their heads stuck in the sand, instead of hearing the truth.

Americans are still buying gas hogs in droves, reckless in thought and action, as if gas prices were $2.00 a gallon. Instead of buying what they need, they follow the failed auto economics of the past that "bigger is better", carrying more debt and emptier wallets at the gas pump.

j84ustin says: 7:46 AM, 11.02.11

openeyes1,

Driving SUVs is not a threat to national security; our government allowing banks to play "casino" in the commodities market and drive up the cost of gasoline past 4 dollars a gallon is. I agree we need to find alternatives to gasoline - not necessarily because of where it comes from, but because it simply isn't good for the environment. But blaming the American public for driving a vehicle that gets 20 MPG hwy versus 30 MPG hwy is ridiculous.

carguy58 says: 2:42 PM, 11.02.11

Boy can Honda have any more bad luck? First the Tsunami and than the Thailand Floods. Next year will be another "grind out" sales year for Honda.

Toyota looks like they will be back in the black sales wise soon in month YTD vs month YTD stats.

zambaq says: 6:45 PM, 11.02.11

Hey, AutoObserver -- you left one out! Which m'f'r came in at #17 for the month?

zambaq says: 6:46 PM, 11.02.11

Hey, AutoObserver -- you left one out! Which m'f'r came in at #17 for the month?

openeyes1 says: 10:42 PM, 11.02.11

@j84ustin; "But blaming the American public for driving a vehicle that gets 20 MPG hwy versus 30 MPG hwy is ridiculous"

Wow, 20MPG in the city that's terrific, I'm sure that gas pig has no effect what-so-ever on our trade imbalance. Yes, do blame the American public for driving obese gas pigs, wasting fuel does have an effect not only your neighbors, but also national security.

We have allowed ourselves as a nation to become fat and selfish, with American families leading the pack with their plethora of SUV's invading our roadways. I have heard once to often that one has the 'right' to waste gas, a falsehood that only causes us to become more dependent on foreign oil at great human cost.

Time for you j84ustin, to give up your tank, and join the rest of the responsible American drivers out there.

greenghost says: 4:54 PM, 11.03.11

@zambaq - Thanks for reading so closely! Tata (Jaguar + Land Rover) came in at 17th. We didn't write anything about them because they didn't release an official statement this month to publicly announce their vehicle sales, as do all the other automakers. That didn't leave much of anything new to say about them.

You can always see a rank chart and download monthly sales for all automakers from our data center at:
http://www.autoobserver.com/car-data-center/sales-market-share/sales/by-manufacturer-sales/

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