Edmunds.com Forecasts 13.6 Million November SAAR


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Black Friday fever apparently spread from shopping malls to car dealerships as the Thanksgiving weekend delivered a more fruitful bounty of vehicle sales than usual, according to Edmunds.com's November car sales forecast. When automakers report November car sales on Thursday, Edmunds.com expects the final tally will be close to 991,296 vehicles sold. That would put the November Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) of car sales at 13.6 million vehicles, the highest rate of the year.

"In the last two years, Thanksgiving weekend brought higher auto sales than we typically see, probably due to the current economic environment and buyers' bargain-hunting mentality," said Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Ray Zhou, PhD. Added Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell: "There were positive forces in the auto market in November, as more inventory was available and automakers began year-end holiday sales events. Deal-oriented messages work more effectively than ever before."

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Meantime, Tetsuo Iwamura, the head of Honda in North America, told reporters in Japan for the Tokyo Motor Show that November will be another down month for the automaker, which was particularly hard-hit by the production disruptions caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and more recently by flood in Thailand that choked off the supply of some electronic components. Iwamura said Honda will regain its U.S. sales momentum in January 2012. Edmunds.com projects Honda sales will be up a scant 2.5 percent in November compared with a year ago. Toyota, also recovering from the earthquake's aftermath, will post a meager 3.5-percent increase in sales, according to Edmunds.com's forecast. Nissan, which was hurt less and recovered more quickly from the disaster, is expected to enjoy sales up 8.2 percent.

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At Ford Motor Co. headquarters Tuesday, the automaker's chief sales analyst, Erich Merkle, told reporters that auto analysts' predictions of a SAAR around 13.5 million in November is in line with Ford's expectations, though he did not give an official forecast. He said November sales likely will show a continued surge in small crossover sales — a segment currently led by the Ford Escape — and a further downsizing from large to midsize and midsize to small cars by consumers. Both trends, Merkle predicts, will continue into the future. Though Ford has not yet issued its 2012 U.S. sales forecast, Merkel said demand seems to be running at the 13.5-million SAAR rate, due largely to demand for replacement of the current aging fleet. The average age of vehicles on U.S. roads is just under 11 years old. Sustainability of that level, he said, will depend mostly on employment as well as consumer confidence and the stock market's performance.

Indeed, Edmunds.com's Caldwell noted that while sales are strong now, "we are still witnessing the deferred demand from the summer months, so we cannot expect this sales level to be considered the new normal."

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