November car sales proved to be stronger than anyone predicted, thanks largely to aggressive Black Friday and holiday promotions on top of the usual economic and pent-up demand factors.
Automakers sold 1,243,006 vehicles, the highest level of vehicles sold in any November since 2003, according to Edmunds.com records. November's robust sales pushed the Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) of sales to 16.4 million vehicles, the highest level for the year and only the second time the SAAR passed the 16-million unit mark this year, which occurred in August. Edmunds.com had forecasted that November would see 1,196,663 vehicles sold for a SAAR of 15.7 million vehicles.
By comparison, this November's sales were up 9 percent from last November, which saw a sales surge following October 2012's Hurricane Sandy, pushing the SAAR to 15.32 million vehicles. This November's sales rose 3 percent from October, when sales came in lower than analysts forecasted. Nearly every automaker posted higher sales this November than last. Truck and SUV sales were particularly strong.
"We anticipated a strong holiday weekend, but it was beyond our expectations," said Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell. She and auto company executives noted the pace picked up significantly leading up to the Thanksgiving weekend. Automakers and their dealers advertised holiday and Black Friday promotions during the week. "Americans are bargain hunters as we see more push by auto companies and dealers during these holidays, as we did with Labor Day promotions that pushed August sales past the 16-million SAAR mark," she said.
The bargains, however, may not be all the advertisements would suggest. While some automakers beefed up incentives at the end of the month and dealers added in their own spiffs, incentives still are not outsized compared with the rest of the year. According to Edmunds.com's Total Cost of Incentives (TCI) calculations, incentives on average were flat from a year ago, though some automakers increased their incentives and even others lowered them.
Other factors remained in place in November — many of them the same ones in place since the auto sales recovery began five years ago. The economy, including the employment picture, is improving, albeit slowly and modestly. With the average age of vehicles on the road still around 11 years old, pent-up demand continues to be unleashed. Cheap credit is widely availability to more borrowers and for longer and longer terms. Attractive leases are proliferating.
The stronger-than-expected November now has set the stage for an even stronger December, typically a good month for vehicle sales, especially truck and luxury cars, any year.
"We feel good about the direction of the economy and our own momentum," Kurt McNeil, General Motors vice president of U.S. sales, said. "The economy is creating jobs and household wealth. Energy costs are dropping and credit is available and affordable. All of this bodes well for future growth."
GM: General Motors sold 212,060 vehicles in November, up 14 percent from a year ago for the automaker's best November in six years. GM said retail sales rose 19 percent, while reducing incentives. Fleet sales dipped 3 percent though the more lucrative commercial fleet business had an 18-percent increase on the strength of higher sales to small business and of pickup trucks.
Chevrolet sold 145,089 vehicles, up 13 percent. A highlight at Chevrolet was the Malibu. The 2014 Malibu was revised with minor styling changes and additions of new technology after being new on the market only a year. Chevrolet also is marketing the car as it hadn't the previous version. Malibu had sales up 41 percent to 14,405 units. The Cruze chipped in 18,2000 sales, up 8 percent. The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is off to a lightning quick start with sales up 129 percent at 2,527 cars sold. The new Impala led the full-size car segment with 13,418 sold, up 20 percent. Sales of the new Silverado were up 12 percent. Volt sales climbed 26 percent to 1,920 cars. Tahoe, Traverse and Camaro also posted increases. Chevy's small cars, the Sonic and Spark, had been selling at a blistering pace, which slowed in November, as did sales of most small cars. Cruze, Equinox and Volt had their best November ever.
Cadillac sold 16,172 vehicles, up 11 percent on the strength of its two newest models. The ATS had sales up 60 percent to 3,443 cars. The XTS had a 42-percent increase to 3,417 cars. Escalade sales were mixed as Cadillac sells it out to make way for the new versions that arrive in early 2014. Likewise, the CTS is in sell-down mode as the new one comes on stream so sales were off. SRX sales also dipped.
Seeing its best November since 2005, Buick sold 15,072 vehicles, up 13 percent as the new Regal finally got some traction and the Encore pitched in incremental sales of 2,663 units. The rest of the line posted declines.
GMC sold 35,727 vehicles, up 20 percent on the strength of the division's volume leaders. Sierra sales rose 23 percent to 14,362 units. Acadia sales soared 108 percent to 7,566 utes. Only Terrain sales dropped.
FORD: Ford Motor Co. sales in November, 2013 were 190,449, an increase of 7 percent compared with last November, with the company saying its 9-percent hike in retail deliveries made for its best retail-sales November since 2004.
Gains came nearly across the board for Ford in November, with car sales up 6 percent and truck sales jumping 15 percent, more than offsetting the 2-percent slide for the company's utility vehicles. Meanwhile, bolstered by an all-new MKZ midsize sedan, the Lincoln premium-vehicle division posted a gain of 17 percent compared with November, 2012.
Trucks accounted for more than 40 percent of Ford's total sales for the month and November marked the seventh consecutive month in which the F-Series pickup truck line exceeded 60,000 units, posting 65,501 sales and a 16-percent gain compared with last November. With a month of sales remaining in 2013, the F-Series sold 688,810 units, a 19-percent hike compared with last year and a performance that must give pause to rivals, as the F-Series is at the end of its product cycle, with a new generation scheduled to launch next fall.
It was a mixed month for Ford's car lines, however, with total sales up just 4 percent as big gainers such as the Fusion midsize sedan — up 51 percent on 22,839 deliveries — and the Fiesta subcompact (up 26 percent on 4,642 sales) were offset by a 17-percent plunge for the Focus compact car, which convinced just 15,239 buyers, and a 50-percent chop for the C-Max compact hatchback, to 2,398 sales. November's decline, in fact, pulled down full-year Focus sales to 219,001, 2-percent less than the same period last year And although Mustang sales of 5,376 marked a 2 percent gain in November, buyers could be holding back for the next-generation 2015 Mustang — due to be revealed this week — as Mustang sales through November were off 8 percent at a soft 71,459 deliveries.
Ford's utility-vehicle sales were off slightly in November, as the strong-performing Escape compact turned in a rare flat month on 20,988 sales. The Edge midsizer slid to 8,761sales for a 14-percent decline and combined with a 9-percent drop for the Explorer (on 13,220 sales) to offset respective gains of 29 percent 23 percent for the low-volume Flex and Expedition. With just a month remaining in 2013, sales for all of Ford's utility vehicles save the Flex were up for the year.
At Lincoln, November was carried by a 114-percent sales burst for the new-generation MKZ midsize sedan, which moved 2,854 units and accounted for almost half of the brand's total sales for the month. Except for the long-in-the-tooth Navigator's 13-percent gain on 792 sales, every other Lincoln car and utility vehicle recorded a sales decline in November. For the first 11 months, Lincoln sales were 73,710, off just more than 1 percent compared with the same period last year.
TOYOTA: Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. sold 178,044 vehicles in November, a 10-percent increase compared with November 2012, while the company's Lexus premium-vehicle unit improved 13 percent, contributing 25,611 units to Toyota's total.
Toyota's passenger-car sales were driven by a 30,386-unit performance for the Camry midsize sedan — a 6-percent increase — and 346-percent hike for the redesigned Avalon, which Toyota said marked the ninth consecutive month of triple-digit sales increases for the full-size sedan. Every other Toyota passenger car posted a sales decline for the month, including, significantly, a 4-percent retreat for the long-ballyhooed FR-S sport coupe (on 1,298 sales) and even a 2-percent slip for the Prius (16,120 sales). Despite the presence of an all-new Corolla, November was flat at 22,434 sales for the compact car.
The utility-vehicle side of the Toyota showroom saw a significant spike for the RAV4 compact crossover, where 19,447 sales marked a 56-percent increase. The Highlander midsize crossover was up 22 percent on 11,544 sales and the reskinned 4Runner SUV turned in 4,681 sales for an 11-percent gain. But the Venza wagon dropped 39 percent to 2,239 sales and the Sienna minivan was flat at 8,820 deliveries.
Perhaps the biggest news for Toyota's biggest vehicles came from the Tundra full-size pickup truck, restyled this year; the Tundra cracked into five-digit sales with 10,010 units, a 20-percent hike that also propelled the Tundra past the 100,000-unit mark with one more month of sales remaining in 2013.
For Lexus, November provided mixed results. The IS rear-drive midsize sedan doubled sales to 3,973 and the ES front-driver eked out a 4-percent improvement on 6,295 sales, but the rest of the Lexus passenger-car lineup posted declines for the month, including a 21-percent slide for the LS flagship, which at 1,039 sales barely stayed in the four-figure sales league, although the LS's year-to-date sales of 9,663 were 37 percent ahead of last year's pace.
Each of Lexus' three utility vehicles posted sales gains for November; the RX crossover sold 9,493 units for a 7-percent gain, while larger gains of 70 percent and 33 percent were posted by the GX and LX SUVs, on respective sales of 1,703 units and 514 units.
CHRYSLER: Chrysler Group sold 142,275 vehicles in November, up 16 percent from a year ago for the automaker's best November sales since 2007. Jeep, Dodge and Ram were the standouts.
Jeep sales soared 30 percent to 45,415 utilities for the brand's best-ever November sales. Strength came from the volume-leading Grand Cherokee, which had a 9-percent increased to 14,798 units. However, the star was the new Jeep Cherokee, which had its first full month of sales and they totaled 10,169 units, nearly matching sales of the venerable Wrangler, at 11,753, which was up 14 percent. The Compass and Patriot also had double-digit hikes.
At Dodge, the magic of the Ron Burgundy ads continued in November as the Durango posted a sales hike of 36 percent to 5,581 vehicles. The Dart seemed to finally gain some footing with sales up 44 percent to 6,486 cars. Sales of the Charger rose, but, except for the Caravan, the rest of the Dodge line posted sales drops.
The Caravan minivan posted a 12-percent sales increase. On the Chrysler side, the Town & Country had a whopping 70 percent increase. Both minivans come with rich incentives. Chrysler brand's other models, the 200 and 300, tumbled by double digits.
Similarly, the Fiat brand took a 15-percent dive. Incremental sales of the 500L at 937 units were not enough to offset the 41-percent decline in standard-issue 500 sales.
HONDA: American Honda reported sales of 116,507 in November, a number that came just 73 sales short of last year's all-time best November. A flat comparison with a record November meant there was no shame in Honda's overall sales performance, with just one mainstream Honda model posting a sales decline and the company's Acura upscale division posting a healthy 19-percent gain for the month.
With a record benchmark set by the previous November, even a 27,093-unit performance for the Accord midsize sedan meant a mere 3-percent gain, although the Fit subcompact was able to chalk up a 25-percent increase on 4,140 sales. Although the Civic compact car's 26,291 sales challenged the Accord for Honda's top-selling role, the number nonetheless left the Civic 13 percent behind last November's pace.
Honda's typically sluggish-selling hybrid-only models posted sales gains in November, with the Insight sedan's 402 sales marking a 69-percent jump and the CR-Z coupe's 295 sales amounting to a 21-percent gain.
Sales for Honda's larger models were led, as usual, by the CR-V compact crossover; its 23,509 sales represented a 5-percent hike compared with last November. The larger Pilot crossover slid 13 percent, however, on 8,150 sales and the Odyssey minivan, with 9,401 sales, was up 1 percent compared with last year. The Crosstour wagon was down 31 percent on 1,314 deliveries.
At the Acura premium-car unit, another healthy monthly gain came courtesy of continuing strong performances from its RDX and MDX crossovers, which together accounted for more than two-thirds of Acura's total sales for the month. The compact RDX found 3,663 buyers in November for a 21-percent jump, while the MDX midsize crossover leapt 81 percent on 6,091 sales. The ZDX wagon appealed to 10 buyers for a 73-percent slide that left it with 11-month sales of 347 units.
Despite a rollicking revival for the RLX flagship that brought 676 sales and a 6,045-percent gain, every other Acura car model was off by double digits in November. The ILX compact led with 1,582 sales, the number nonetheless marking a 25-percent drop. The usually stalwart TSX —before last year's intro of the ILX the brand's entry-level model — slid 39 percent in November, finding just 1,582 buyers. For the year, the TSX was down a troubling 38 percent. And the similarly-sized TL was in the same straits as the TSX in November, dropping 24 percent on 1,466 sales.
NISSAN: Nissan North America set a new November record selling 106,528 vehicles, up 11 percent from a year ago. Nissan division had a record November with 93,376 vehicles sold, up 11 percent. Through end of November, Nissan has sold more vehicles than it did for all of 2012. Infiniti also had a November record with sales up 11 percent to 13,152 vehicles.
The Nissan Versa led the subcompact car sales segment with sales of 8,327 cars, even though it was a decline of 6 percent. The new Sentra finally picked up steam with a 63-percent sales gain to 11,664 cars. The Nissan Leaf set a November record of 2,003 sales, up 30 percent from a year ago. The Altima gained 21 percent to 24,604 cars. Maxima, Juke and GT-R also gained; sales of the 370Z and Cube declined.
On the truck, utility and van side, the Frontier pick up ha a 55-percent gain. Also increasing sales were the Xterra and Murano. Nissan is just launching the new Rogue so its sales fell as did the rest of Nissan's trucks and utilities. The new NV200 cargo van provided incremental sales.
At Infiniti, sales were purely on the strength of its new models. The Q50 had sales of 5,891 cars; the QX60 had a 19-percent gain to 3,015 utilities.
HYUNDAI: Hyundai Motor America sold 56,005 vehicles in November, a figure up five percent compared with November, 2012, marking the best-ever November for the brand and propelling year-to-date sales to 657,778 — 2 percent better than for the same period last year despite Hyundai's near-constant refrain of short supplies for much of 2013.
As a record month might suggest, there were gains nearly across the board for Hyundai, its largest gainers bracketing the size spectrum. A 43-percent hike for one of Hyundai's larger models, the Santa Fe midsize crossover (on 9,657 sales), was nearly matched by the 42-percent gain for Hyundai's smallest, the Accent subcompact car (4,641 sales).
Hyundai's Elantra compact car improved by 5 percent to sit as the brand's leader for the month, with 16,751 sales. The Elantra earned the top-seller title by squeaking past the Sonata midsize sedan's 16,595 deliveries (-6 percent).
The Veloster coupe sold 2,216 copies for a 6-percent gain, while the Equus flagship found 359 buyers for a 5-percent increase, although year-to-date sales for both were lagging last year's totals for the first 11 months of the year.
John Krafcik, president and CEO., confirmed that Hyundai continues to deal with tight supplies: "We continue to see strong demand across our lineup, with consumer interest especially high for the 2014 model year updates we've made to Sonata, Santa Fe, and Tucson," he said in a statement. "While we finished November still short of 2014 model year inventory, our plants are literally working 24/7 to restock our dealers with these new models, including the refreshed 2014 Elantra and updated 2014 Veloster, which both arrive in showrooms this month."
KIA: November was another record sales month for surging Kia Motors America, where sales of 45,411 made for a best-ever November and pressed the brand past the half-million sales milestone for the second time in its U.S.-market history, although Kia's year-to-date total sales of 501,548 were 3 percent behind last year's 11-month total of 518,421.
Kia's Sportage compact crossover posted a 106-percent gain on 4,693 sales to be the brand's biggest booster for November, while the all-new Cadenza full-size sedan chipped in with 913 incremental sales, while the redesigned Soul compact hatchback blasted off with 12,870 sales (+77 percent) to shoulder forward as Kia's best-selling model for the month.
The Soul's newfound spot atop Kia's sales chart came at the expense of Kia's normal holder of that title, the Optima midsize sedan, which dropped 15 percent on 10,871 sales. Significantly, the Sorento midsize crossover was off 20 percent on 8,645 sales — and was down 10 percent year-to-date. November sales were flat for both the Forte and Rio small cars, which respectively sold 4,423 units and 2,474 units.
VOLKSWAGEN: Volkswagen of America sold 30,727 vehicles in November for its second best November since 1973. Still, sales were down from last November's record, making Volkswagen one of the only automakers to report a year-to-year sales decline.
To counter criticism that Volkswagen's momentum is slowing, Jonathan Browning, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, noted that November 2013 sales were 52 percent better than November 2010 sales. He said in a monthly sales call with media that the German automaker is operating at its highest sales level in four decades. Year-to-date sales totaled 373,689 vehicles, putting Volkswagen on course to close 2013 with sales of more than 400,000 vehicles for only the second time in 40 years, with last year being the first. Diesel sales so far this year are the best in Volkswagen's history.
As for November, only the Beetle gained, with sales up 43 percent to 2,842 cars. The volume-leading Jetta posted sales of 12,417 vehicles, down 13 percent. Passat sales totaled 8,876 cars, down 16 percent. Tiguan sales fell 21 percent to 2,235 utes. Sales of the Golf, to be replaced next year, and its variants fell 19 percent to just over 2,243 cars.
SUBARU: Subaru of America reported it best-ever November sales. Subaru sold 36,621 vehicles in November, up 30 percent from a year ago. For the year to date, Subaru has sold 384,511 vehicles, up 28 percent from last year's record. In October, Subaru broke its full-year-sales record of 335,441 vehicles.
Subaru's strength is coming from its newly redesigned, volume-leading Forester, which posted sales of 13,410 vehicles, up 135 percent from a year ago. Subaru announced it had sold its one millionth Forester since the model's inception in 1997. November's sales represented an all-time monthly sales record.
In sell-down mode to make way for the new model revealed in October at the Los Angeles auto show, the Impreza WRX had an 11-percent increase to 1,507 cars. The XV Crosstrek gained 158 percent to 5,311 units. BRZ sales rose 44 percent to 756 units. The rest of the line had double-digit declines.
MERCEDES-BENZ: Mercedes-Benz USA reported the highest November retail volumes in its history. It sold 37,345 Mercedes-Benz, Sprinter and Smart models, up 14 percent from a year ago. "November's result has already propelled us past last year's record sales volume," said Steve Cannon, president and CEO of MBUSA.
Sales for the Mercedes-Benz brand, which ranks as the No. 1 selling luxury brand in America for November and year-to-date, rose 13 percent from a year ago to 34,376 vehicles, pushing year-to-date sales to a new record of 279,501 vehicles.
Mercedes-Benz sales were led by the E-, C- and M-Class model lines. The E-Class, redesigned for the 2014 model year, came in first at 8,614 units, up 6 percent. The C-Class had sales down 8 percent to 7,878 cars. The new version, to be built in Alabama for the first time, will be unveiled at the upcoming Detroit auto show. The M-Class SUV had sales up 11 percent to 4,328 units. The new entry-level CLA pitched in sales of 3,623 cars.
Sales of various other Mercedes models were mixed: up were S-, CLS- and GLK-Class as well as SLS AMG. Sales were down for the CL-, SL-, SLK-, G- and GL-Class.
The Sprinter lineup, which received a full redesign for model year 2014 on sale since September, posted a 23-percent gain to 2,010 units. Smart sales rose 36 percent to 959 cars.
BlueTEC diesel models recorded sales of 1,724 for November, up 8 percent from a year ago and up 10 percent for the year. High-performance AMG sales rose 35 percent to 896 units.
BMW: The BMW Group sold 36,461 BMW and Mini vehicles, down a scant 0.4 percent from a year ago. Sales for the year to date are up 9 percent, the best-ever year-to date for the group.
BMW brand sales rose 2 percent to 31,752 vehicles. The brand's sales are up 11 percent for the year to date. In November, strength came from the 3 and 4 Series, which combined had a 22- percent sales hike to 13,148 units. The 1 Series had a 13 percent gain.
On the utility side, all models but the X1 were down. X1 sales rose 13 percent to 2,364 units. The X5 is being replaced with a new model.
Mini sold 4,575 vehicles, down 13 percent as small car sales slide due to seasonality and low gas prices. So far this year, Mini sales are about even with last year.
MAZDA: Mazda reported November sales of 20,754 vehicles, down 4 percent from a year ago due mostly to tight inventories including of the new 2014 Mazda3, the Japanese automaker's volume leader. For the year, Mazda's sales are up 5 percent.
Mazda6 sales rose 202 percent to 3,641 vehicles for its best November since 2011. Mazda CX-5 had its best November since its February 2012 launch with sales up 50 percent to 6,323 utilities. Mazda3 sales dropped 21 percent to 7,756 units as the company shifts to the new one. The automaker opens a new manufacturing plant in Mexico this spring to produce the Mazda3. Sales of the Mazda2 and Mazda5 dropped.
Mazda models with the fuel-saving Skyactive Technology accounted for 81 percent of all November sales. It now is available on the Mazda3, Mazda6 and CX-5.
AUDI: Audi of America reported sales of 13,636 vehicles, up 13 percent from last year's record November. It was the brand's 35th consecutive month of record sales and the fourth best month ever for Audi sales. As of the end of November, Audi had sold 141,048 vehicles, surpassing the full-year record of 139,310 units in 2012.
Posting gains in November were: the volume-leading Q5, up 32 percent to 3,582 utilities; the A4, up 9 percent to 3,169 cars; and the A6, up 33 percent to 2,112 vehicles. Also making gains on small volume were the Q7, A7 and R8. Reporting declines were the TT, A8 and AllRoad, also on small volumes. The A3 is being phased out in advance of the all-new A3 sedan arriving in the U.S. this spring.
MITSUBISHI: Mitsubishi Motors North America reported November sales of 6,071, up 70 percent from a year ago and its best November since 2007.
Mitsubishi's strength is coming from the U.S.-built Outlander Sport, which had a 36-percent sales increase to 2,059 cars, and the new 2014 Outlander, up 139 percent to 1,399 utilities sold. The new Mirage sold 1,052 cars in its first full month of sales. Lancer sales were up 31 percent in November; Lancer Evolution sales increased 36 percent.
VOLVO: Volvo Cars of North America reported November sales plummeted 31 percent from a year ago to 4,233 vehicles. Year to date sales are down 9 percent. In November, every Volvo model posted a double-digit decline. The S60, the second-highest volume model, had the smallest decrease — down 24 percent to 1,426 cars. The volume-leading X60 had a 27-percent decline to 1,500 utilities sold.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER: Jaguar Land Rover North America reported November of 6,047 vehicles, up 37 percent from last November. Jaguar sales were 1,446 units, up 103 percent. Land Rover sales reached an all-time November high of 4,601 units, up 25 percent. Year to date, Jaguar Land Rover sales are up 21 percent, with Jaguar up 41 percent and Land Rover up 15 percent.
"Jaguar Land Rover's U.S. business is growing for both brands and across SUVs, sports cars and luxury sedans," said Andy Goss, Group Sales Operations Director, Jaguar Land Rover. "The Jaguar brand has doubled its November U.S. business and Land Rover had its best U.S. November sales ever. We look forward to a strong end-of-year as we strive for benchmark annual results for both brands."
Range Rover sales were 1,292 units, up 267 percent. They are up 60 percent for the year. Range Rover Evoque increased 21 percent to 1,091 units and up 31 percent for the year.
Edmunds.com's Caldwell agrees the company is on a roll. "Land Rover is the very definition of a hot brand," she said. "It had lowest days to turn in industry in November at 21 days, from delivery of a vehicle to a dealership to a consumer buying it. Consider that Subaru was the next lowest at 30 days, and the industry average is 59."
Caldwell noted that not only are vehicles turning fast, they are selling at top dollar. Range Rover and Range Rover Sport are selling above MSRP, which is unheard of these days except for special cases like the new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. "There's significant consumer demand for Range Rovers the likes of which we haven't seen in a long time," said Caldwell.
Jaguar XF was the Jaguar volume and growth leader with 656 units sold, up 92 percent in November and up 42 percent for the year. Jaguar XJ sales were 465 units, up 75 percent. All-wheel-drive models now make up approximately half of all XJ sales. The F-Type convertible added 222 units in November. The coupe goes on sale in spring.
PORSCHE: Porsche Cars North America announced November sales of 3,966 vehicles, up 3 percent from last November previous record. Year-to-date, Porsche has sold 39,077 vehicles, 22 percent ahead of last year's total of 32,091. Porsche had record full-year sales in 2012.
"It is gratifying to see our strong sales momentum continue even after having surpassed our record sales total of 2012 by the end of October," said Detlev von Platen, President and CEO, Porsche Cars North America, Inc. "What is equally gratifying is the even split of our two-door and four-door sports cars, thanks to the strong performance of the 911," he added.
Towards the end of its 50th anniversary celebration, the 911 model line posted its best month ever with 1,368 units sold in November, up 79 percent over the same period last year. Year-to-date sales of the 911 are ahead of 2012 by 20 percent. The Cayenne model line posted a 21-percent gain with 1,546 units sold. They are up 23 percent year to date. Boxster/Cayman sales also were up from a year ago. Panamera sales dropped.