November Car Sales Pace Encouraging


Midway through month, the November car sales picture is taking shape, and the shape looks encouraging with the pace showing a lift from earlier in the month, albeit a slight one. Retail sales now look like they will finish the month around 814,000 vehicles, which equates to a Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) of car sales of 11 million vehicle sales. This compares with sales of 831,000 vehicles for a retail SAAR of 10.8 million last month. If we assume a fleet mix of around 18.5 percent, then November will end with total sales of 998,000 vehicles and a total SAAR of 13.5 million vehicles. That compares with October's 1,020,000 vehicles sold for a total SAAR of 13.26 million vehicles.

Digging into changes in retail share, Mercedes is still up quite a bit; Hyundai, Kia and Honda are down.

Before you jump to the conclusion that auto sales are finally in full recovery mode, let me point out a more likely scenario. As inventories and pricing improves, consumers who deferred a purchase during the Japanese earthquake aftermath, which triggered tough market conditions in the spring and summer, are returning to market We saw this clearly in October sales, and it seems even more so this month. But this effect is limited. Early next year, the market should be back to sales levels that will give a better indication of longer term sales trends.

Still, even if we are in the middle of what turns out to be a small sales bubble, it still should make for a happier Holiday season.

Jeremy Anwyl: Vice Chairman of Edmunds.com. Follow @JeremyAnwyl on Twitter.

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