October Car Sales Track At Year's Highest Rate

By Michelle Krebs November 1, 2011

2011 Oct Sales Track lede.jpg

Automakers posting October car sales Tuesday all showed increases from a year ago, albeit by varying degrees, in a month that auto company executives and Edmunds.com predicts will wind up at the highest Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) of car sales for the year. General Motors reported sales of 186,895 vehicles in October, up 1.9 percent from October 2010. Of its four brands, only Chevrolet posted a year-to-year sales increase. Chevrolet sales were up 6 percent from October 2010.

The Chevrolet Volt broke the 1,000-unit sales mark for the first time in October. Chevrolet sold just over 14,000 Cruze models, ahead of the combined Cruze sales of last October combined with the Cobalt it replaced, but below the 20,000-unit mark it had been running at until September. The smaller Chevrolet Sonic went on sale with nearly 4,000 sold. Cadillac, which is winding down old models to clear the decks for the new ATS and XTS coming next year, saw sales fall 11.9 percent, with every model but the SRX crossover posting a decline. GMC sales were down 4.6 percent. Buick’s sales were down 7.0 percent.

Chrysler had another phenomenal month with sales up a whopping 27 percent from a year ago, demonstrating what some new vehicles will do for a company. Chrysler reported U.S. sales of 114,512 units in October, for its best October since 2007. Leading the charge were strong sales from Jeep, especially the Compass, and the midsize Chrysler 200 sedan that replaced the Sebring. Dodge posted a 25-percent increase on the strength of the Durango and Journey. Ram numbers also improved due to higher full-size pickup truck sales.

Volkswagen had a terrific month with sales up 40 percent from last October, pushing year-to-date sales ahead of full-year 2010 sales. Sales increases were virtually across-the-model line, something that hasn't been seen from the German maker consistently. But Volkswagen’s strength came from its newest models, the U.S.-built Passat (top), the redesigned Beetle and the Jetta.

Ford Motor Co. posted a 6.2-percent increase in October sales, which totaled 167,803 vehicles. Sales strength came from Ford’s utility vehicles, led by the recently revised Explorer, which had a 225-percent increase in sales and recently surpassed the 100,000-unit mark for the year. The Escape, which is being replaced next year, had a 31-percent gain. Truck sales were strong with F-Series up 7 percent and surpassing 50,000 units of sales for the second month in a row. On the car side, sales of the Fiesta and Fusion were up; Focus sales were down some from a year ago. Also down was the entire Lincoln division, which is scheduled for a complete makeover in the coming years.

Nissan reported sales up 18 percent to 82,346 vehicles. The Nissan division set a new October record, as did the Versa line, which includes the new sedan in only its second full month of sales. Also shattering October sales records were the midsize Altima sedan and the Rogue crossover. Sales of Infiniti luxury vehicles fell. Edmunds.com forecasts that when October car and truck sales are tallied later today, the month will hit a sales rate of 13.4 million light vehicles, the highest rate of the year and the highest since August 2009 when sales were inflated by the U.S. government’s Cash for Clunkers program.

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