October Sales Steady As Toyota, Honda Rejuvenate - AutoObserver

October Sales Steady As Toyota, Honda Rejuvenate

I am returning today from Washington, DC, and will have plenty to share about providing testimony to Congress regarding the Obama administration's proposal to raise the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. That will have to wait until next week, though. Today, I want to cover some early October sales numbers.

Let's start with the good news. Sales so far in October are pacing slightly above September. The overall Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) of sales looks like it will be about 13.3 million units (September ended up at 13.1 million). In terms of unit sales, October should run just slightly more than 1 million, at around 1,023,000.

Breaking down further, October's retail SAAR should end up around 10.6 million units, exactly even with September. Fleet mix usually is up in October. Unit retail sales for the month should hit 818,000. In terms of retail-share change compared with September, both BMW and Mercedes are up significantly, a situation somewhat explained by both companies' slow start in September. Toyota and Honda are up, too, as is Volkswagen. Retail market share for Nissan, Chrysler and General Motors is down some, with the rest of the major automakers remaining relatively stable. Here's the detail:

A look at the changes in market share provides an insight into what is driving at least some of the market. Both Honda and Toyota are up: they finally are seeing a meaningful increase in availability — more Hondas and Toyotas on dealer lots is attracting buyers who waited through the summer for better market conditions. Honda and Toyota's improving inventories also are causing some sales to swing away from GM and Ford. The same is probably true for Nissan, which picked up share when it enjoyed good availability during the summer. Now, Nissan's decline in October is due to the same shift back to Toyota and Honda that is impacting the domestics.

So October's top-line number looks good. Despite the hand-wringing about a double-dip recession and fears of a financial crisis spreading from Europe to the United States, new-vehicle sales are holding up. How much of this is from deferred buyers coming back into the market as availability improves and prices normalize and how much can be attributed to any fundamental strength in the market is not completely clear. Any ?deferred buyer bounce? should play itself out fairly soon - just in time to establish a sales rate going into next year.

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

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