Source: USA TODAY
Powered by Black Friday sales promotions, rising incentives and alluring new models, auto sales hit a torrid pace November — an unexpectedly high annual selling rate of 16.4 million, well up from 15.3 million in the month a year ago, according to Autodata.
That’s the fastest annualized sales pace since 16.8 million February 2007, Autodata says.
“Black Friday did give us a lift,” said Bill Perkins, president of Chevrolet dealerships in Michigan. “A lot of people were out shopping over the weekend.”
“Showroom traffic surged over the holiday weekend,” said Bill Fay, Toyota vice president.
Sales of all new vehicles by all automakers rose 8.9% from the year-ago November, and 3.1% from October.
Only a handful of automakers failed to post robust gains, mainly Honda, Volkswagen Mazda and BMW.
General Motors and Chrysler drove the blistering sales month — up 13.7% and 16.1% respectively. Ford Motor gained 7.1%, ordinarily laudable, but in November it wasn’t even enough to hold the company’s market share, which slipped to 15.2%, down 0.3 of a point. GM and Chrysler both gained share.
Despite higher incentives on some models, “It’s not a purely incentive-driven industry,” according to Mark Reuss, General Motors president of North American operations.
GM’s chief economist, Mustafa Mohatarem, noted in a conference call with investment analysts and auto journalists that he sees a stable labor market, stable oil prices and record household net worth numbers, so isn’t surprised by strong new-vehicle sales.
“The competition is along the product now, not the price. That’s typical in a cyclical recovery,” he said. Mohatarem said he expects next year to easily continue the 16-million sales pace.
Automakers said November’s incentive increases were concentrated late in the month, mainly for Black Friday promotions, which have become a staple of the auto business as much as they are at department stores and other retail outlets.
For the entire month, according to TrueCar.com, the average incentive was $2,507, up just 0.7% from a year earlier and down 2.1% from October.
But that camouflaged some big jumps.
Ford spent an average $3,317 per vehicle on rebates, discounted financing and other incentives, up 23.4% from November 2012, according to data compiled by TrueCar.com.
Hyundai/Kia combined — both are part of Hyundai Group — jumped 25.9% from November a year ago, but that totalled just $1,858, well below the industry average.
GM’s incentive cost grew 8.4% to $3,067 per vehicle. Chrysler’s dropped 12.3% to $2,756 per vehicle.
Sales strength showed up broadly, but not every slice of the market grew.
Fuel-sippers and small cars generally had a tricky time. Sales of Ford’s C-Max hybrid were just half the year-ago level, for example. Toyota’s Prius hybrid family was off slightly. But Nissan’s Leaf electric and Chevrolet’s Volt extended-range electric both did well.
Here’s a detailed look at each car company:
Powered by healthy response to its redesigned Chevrolet Impala, updated Chevy Malibu and remade full-size Chevy and GMC pickups, General Motors reported a sales jump of 14% in November, to 212,060, for the automaker’s best November in six years.
“November sales were strong at all four of our brands, and demand was robust for everything from cars to crossovers to” pickups, said Kurt McNeil, vice president in charge of GM’s U.S. sales operations.
Investment analyst Ryan Brinkman at J.P. Morgan called GM results “solid” and pointed out that they included “higher sales to more-profitable retail customers,” while heavily discounted fleet sales fell.
Some key performances:
•Impala was up 20.2% on the strength of a full redesign.
•Malibu zipped 40.9%. The mid-size sedan recently got interior and drivetrain updates.
•Chevy Silverado was up 12.1% and the similar GMC Sierra rose 22.5%.
•Buick’s Regal midsize sedan bailed out the brand, powering up 83.3% on recent updates to wipe out losses for Enclave, LaCrosse and Verano.
•Cadillac’s small ATS sedan, was up a hefty 60% and the big XTS sedan rose 41.5%.
•In addition to laudable increase by Impala and Malibu, Chevy’s completely overhauled Corvette more than double last year’s sales, up 128.9%. Chevy Tahoe full-size truck-base SUV and Traverse full-size crossover SUV both sere up more than 20%.
•GMC’s Acadia, similar the Chevy Traverse big crossover, was up 108.4%
Ford Motor’s November sales rose 7.2% to 190,449, as its Fusion sedan sales zoomed 51% and its F-series trucks hits 60,000 sales for the seventh consecutive month.
Ford said it was the best November since 2004.
The automaker reported continued momentum on the import-biased coasts, where it has had trouble making converts.
Even moribund Lincoln had a pulse, up 17% powered by a 113.8% increase in MKZ sales, though that was still a modest 2,854.
MKZ is the Ford-Fusion-based model that’s supposed to, in effect, relaunch Lincoln under it new moniker: Lincoln Motor Co. Ford wants it to seem independent, to remove the stigma that Lincolns are merely rebadged Fords.
The automaker took pains to make the MKZ quite different from the Fusion, and it is striking at least a minor chord with buyers.
John Felice, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing sales and service, said incentive spending both by Ford and competitors increased later in the month, especially in segments such as midsize sedans.
•Fusion midsize sedan, up 51%, and Fiesta subcompact, up 25.9%, were the only stars among cars. It was Fusion’s best November.
Focus, C-Max and Taurus all fell significantly. Mustang rose just 1.3%.
•Among SUVs, Edge and Explorer tumbled, while the Flex, Ford’s oldest SUV, rose 28.9% — but that’s still a small number, just 2,125 total.
•F-series trucks, Ford’s best-selling line, climbed 16.3% despite fresh competiton from new General Motors pickups and updated Chrysler Ram models. Transit Connect, a small commercial van that’s been popular, tumbled 19.3%.
•The Lincoln brand’s only gainers were the MKZ and the big Navigator truck-based SUV, up 12.9%. The brand reported just 6,727 sales in November, though that was up 17.4%.
Felice said Lincoln’s makeover is “a process” that will include the launch of four new models over the next four years, including next year’s introduction of the MKC compact crossover.
Ford forecast production of 770,000 vehicles the first quarter of next year, down from 784,000 a year earlier, but flat with this quarter.
Chrysler Group said November new-vehicle sales were up 16%, its best November since 2007.
It was the automaker’s 44th consecutive month of sales gains.
The automaker said its long-delayed Cherokee SUV, replacement for the Liberty, had a strong month, notching 10,169 sales. It was the Cherokee’s first full month in showrooms.
The launch was delayed while Chrysler engineers continued to tune the new nine-speed automatic transmission to ensure it worked in all two-wheel and four-wheel drive modes.
A few Cherokees trickled into dealers in October, but supplies only now are robust.
The Cherokee “looks to be a hit” says Edmunds.com senior analyst Michelle Krebs. But, she notes, “Clearly some of those sales were due to pent-up demand because consumers have been waiting for the small SUV while Chrysler delayed the sale due to quality concerns.”
The company’s Chrysler Town & Country family van was up a hefty 70%.
Chrysler’s Fiat 500 sales were down dramatically, the base model off 41% and the new, larger 500L unable to attract enough buyers to compensate.
The automaker’s brand highlights:
•The minivan sales jump more than wiped out slumps by the 200 and 300 sedans, leaving the namesake brand up 12% for the month.
•Jeep was up 30% on strong showings by all models. Grand Cherokee’s 14,798 sales, up 9%, kept it the brand’s best-seller.
•Dodge was up 4%, its Dart compact finally gaining significant momentum. Dart sales of 6,486 were up 44%. Charger and Caravan both did well, while Avenger plunged and Challenger slipped slightly.
•Ram truck brand zipped 25% mainly on the strength of a 22% jump by the Ram pickup, to 29,635. New commercial vans not in the lineup a year ago added the rest.
Toyota Motor Sales, which includes Toyota, Scion and the Lexus luxury brands, posted a 10.1% sales increase in November.
The Toyota brand’s big gainers:
•Avalon full-size sedan, redesigned for the 2013 model year, rocketed 346.4%. It was the ninth consecutive month the big sedan enjoyed triple-digit percentage jumps.
•RAV4 compact SUV, redesigned for 2013 and on sale since January, jumped 56.5% to 19,477. That’s tickling the Ford Escape and not that far from Honda CR-V, the best-seller.
•Tundra full-size pickup, also a recent redesign, was up 20.5%.
•Updated 4Runner was up 11%.
•Highlander jumped 21.8%.
On the other hand, Toyota’s entire Scion small-car line tumbled and every Prius hybrid model was down. Further suggesting the drops are a reaction against fuel-sippers at a time of stable fuel prices, the hybrid version of the Camry and Highlander both fell.
Corolla, another redesign, stayed flat with last year.
At Lexus, hybrid cars likewise were shunned.
Best-selling car, the ES 350, was up 3.8%. Car star was the IS line of small sedans — up 99.8%.
Among SUVs, the Lexus RX — the brand’s best-seller — was up 7%. Bigger hybrids gained more.
GX mid-size rose 69.8% and the hefty LX increased 33.5%.
Nissan said its November sales of 106,528 put it 10.7% ahead of the year-ago month and made it a record November for both the mainstream Nissan brand and hte luxury Infiniti brand.
•Midsize Nissan Altima, though its 2013 redesign no longer is among the freshest, set a November record at 24,604, up 21.2%.
•Sentra compact, also redone for 2013 though more recenlty than Altima, was up 62.5% percent to 11,664. Nissan says dealers now have more to sell, and buyers seem newly interested.
•Frontier, its aging midsize pickup that’s a distant second to Toyota’s dominant Tacoma, enjoyed a striking 54.6% sales gain, to 6,003.
•Sales of the Leaf battery electric car, which Nissan recently priced lower, set a November record at 2,003, up 30.1%. The 2013 model made its debut in March and sales have set monthly records ever since.
•Infiniti’s Q50 sedan, new to the lineup and meant as a replacement for the G-series sedans, hit 5,891 sales in November. Infiniti calls that “one of the strongest-ever monthly sales of a single Infiniti model.”
•Infiniti’s QX60 — new name for the JX 7-passenger luxury crossover SUV — had its best November, up 19.2% to 3,015. Despite the new name, the vehicle remains the same, Infiniti says — even though some ads call it “all-new.” Infinti’s website says, “Only the name has changed.”
American Honda, which includes the Acura luxury brand, was alone among the six biggest U.S. makers in posting flat sales for November – down 0.1% from a year ago.
But a bright spot was a 18.9% gain for the struggling Acura premium brand – driven by brand record sales for its RDX small SUV, up 20.7% and redesigned MDX midsize SUV, up 80.8%.
Leaders for the Honda brand were the CR-V small SUV, up 5.3% and flagship Accord midsize sedan, up 3.2%. But the gains were offset by a 12.6% decline for the Civic compact and a 13% slide for the Pilot midsize SUV.
U.S. sales chief John Mendel noted that a “significantly updated” 2014 Civic will be on sale this month. The Civic already got major upgrades for 2013 after the 2012 redesign was suffered tepid reviews.
Hyundai’s November sales were a record for the month: 56,005, up 5%.
Redesigned Santa Fe led the charge, up 43%. It’s now a three-row crossover SUV, replacing the discontinued Vera Cruz. Santa Fe Sport is the two-row, smaller SUV that until now has been called Santa Fe.
The volume leader was the Elantra compact, up 5.2% to 16,751. Accent rose 42%
Head of sales Dave Zuchowski said, “As consumer confidence appears to be on the mend, resulting in record sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the automotive industry as a whole appears to be making strong strides as the year comes to a close.”
CEO John Krafcik said the brand still is dealing with inventory issues. “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 Motors returned to sales growth in November with a 10.6% gain to 45,411 units.
Volume leaders were the redone 2014 Soul boxy car, up 77.3% to 12,870, and the Optima midsize sedan, just refreshed for 2014 at 10,871, down 14.5%.
Also notable was the Sportage compact SUV, up 106.8% to 4,693. Year-to-date sales passed 500,00 in the month, the second consecutive year for the company over that mark.
Continued torrid gains for the redesigned Forester SUV and XV Crosstrek, an Impreza-based compact crossover, drove Subaru to record November sales up 29.9% to 36,621 vehicles.
The Crosstrek was up 157.8% to 5,311 and the Forester was the brand volume leader, up 137.1% to 13,410.
Subaru also noted that total Forester sales since it rolled out in 1997 passed 1 million in November.
Fast-growing Audi’s 13.4% sales gain in November marked a 35th month of record sales.
Its total through 11 months is 141,048, already enough for an annual record in the U.S.
The volume leader was the Q5 small SUV, followed by the A4 entry sedan line.
BMW Group posted a 0.4% decline in U.S, sales for the month to 36,327, driven by a 12.8% drop in sales of the Mini brand.
BMW brand sales rose 1.7%, led by a 22% gain for its volume 3 and 4 Series cars.
BMW SUVs overall were down 8.3%.
Mercedes-Benz USA reported sales up 14.4% from a year ago, with a strong 13.4% gain for the Mercedes-Benz brand to 34,376.
Its Sprinter trucks were up 23.3% to 2,010 and the Smart minicar was up 36.2% to 959.
The volume-leading Mercedes was the redesigned 2014 E-Class, at 8,614.
Despite a dearth of new models leading to a sales drop of 16.3%, Volkswagen said its November sales of 30,727 were the second-best for that month since 1973.
Beetle was the only bright spot, up 43%, but the number still was a modest 2,842, entirely due to the strength of the convertible.
Jetta, the brand’s best-seller, was off 12.9%.
Passat, the mainstream mid-size sedan made at Chattanooga, Tenn., was down 15.8%.
VW will have a redesigned Golf on sale early next year, which could help. And Jetta is updated next year, also a likely boon.
Mazda reported a November U.S. decline of 4.5% to 20,754 vehicles.
That was despite improving traction for its redone Mazda6 midsize, up 202.4% to 3,641, and continued hot sales for the CX5 small crossover, up 50.1% to 6,323.
The company says it continues to have inventory shortages, particularly for the redesigned 2014 Mazda3 compact sedan, its top-volume model. Mazda says its new plant in Mexico, due to open this spring, will increase supply of the sedan.
Mitsubishi reported sales up 69.9% in November, pushing the struggling brand’s total in the U.S. to 6,071, its best total for the month since 2007.
The volume leaders were its SUVs. The redone Outlander was up 139% and the Outlander Sport up 35.5%.
The new Mirage subcompact hatchback contributed 1,052 in its first full month of sales.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER:
Jaguar Land Rover continued its strong 2013 growth in the U.S. with a 37% gain from a year ago.
Land Rover’s luxury SUV line was up 25% to 4,601, while sales of Jaguar’s high-end cars were up 103% to 1,446.
Land Rover sales were led by the compact Evoque and the redesigned flagship Range Rover.
Jaguar sales, led by the XF midsize sedan, have been boosted by new V-6 options and by the addition of all-wheel drive models, which now make up half of the brand’s sales.
Fiat’s Maserati, a niche brand aspiring to be a bigger luxury player in the U.S., seems headed there.
It’s Ghibli, a smaller and less expensive sedan at about $66,000, help power the brand to a 319% sales gain in November to 910 cars.
That put it nearly even among Fiat models with the 500L, a larger version of the Fiat 500 minicar, which snagged 937 buyers in November.