Crossover SUV revolution fuels US auto sales in November – USA TODAY
The crossover revolution sweeping through the U.S. auto industry is beginning to uproot the stalwart vehicles once considered virtually untouchable when it comes to sales.
U.S. auto sales rose 1.4% in November — compared with a year earlier — as the industry hovered around an all-time record sales pace and consumers continued their exodus from cars into crossovers and sport-utility vehicles, Autodata reported.
With similar fuel economy, more interior room and a higher stance than cars, crossover SUVs are gaining appeal among Americans shopping for a new ride across the wide range of brands:
• Nissan. The Rogue crossover became the automaker’s most popular vehicle in November. The Rogue surged 45% in November to 22,565 units, outpacing the typically steady Altima sedan, which fell 10% to 20,564.
• Toyota. RAV4 compact crossover roared 30% to 27,368 units. That made the RAV4 the automaker’s No. 2 most popular vehicle in November, behind only the Camry sedan but ahead of the traditionally dependable Corolla compact, which was down 6%.
• General Motors. The new Chevrolet Trax subcompact crossover flourished, with sales of 6,481 units in its first month in U.S. dealerships — better than any single Cadillac or Buick vehicle, by comparison.
Taken together, the trend toward crossover SUVs reflects a fundamental realignment of the auto industry that has been years in the making but has accelerated in recent months with a collapse in gasoline prices. Dealers are reporting sporadic shortages of crossovers and SUVs.
With about 60% of gasoline stations selling unleaded fuel at less than $2 per gallon around the crucial Black Friday selling weekend, the auto industry persuaded consumers to snap up bigger, more profitable vehicles than the less-profitable, fuel-sipping cars that once prevailed.
At an annualized selling rate of 18.19 million vehicles in November, according to Autodata, the industry is humming along at a record pace, backed by low gas prices, job gains, an improving housing market and cheap credit.
“The economics are right,” AutoTrader.com analyst Michelle Krebs said.
Still, there are a few slightly worrisome signs.
For starters, Volkswagen got crushed in November, with the German company’s namesake brand posting a 25% sales decline amid a global emissions scandal.
But that’s an isolated event that has not spread to the rest of the business. Perhaps more concerning is an uptick in incentive spending.
Automakers spent an average of $3,066 per vehicle on discounts in November, up 6% from a year earlier, according to TrueCar.
That represented 9.9% of average transaction prices, up from 8.8% a year earlier, in an indication that competition for customers is heating up and potentially dinging profits.
“Rising incentives are a bit of a concern, combined with the possibility of higher interest rates,” Krebs said. “We’re just paying attention to that to see the impact on the consumer and on car buying.”
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.