Auto Sales on Track for Best November Since 2001 – Wall Street Journal

Posted: Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Ram pickup trucks are on display on the lot at Landmark Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram in Morrow, Ga.
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Car sales are on track to reach their highest November sales volume since 2001, as Black Friday deals against a favorable economic backdrop helped buoy a traditionally sluggish month damped by fewer selling days.

Analysts say the month’s tally will indicate whether 2015 could set the all-time annual record.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV posted the strongest sales gain of the Big Three at 3%. It sold 175,974 vehicles—its best November since 2000—compared with 170,839 for the month last year, extending the Italian-U.S. auto maker’s sales gains streak to 68 months. Jeep brand sales soared 20%, with the Cherokee, Compass, Patriot and Wrangler each recording their best November ever. The Dodge Challenger, Dodge Journey and Ram pickup truck also posted records for the month.

Car-researching firm Edmunds.com had projected a 3.4% increase for Chrysler.

General Motors Co.’s sales rose 1.5% for the month to 229,296 light vehicles. Edmunds had forecast a 2.3% increase. Chevrolet truck sales rose 10%–the 20th consecutive monthly increase–while Chevrolet crossovers posted a 35% jump and the 12th consecutive monthly increase.

Ford Motor Co. recorded a 0.3% sales increase, as F-series retail sales were up 16%. Edmunds was looking for a 2.6% increase.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen AG
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sales plunged 24.7% to 23,882 vehicles in the second full month after its emissions cheating scandal broke. Early in the month, the Environmental Protection Agency slapped the German auto maker with a second round of emissions-rigging charges, alleging that Volkswagen also installed a so-called defeat device in luxury sedans and sport-utility vehicles produced by the company’s VW, Audi
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and Porsche brands. Edmunds had forecast a 14.4% drop in sales for the month. Still, Volkswagen’s Tiguan crossover delivered an 87.7% increase over the month last year, its best November yet.

Toyota Motor Corp.
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logged a 3.4% increase to 189,517 light vehicles, shy of Edmunds predicted 4.9%. Lexus luxury utility vehicles posted a 37% jump and Toyota brand light trucks were up 5.5% for their best-ever November.

Nissan Motor Co.
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reported sales for the month increased 3.8%, as sales of crossovers, trucks and SUVs bounded up 15% to a November record.

Car shoppers continue to drive away in larger, pricier vehicles amid low interest rates, cheap fuel and a stronger economy. Growth in November comes despite the month having only four selling weekends for the first time since 2012 and the fewest selling days of any month since 2013, according to J.D. Power.

Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell says car dealers in recent years have embraced Black Friday as a big sales driver and since 2010, November has brought one of the three best seasonally adjusted annual rates in each year, with Thanksgiving weekend raking in twice as many sales as any other weekend in the month last year.

Those trends are expected to continue this year, and the U.S. auto industry could post its third-consecutive annual sales rate above 18 million units.

WardsAuto is calling for 1.33 million light vehicles to be delivered over November’s 23 selling days—pushing the daily selling rate to a 12.1% improvement from the month last year. While new-product launches and inventory clear-out sales keep car segments in the black, light-truck sales are expected to boom 14.8% daily, largely on a lift from crossovers.

WardsAuto’s forecast for an 18.4 million-unit seasonally adjusted annual rate would make November the highest month since July 2005’s 20.6-million and the first-ever three-month streak of 18 million-plus results.

GM estimated the seasonally adjusted annual selling rate for light vehicles was 18.2 million units for the month.

Write to Anne Steele at Anne.Steele@wsj.com

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