Oct. sales: Detroit up and down; import brands rise – USA TODAY
Detroit automakers reported a patchwork October sales tally, mostly reflecting boom and bust within the brands, as cheap fuel renewed buyers’ interest in bigger vehicles and lenders helped make pricey models affordable by keeping monthly payments down with loans stretching to an average slightly less than six years.
“October was another strong month for the automotive sector, driven by a combination of low fuel prices, available credit and the ongoing pent-up demand factor. The average car on the road remains more than 11 years old,” says Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book
The average new-car loan in October was 67 months, second-longest on record, according to Edmunds.com auto shopping and research site.
“For better or worse, many shoppers tend to weigh monthly payments more heavily than the overall transaction price of a car,” says Edmunds.com senior analyst Jessica Caldwell.
She notes that such long loans are risky — the cars lose value faster than owners repay the loan, keeping them out of the new-car market for years because their vehicles are worth less than nothing as trade-ins.
Nevertheless, Caldwell notes, the lengthy notes “have had an undeniable impact in getting more people into bigger and more expensive vehicles such as trucks and SUVs.”
GM sales about flat on mix of heroes and villains
General Motors sales eased up just 0.2% in October from a year earlier, to 226,819, still enough to make that the best October since 2007 by about 400 cars.
Buick, was the star, up 6.5% as sales of the diminutive Encore crossover SUV aimed at urbanites jumped 32.7%, making it the brand’s best-seller for the month.
The large, three-row Enclave crossover SUV inched up 1.8% and continues to be the best-selling Buick for the year so far.
Sales of Regal mid-size and Verano compact sedans fell. .
Chevrolet was up just 0.5% overall, despite the hefty 51% gain by Cruze compact sedan and a 10.1% increase for the Silverado full-size pickup, Silverado’s best October sales since 2007.
Chevy Traverse full-size crossover SUV jumped 24%, but it’s modest seller so that big jump added only about 1,500 sales to the total.
Volt extended-range electric slipped 28.8% as savvy buyers know an overhauled version will be unveiled in January and goes on sale later in the year. Changes in equipment and production will cut GM’s costs and could reduce the price.
Colorado mid-size pickup, new to the lineup and on sale only since September, added 1,491 to the total.
Other GM brands:
•GMC edged back 0.8% even though its main product, the Sierra full-size pickup, had its best October since 2001 and sales were up 12.5%.
Canyon, GMC’s version of the Chevy Colorado, contributed just 667 sales.
All other GMC models were down.
•Cadillac was off 8% on big drops by the SRX mid-size crossover SUV and the XTS big sedan.
They more than wiped out strong showings elsewhere.
Sales of the redesigned CTS mid-size sedan zipped 49.3%. Escalade, Caddy’s version of the Chevy Tahoe, and Escalade ESV, derived from the Chevy Suburban, both reported strong growth.
Ford Motor hurt by factory closing for 2015 F-150 retool
Ford Motor said its October sales slipped 1.7% from a year ago, despite records for the month posted by the Fusion mid-size sedan and Escape SUV, and the best October in seven years by beleaguered Lincoln.
Ford said it expected the drop because of a plant closure to retool for the 2015, aluminum-body F-150 pickup, and a deliberate reduction in fleets sales, which are not as profitable as sales to individual buyers.
Industry analyst Ryan Brinkman at JP Morgan said Ford’s slide wasn’t as bad as the 2% drop he forecast.
Other than Fusion, all Ford car models were down, and even the company’s best-selling F-150 pickup slipped 0.6% on the plant closure.
Helping counter that F-150 decline, and a drop from discontinuing the big E-van or Econoline, the Transit Connect small van was up 28.4% and the Transit van, new to the lineup as a replacement for the Econoline, tossed in 2,257 sales.
Ford truck sales overall were down 2.6%.
SUV sales were up 6%, however. The only loser was Edge, as buyers wait to get their hands on the new design of that mid-size, two-row crossover SUV.
Lincoln’s two car models, MKZ mid-size derived from Ford’s Fusion, and the MKS full-size sedan based on the Ford Taurus, fell dramatically.
But on the strength of its redesigned Navigator big, truck-style SUV, and the new-to-the-lineup MKC, based on the Ford Escape, Lincoln SUVs were up 77.1%, pulling the brand as a whole up 24.6%.
Chrysler Group booms on Jeeps, Ram trucks
Chrysler Group continued its string of big monthly sales increases, reporting an October jump of 21.7% over the year-ago month, largely powered by Jeep Cherokee and Ram pickup.
“Chrysler is on a streak of growth that’s virtually unheard of for American auto manufacturers,” says Edmunds’ analyst Caldwell.
“The company’s renewed focus on SUVs comes at a perfect time when gas prices are plummeting and shoppers are falling back in love with large vehicles,” she says, cautioning that if fuel prices suddenly rise, “Chrysler’s weak small car lineup may not be able to fully absorb the blow.”
The group, part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, said every model in the Jeep, Ram and Chrysler brands reported better sales than a year ago.
Fiat brand was up overall, as improvement for the 500 minicar outweighed a slide by the larger 500L.
Dodge, though, was off 8.4%, awaiting a boost from the redesigned Charger big sedan, which goes on sale this month.
Ram full-size pickup was the standout, continuing its status as the company’s best-seller and reporting a 33.5% jump in sales. Ram also was bolstered by new cargo vans.
Jeep brand, as has been typical, zoomed — up 51.7%.
Much of the strength came from the Cherokee, a compact SUV that replaced the Liberty. It was just being rolled out a year ago, so nearly all its 15,715 sales were a bonus for the brand, and didn’t seem to come at the expense of other models, as all were up.
Toyota rises on SUVs, new Camry
Toyota Motor Sales, in an early summary, said its October sales were up 6.9% from a year earlier, to 180.580.
•RAV4, Highlander and SUV sales set October records.
•Camry sales rose 14% on strength of new 2015 model.
•Lexus posted 12th consecutive year-over-year gains
“October vehicle sales were the best for the month in 10 years as an improving economy and lower gas prices drove strong SUV sales,” said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager.
Honda up despite tumble among key models
Honda sales rose 5.8% in October, to 121,172, on the strength of the redesigned CR-V SUV, Fit small car and Acura TLX sedan, new to the lineup.
CR-V and Fit posted their best October numbers ever. TLX recently added the all-wheel drive option, boosting its sales as winter weather approaches in much of the U.S.
Accord mid-size sedan, the automaker’s best-selling U.S. model, was up 7.8%
Other core models did poorly, though, including bigger models that should have benefitted from lower gas prices.
Odyssey minivan fell 7.8%. Pilot three-row crossover SUV dropped 14.1%. Civic compact sedan fell 11.6%.
At Acura, the MDX three-row crossover SUV, recently redesigned, fell 5.1%. The smaller RDX crossover was down 4.7%.
Nissan jumps on core models, overcomes sagging Infiniti
Nissan Motor reported October sales jumped 13.3% over the total a year ago, driven by a 14.9% gain to 94,072 by the Nissan brand.
Infiniti luxury brand sales were down 1.2% to 9,045.
“High consumer confidence and low gas prices helped Nissan set our 13th consecutive monthly sales record in October. We expect that these factors will continue to boost auto sales for the last two months of 2014.” said Fred Diaz, Nissan sales chief.
All of the Nissan brand’s core models posted increase, with the volume leader Altima sedan up 8.1% to 23,544. The biggest percentage gainer was the redone Sentra, up 56.3% to 13,129.
The outgoing Murano sold 4,271, up 37.7%, as it winds down to make way for the redesign that begins production this week in Mississippi and will be shown at the L.A. Auto Show later this month.
Infiniti volume was led by the new Q50 sedan, up 16% to 2,964, and the Q 70 three-row SUV, up 5% to 2,285.
Kia reports record October
Kia reported October sales up 12.4% to 44,694, a U.S. record for the month for the brand.
Volume leaders were the Optima midsize sedan at 11,840, up 3%, and the Soul boxy small car at 10,685 vehicles, up 29.7%. The Sportage compact SUV rose to 3.743
But the biggest percentage gainer was the redesigned and just-launched 2015 Sedona minivan which jumped 251.5% from a near-dead 676 a year ago to 2,376 last month.
Kia credits gas prices as well as freshened products for driving October sales.
“Declining gas prices are bringing a steady supply of customers into the market, and our new products have played a role in the steady growth Kia has experienced this year,” said Michael Sprague, sales and marketing head for Kia in the U.S.
VW breaks losing streak with updated models
Volkswagen broke a string of year-over-year sales declines with a 7.8% jump to 30,313 in October from the month last year.
Showing how fresh models are needed to drive sales, VW’s gain was led by the refreshed 2015 Jetta sedan, up 31.6% to 13,372 and VW’s volume leader. The all-new 2015 Golf, out over the summer, was up 101% to 2,351, and its GTI performance variant was up 67.1%.
Meanwhile, VW’s Passat in the big midsize sedan market, not expected to be refreshed until next year, declined 10.3% to 6,513, and the aging Tiguan in the hot small crossover market fell 16.3% to 1,803.
VW continues to be the U.S. diesel leader with diesels representing 18.2% of the month’s sales.
Subaru up 25%, new Legacy grows
Subaru continued its sales roll with 25% increase over a year ago to 43,012 – a seventh consecutive 40,000-plus month.
A series of successful redesigns brought new buyers to the brand, most recently the redone Outback crossover. Its October sales were up 55.4% to 12,624, just behind the 12,971 for the brand’s volume leading Forester SUV.
The redesign of the 2015 Outback’s sedan sibling, the Legacy midsize, also is having a strong launch, with sales up 105.9% to 6,362.
“Our sedans and crossovers are generating more and more interest from new buyers,” said Jeff Walters, Subaru’s U.S. sales VP. “We are particularly pleased with the positive customer reaction to the all-new Legacy which has had its third consecutive best sales month ever.”
BMW Group up even as its Mini brand falls
BMW brand enjoyed its best October sales in the U.S. ever — up 11% to 30,602 — helping the group overshadow a 7% sales drop at its Mini small-car brand. BMW Group was up 7.9% in October.
Atypically, BMW’s SUVs were off, down 2.4%, while its cars roared to a 14.3% sales increase.
Mini has a new version of its basic model, the hardtop, that’s bigger and more powerful than the car it replaces. Despite generally positive reviews, it couldn’t save the brand’s overall count.
Audi sets record pace on SUVs, entry sedan
The VW Group premium brand reported a 16.5% October sales increase to 15,150, which Audi says puts it on pace for a record U.S. sales year.
The new A3 entry-level sedan continues a strong launch with sales of 2,380 in October – making it Audi’s best-selling car model — and sales of 17,049 since it rolled out in April. Most other Audi car models declined from a year ago.
The Q5 midsize SUV was up 5.7% to 3,571 and was Audi’s top seller overall. The big Q7 SUV, meanwhile, was up 23.9% to 1,738.
Diesels accounted for 12.9% of the brand’s October sales.
Jaguar Land Rover tumbles 20% on shortages
Jaguar Land Rover North America reported October 2014 U.S. sales decline of 20% from a year earlier because, JLR said, it had too few of its most popular models on hand to sell.
Land Rover sales were 3,643, down 15%.
It would have done better, JLR said, it it had more Range Rover Sport models available — that’s Land Rover’s biggest U.S. seller — and more LR4 lower-price models.
Jaguar sales were 1,007, down 34%.
It couldn’t keep enough XF sedans in stock, the automaker said.
Porsche up a bit but small SUV replacing big one
Porsche sales moved up 2.9% in October from a year earlier, to 3,667, but it could have been at the expense of profits.
The new-to-the-lineup Macan compact SUV, loosely based on the Volkswagen Tiguan, added 741 sales to the total, while the larger Cayenne mid-size SUV, based on the VW Touareg, tumbled by 957 sales to 712.
As a long-running model that’s bigger, Cayenne would generate higher profitsthan the smaller, new Macan.
The Cayenne has been Porsche’s top seller most months, but its 57.3% October sales collase demoted Cayenne to third among Porsche’s five models. The 911/918 sports car was tops, up 30.9% to 979. Second was the new Macan.
Porsche is owned by the Volkswagen Group, but reports sales separately.
Maserati solves the puzzle
Maserati, adding models it thinks appeal specially to U.S. buyers, reported a huge sales jump in October from a year earlier — 258% — to 1.227.
The $70,000 Ghibli sedan is the “low-price” Maserati and seems to be catching on, and an updated 2015 is to be unveiled at the Los Angeles auto show this month.