Car sales rebound in October despite government shutdown

Car sales were mostly strong in October, bouncing back from a lull in September. October's gains suggests that the government shutdown and the issues with Obamacare barely put a dent in car sales.

Yuya Shino/Reuters/File
A visitor runs past the logo of Nissan Motor Co at the company's showroom in Yokohama, south of Tokyo. Nissan car sales grew 14.2 percent in October.

Car sales rebounded in October from September's lull, despite the government shutdown.

Most of the major automakers represented in the U.S. market posted big gains year-over-year in October, though not as strong in some cases as hoped.

Among the Big Six automakers, the domestic brands--GM, Ford and Chrysler--all posted double-digit gains. Nissan sales grew 14.2 percent, while Toyota was up only 4.8 percent, below expectations.

Other highlights of October's sales report: Audi was up yet again, this time 11 percent--but sister company Volkswagen was off 18 percent. 

Rolling strong into the holidays

The political bellyache over Obamacare barely put a dent into car sales, but comparisons with September also include more selling days and no Labor Day holiday.

Viewed year over year, they reflect fundamental strength, according to the analysts at J.D. Power and LMC Automotive. They are forecasting a 8-percent gain for sales in October--with the seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) for October 2013 at 15.4 million vehicles, up 200,000 units over September and 1 million units over 2012 levels. LMC predicts sales to settle in at 15.6 million units for the year.

“The industry didn’t escape the turmoil in Washington, but the disruption was not enough to stop the auto recovery,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. LMC's estimates suggest a 16-million-unit year in 2014 is possible, though another debt-ceiling roue in the first quarter of the year could impact the numbers.

Will the industry keep delivering sales gifts through the holidays, or go into hibernation? October's numbers give more color, automaker by automaker:

General Motors: GM [NYSE:GM] sold 226,402 vehicles in the United States in October, up 16 percent versus a year ago.  Buick was up 31 percent to 17,555 units; Cadillac sales rose 10 percent to 14,792 units. GMC was up 16 percent to 38,841 sales, and Chevy saw its sales increase 15 percent to 155,214 vehicles. Among the nameplates, sales of the Buick LaCrosse were off 7 percent and the Verano was off 5.6 percent, but Buick's Regal sales rose 46.9 percent. The Cadillac ATS had an excellent month--up 120 percent--and the XTS was up 8.3 percent, but the CTS was off 12 percent in advance of a new edition coming this fall. The Chevy Camaro rose 11 percent on the sales charts, while the new Corvette boomed, with sales up 237 percent—while the Cruze compact was down 16 percent and the electric Volt was down 32 percent.

Ford: Ford Motor Co. [NYSE:F] sold 191,985 vehicles in October, up 14 percent over a year ago; it was the company's best October since it first sold Freestar minivans. The Ford division moved 184,854 units, up 13.2 percent, while Lincoln sales of 7,131 vehicles were up 38.4 percent. Lincoln's MKZ rose 80.2 percent. Ford Focus sales were off 17.5 percent, but F-150 trucks were up 12.9 percent; Ford Fusion sales of 21,740 units were up 71 percent — but the hybrid C-Max was off 20.5 percent to 2,530 units.

Toyota / Lexus / Scion: The Toyota Motor Company [NYSE:TM] put its adjusted October sales of 168,976 units up 4.8 percent, or up 8.8 percent adjusted. The Toyota division accounted for146,257 sales, up 4 percent; some 4,940 units of that were taken up by Scion, which is off 19.2 percent. Lexus was up 10.2 percent to 22,719 units.

Chrysler: Chrysler Group LLC sold 140,083 vehicles in October, up 11 percent. Ram sold 36,214 trucks, up 22 percent; Dodge accounted for 45,314 sales, up 12 percent, with Charger sales up 60 percent and Durango sales up 59 percent. Jeep sales rose 7 percent to 36,379 units, and the Chrysler brand watched its sales grow 6 percent to 23,452 vehicles. Fiat was off 1 percent to 3,674 units, despite the launch of its 500L hatchback--not helped at all by a 36-percent drop in 500 sales.

Honda / Acura: American Honda Motor Co. [NYSE:HMC] combined for 114,538 units sold in October, up 7.1 percent on an unadjusted basis, 3.1 percent on an adjusted basis. Accord sales were up to 25,162; at 100,242 units, the Honda brand as a whole were up 5.7 percent. Acura sales rose to 14,296 units, up 17.5 percent.

Nissan / Infiniti: Nissan Motor Company [NASDAQ:NSANY] says its sales rose 14.2 percent to 91,018 vehicles, with the Nissan division accounting for 81,866 units (up 15.4 percent) and Infiniti sales tallied at 9,152 units (up 4.5 percent). Sales of Nissan's carryover Rogue Select were up 53 percent, while the Sentra was up 49 percent and Pathfinder, 90 percent. Nissan's Leaf electric car posted a 26.8-percent sales gain.

Hyundai: As is customary, Hyundai's U.S. chief John Krafcik posted preliminary numbers via Twitter: "Post-shutdown rebound drives record 53,555 October sales (+7%). New '14s liftSanta Fe +36%, Sonata +18%, Equus +14%. ^jfk”

Kia: Kia sold 39,754 vehicles in October, off 6.3 percent for the month. Sales of the Forte, Sorento, and Optima were down, with the new Soul accounting for a slight increase.

Subaru: Subaru sales were up 32 percent, to 34,483 vehicles sold in October. Year to date, Subaru has already sold 347,890 vehicles, surpassing last year's numbers and setting its fifth record sales year in a row.

BMW / MINI: BMW and MINI combined for 33,274 sales in October, up 2.9 percent. BMW-brand vehicles accounted for 27,574 units, up 4.2 percent, while MINI sold 5,700 vehicles, off 3.2 percent.

Mercedes-Benz: Mercedes sold 30,069 vehicles in October, up 25 percent from the year-ago period, its best October in history.

Volkswagen: With sales of 28,129 vehicles, VW was off 18 percent for the month. All its major model lines were down: Golf by 23 percent, Jetta by 13 percent, Passat off 13 percent, Tiguan off 22 percent. On the year, VW sales are roughly equal to last year's numbers.

Mazda: Mazda sold 19,738 vehicles in October for a 6-percent gain; year to date, sales of 240,229 vehicles are up 5.3 percent.

Audi: Audi sold 13,001 vehicles in October, up 11 percent; its Q5 and Q7 SUV sales each posted gains in the 30-percent range.

Jaguar / Land Rover: Jaguar is reaping the benefits of adding all-wheel drive to its vehicles. In October, Jaguar sold 1,515 units, up 117 percent; Land Rover sold 4,286 units, up 37 percent. The two brands totaled 5,801 units, up 52 percent from October 2012.

Volvo: Not yet reported

Mitsubishi: Mitsubishi says it sold 4,972 vehicles in October, up 19.4 percent over October 2012.

Porsche: Porsche sales of 3,562 vehicles were up 11 percent over the same period in 2012. Year to date, the maker of Cayennes and 911s is up 24 percent.

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