November car sales bring good tidings for auto industry

Car sales jumped year-over-year in November for most automakers, and Americans spent more money on new cars than in any November in history. The strong car sales news is a good sign for an auto industry still working its way out of the recession.

Nati Harnik/AP/File
Matthew Miller of Omaha shops for a car in Omaha, Neb. Nearly all the major automakers that sell vehicles in the US posted big car sales gains year-over-year in November

Americans spent more money on new cars last month than in any November in history, driving new-car sales to more post-recession highs.

Nearly all the major automakers that sell vehicles in the U.S. posted big sales gains year-over-year in November, with just a brand or two striking a sour note.

GM says its sales rose 14 percent, while Ford was up 7 percent and Chrysler, up 16 percent; Nissan sales grew 10.7 percent, while Toyota posted a 5.9-percent gain.

Among other brands, Jaguar Land Rover sales rose 37 percent, and Audi was up 13 percent--while Volkswagen watched sales drop 16.3 percent. 

Happy holidays

November's shorter selling period and major holiday didn't ding sales at all--in fact, the long holiday shopping weekend and aggressive Black Friday advertising may have helped boost sales, even though new-car prices continue to climb.

Kelley Blue Book reports the average new car price as $32,769, up more than a percent over last year.

According to J.D. Power and LMC Automotive, the fundamental strength in new-car sales broke through the political turmoil that drew down numbers in September and October. The market analysts predict November sales will come in at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 16.1 million vehicles, up from October's 15.2 million units. LMC predicts sales to settle in at 15.6 million units for the year.

"Indications are that total consumer spending on new vehicles in 2013 will exceed $370 billion, the highest on record and considerably above even pre-recession levels," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. Schuster predicts a SAAR for 2014 at 16.1 million units.

November's numbers give those rosy predictions the ring of truth. Here are the figures, automaker by automaker:

General Motors: GM [NYSE:GM] sold 212,060 vehicles last month, up 14 percent from last November and its best November in six years. Cadillac rose 11.4 percent to 16,172 units; Buick sold 15,072 vehicles, up 13.4 percent; GMC sold 35,727 vehicles, up 19.8 percent; and Chevy sold 145,089 units, up 12.6 percent. Buick Regal rose 83.3 percent, but LaCrosse and Verano were down, double digits; Cadillac ATS sales rose 60 percent and XTS was up 41.5 percent, but CTS and SRX were down. Chevy Corvette sales rose 128.9 percent, and the Malibu was up 40.9 percent; of Chevy's current vehicle lines, only Sonic was down, by 6.1 percent. Finally, GMC sold 7,566 Acadias, up 108.4 percent, in its sixth model year on sale.

Ford: Ford Motor Co. [NYSE:F] sold 190,449 vehicles in November for a 7-percent boost. Lincoln sales rose 17.4 percent to 6,727 units, almost wholly on the new MKZ—which was up 113.8 percent. Ford sold 22,839 Fusions in November, up 51 percent year over year, for its best November ever. Ford's C-Max was off a hefty 50.5 percent, though, and three mainstream models--Edge, Focus, and Taurus--were all off in double digits versus last November. The mainstay F-Series moved 65,501 units, for a 16-percent gain year over year.

Toyota / Lexus / Scion: The Toyota Motor Company [NYSE:TM] said in a sales preview that it sold 178,044 units in November, up 5.9 percent on an adjusted basis, 10.1 percent on an unadjusted basis.

Chrysler: Chrysler Group LLC sold 142,275 vehicles in November, up 16 percent over November 2012; Jeep was up 32 percent to 45,415 units, while Ram rose up 22 percent to 31,255 units; the Chrysler brand's sales were up 12 percent to 21,024 units, and Dodge climbed 4 percent to 41,506 units, while Fiat was down 15 percent to 3,075 units. Jeep sold more Compass and Patriot crossovers, while Fiat's 500 was off 41 percent; Dodge's Dart was up 44 percent, and its Durango climbed 36 percent.

Honda / Acura: American Honda Motor Co. [NYSE:HMC] sold 116,507 vehicles in November, with Honda-brand sales of 101,948 vehicles. With 23,509 sales, the CR-V had its best month ever.

Nissan / Infiniti: Nissan Motor Company [NASDAQ:NSANY] says it sold 106,528 vehicles in November, up 10.7 percent. The Nissan brand accounted for 93,376 units, up 10.8 percent; the Altima and Leaf hit November sales records of 24,604 and 2,003 units respectively. Infiniti was up 10.5 percent, to 13,152 units.

Hyundai: As is customary, Hyundai's U.S. chief John Krafcik posted preliminary numbers via Twitter: "record Nov. sales (56,005, +5%) paced by Santa Fe (+43%), Accent (+42%), Elantra (+5%)."

Kia: Kia has not yet reported sales.

Subaru: Subaru had its best November ever with 36,621 sales, up 29.8 percent. On the year, the automaker has sold 384,511 vehicles, having passed last year's sales levels back in October.

BMW / MINI: BMW/MINI has not yet reported sales.

Mercedes-Benz: Mercedes has not yet reported sales.

Volkswagen: With sales of 30,727 units in November, VW was off 16.3 percent. VW has sold 373,689 units year-to-date, putting 400,000 sales within reach for all of 2013. The Jetta was down 12.9 percent; the Passat, down 15.8 percent.

Mazda: Mazda has not yet reported sales.

Audi: Audi sold 13,636 vehicles in November, a 13-percent gain, and its fourth best month ever in the U.S.

Jaguar / Land Rover: Jaguar sold 1,446 units, up 103 percent; Land Rover sold 4,601 units in November. Their combined 6,047 units represent a 37-percent gain on November 2012.

Volvo: Volvo has not yet reported sales.

Mitsubishi: Mitsubishi has not yet reported sales.

Porsche: Porsche sold 3,966 vehicles in November, up 3 percent; year to date, Porsche is up 22 percent, at 39,077 cars and SUVs.

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