By Jesse Snyder, Automotive News, a Crain publication
Detroit, Michigan - November light vehicle sales that bounced 17 percent from a year earlier, to reach 10,445,490 units, solidified convictions that a slow recovery in the US auto market is gaining momentum. The November sales tally will keep this year on track to finish at 11.5 million units, most analysts believe.
Light trucks outsold passenger cars in November, capturing 51.8 percent of the total US market as low fuel prices helped revive Americans' taste for pickups, vans, SUVs and crossovers.
It was the second month in a row that trucks were hotter than cars. In October, trucks grabbed 51.1 percent of total sales. But, year-to-date, passenger cars have outsold trucks - 5.4 million to 5.0 million.
Total light vehicle sales rose to 873 407 units for the month, the market's 11th advance in the past 12 months. The sales total through the first 11 months of 2010 - 10.45 million - has topped the 10.43 million mark for the whole of 2009.
"The auto recovery is alive and well," said Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends at TrueCar.com.
November's seasonally adjusted annual selling rate was 12.26 million, according to Autodata, and exactly the same as in October. Both are the highest SAAR since August 2009, when the $3 billion 'cash-for-clunkers [old cars]' programme created a sales spike.
Six major automakers posted double digit sales increases from November 2009, but monthly volume fell at Toyota Motor Sales USA for the fourth time in five months.
"Everybody's a winner except for Toyota," said Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends at TrueCar.com. "All the major players did well in November, but Toyota was down even more than we expected."
Sales of Toyota, Scion and Lexus vehicles fell 3 percent to 129 317 units in November. TrueCar had forecast a 2-percent decline.
Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst for Edmunds.com, said Toyota's recall woes are hurting.
"Without new product to compete with and stripped of its bullet-proof quality reputation, Toyota is forced to sell on the deal," she said. "This lack of profitability is a growing concern for dealers."
Hyundai-Kia Automotive had the best percentage gain among the rest of the Big Seven, up 46 percent, followed by Nissan North America at 27 percent.
Closely bunched were American Honda Motor Co., 21 percent higher, and Ford Motor Co., up 20 percent.
Chrysler Group sales increased 17 percent, while General Motors rose 12 percent.
On a continuing-brand basis, the numbers at Ford and GM looked better. Excluding November 2009 sales from the Volvo unit that has been since sold, Ford's increase was 24 percent. And counting only the four brands it kept, GM's sales last month rose 21 percent.
Smaller brands thankful for November
November was a good sales month for smaller companies, with all but Mazda and Daimler outpacing the US market's 17 percent advance.
Porsche, Mitsubishi and Suzuki all soared by about half in November, but the companies are headed in different directions.
Porche's 49 percent improvement for the month is consistent with its pace for the rest of year. Sales through November are up 29 percent -- one of the industry's strongest advances - to 22,753 units.
A 47 percent monthly gain shifted Mitsubishi from negative to positive for the year to date. Mitsubishi is now ahead by 2 percent for the year, at 50,809 units.
Suzuki jumped 51 percent for the month, but that only cut its loss to 41 percent for the first 11 months.
Four others were closely bunched - each up more than 20 percent. Volkswagen of America gained 28 percent for the month and is 21 percent higher for the first 11 months. BMW North America was 27 percent higher, up 9 percent so far this year. Subaru of America rose 22 percent in November and 23 percent for the year. Jaguar Land Rover also increased 22 percent and 21 percent so far in 2010.
As for Mazda and Daimler: Mazda gained 7 percent, after outpacing the market in each of the past two months, while Daimler's 10-percent advance extended its streak of monthly gains to 15.