New vehicle sales continued their slow, steady improvement in November across most of the major brands, automakers reported along with monthly sales today.
Projections had the month coming in at anywhere from TrueCar's estimated seasonally adjusted selling rate (SAAR) of 13.3 million units, to some automaker estimates of a SAAR as high as 13.8 million.
Analysts said the baseline improvement over year-ago numbers means this recovery is solidly underway, even if it's not a particularly vigorous one.
“The improving performance of the past three months suggests that the current momentum, primarily driven by replacement demand and improvements in vehicle availability, is not an aberration,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates.
For the year, Power's figures now predict a year-end SAAR of 12.8 million units including fleet sales, with an early estimate of 13.8 million for calendar year 2012.
Which brands posted increases on the month, and which have more warning signs to read as economic recovery fails to gain steam? The results by automaker, with some still to come:
General Motors: GM (NYSE: GM) said it sold 180,402 vehicles in November, an increase of 7 percent over November 2010. Chevrolet sales grew by 9.8 percent, and GMC's numbers rose by 6.8 percent--but Buick fell 7.2 percent and Cadillac was off 5.6 percent, both somewhat victims of the wind-downs in sales of outgoing models like the Lucerne and DTS. Trucks accounted for a big part of GM's growth, with increases on most of its full-size SUVs. Of concern at Chevrolet, the mainstay Impala sedan was off 26 percent, while the big Traverse crossover was down 28 percent.
Ford: Ford (NYSE: F) saw its sales rise by 13.3 percent, while its Lincoln brand fell by 17.6 percent. Big numbers were posted by the Explorer, which was up 217 percent over November 2010, and the outgoing Ranger compact pickup truck, which was up 85 percent. On the downside, Ford's big crossovers were off: the Flex saw its sales fall 13 percent, while Lincoln's MKT was off 45 percent.
Chrysler: Chrysler Group reported buoyant sales of 107,172-- a 45-percent increase over sluggish November 2010 numbers. Chrysler as a brand was up 92 percent; Jeep was up 50 percent and Dodge rose 43 percent, while Ram truck sales were up 8 percent. Sales of the Fiat 500 hit a grand total of 17,444 units on the year, far off initial estimates of 50,000 units for calendar-year 2011.
Toyota / Lexus: Toyota sold 137,960 units in November, for a 6.7-percent sales increase--its first since the March earthquake in Japan. Toyota-brand vehicles were up 2.4 percent, while Lexus rose 6.7 percent. The Scion brand, fresh off its introduction last night of the 2013 FR-S coupe, saw its sales drop by 11 percent.
Nissan / Infiniti: Nissan sales strengthened in November 2011 to 85,182 units, up 19.4 percent over a year ago. Nissan-brand sales rose 21 percent to 76,754 units, including 672 Nissan Leaf sales. Infiniti sales were up 3 percent on the month.
Honda / Acura: Honda says it sold 83,925 vehicles in November, a 10.1-percent drop over a year ago. On the year, the company's sales are down 5.7 percent. Acura sold 9,909 vehicles in November, a drop of 11.2 percent.
Hyundai: Hyundai said sales of 49,610 vehicles marked an all-time November record, and a 22-percent increase over the same period in 2010. Year to date, Hyundai is up 21 percent.