October Auto Sales: Battered By Sandy, But Still Strong

November 1, 2012

The fury of Superstorm Sandy--wreaking havoc on New York, leaving disaster in its path in swaths of the Northeastern U.S., and spreading foul weather as far as the upper Midwest--left many Americans shaken, and holding onto loved ones this week.

Estimates on the financial impact and the aftermath simply aren't yet in. In the far term, insurance claims will be processed and cars will need to be replaced; but in the near term, car sales have been put on hold in some places, and it'll be a while before some East Coast dealerships are even back open for business.

And because certain brands rely more on some of the regions of the country, some automakers were hit harder by the storm than others. Nissan, Kia, and Jaguar Land Rover all pointed directly to Sandy as affecting their October sales.

"Unfortunately, October ended on a down note with Hurricane Sandy causing major disruption throughout the Northeast, which is our strongest performing region with more than 225 area dealers," said Al Castignetti, Nissan Division vice president, in a release.

Yet on a market-wide basis, sales were up 7 to 8 percent compared to last October, with Kelley Blue Book estimating that we're on track to hit a 14.3 to 14.4 million seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR)--a bit lower than the 14.7-million rate that had been forecasted by some.

Election anxiety a wild card?

Meanwhile, others pointed to uncertainty surrounding the U.S. Presidential race as another potential factor. And KBB pointed to California gas prices, which hovered at near-record highs at the beginning of the month; they've dropped about 30 cents a gallon since.

“October was a somewhat challenging month for us and the industry,” said Dave Zuchowski, the sales chief for Hyundai Motor America. “It appears industry volume may have temporarily stalled due to a blend of an extremely tight and undecided Presidential race, lingering economic uncertainty tied to 'fiscal cliff' anxiety, and the devastating impact Hurricane Sandy had on our dealers and millions of residents along the Eastern seaboard.”

Considering the time that consumers in many parts of the country definitely didn't spend shopping for cars in recent days, October was a very strong sales month.

Kia had an especially good October, with its sales up 12.6 percent versus last October, led by the Optima and Sorento. Toyota was also especially strong, with sales up nearly 16 percent, while Volkswagen, Audi, and BMW were among other strong-performing brands this past month.

Another strong month for the domestic brands

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

Chrysler posted its best October sales in five years, while GM sales were up five percent versus last October and Ford small-car sales--aided by the arrival of the C-Max Hybrid--were especially strong, allowing it to finish the month up slightly.

Pricing experts at TrueCar reported that the average transaction price of a new car rose $336 in October, to $30,486, while incentives are at their lowest levels in more than a year--another good sign for a continued industry rebound.

We'll keep an eye on how the market settles in after the election and storm recovery. In the meantime, follow below to see our own compiled list of October 2011 figures, as reported by the automakers:


2013 Chevrolet Cruze

2013 Chevrolet Cruze

General Motors: GM (NYSE: GM) boasted strong sales for passenger cars and crossovers in October, with sales totals of 195,764 vehicles in all, up five percent versus last October. On a brand basis, Buick and Cadillac were both up nearly 15 percent from last October's levels. Sales of small cars (mini, subcompact, and compact) were up 72 percent compared to a year ago, due to strong sales of the Spark, Sonic, and Cruze, while sales of the Cadillax SRX, GMC Acadia, and GMC Terrain were also strong. Truck sales slumped two percent compared to last October.

Ford: Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) sold 168,456 vehicles in October--virtually unchanged from last year--but the automaker pointed to small-car sales, which were at their strongest October level in eleven years and 54 percent above last October's level. Escape sales were at their highest since 2001, at 19,832, and the F-Series pickups at their highest October sales since 2004. Ford said that retail sales were up two percent compared to last year. And also of note is that Ford sold 25,493 C-Max Hybrids in the model's first full month on sale.

Toyota / Lexus / Scion: Toyota Motor Sales reported an increase of 15.8 percent over October 2011 levels, to 155,242 units for the month. Within that, Toyota-brand passenger-car sales were up 24.0 percent versus last year, while light-truck sales were up 8.3 percent and Lexus sales were up 9.7 percent. Toyota's car sales surge was led by Camry and Camry Hybrid, while the Corolla posted an especially strong month, at 20,949 units. Scion sales were up 49 percent, while combined sales of Toyota and Lexus hybrids were up nearly 70 percent from last year.

Chrysler: Chrysler posted its best October sales in five years, with sales up ten percent versus last October  and sales increases across most of its brands (Chrysler, Dodge, Ram Truck, and Fiat). Fiat was up by the highest percentage--89 percent--versus last year, while the Dodge brand was up 20 percent from last October, to its strongest October showing since 2007. Sales of the Dodge Avenger and Journey sett sales records for the month. Ram truck sales were also up 20 percent, while Chrysler sales were up five percent. Jeep was the only brand down (five percent, versus last October), although Chrysler noted that both the Patriot and Wrangler were above last year's levels.

Honda / Acura: American Honda U.S. sales totaled 106,973 units, which is up 8.8 percent from October 2011. The Honda brand gained 8.7 percent from last October, to 94,810 units, while Acura jumped 9.4 percent, to 12,163. On the Honda side, Civic sales were up 27 percent, while on the Acura side the RDX was up 62 percent versus last October. Insight and CR-Z were among just a few models down in sales compared to last year.

Nissan / Infiniti: Nissan North America ended the month down 3.2 percent compared to October of 2011, at 79,685 units for the past month. That includes Infiniti sales, which were up 27.6 percent, buoyed by luxury crossover and SUV models like the new JX. Nissan-brand sales were down 6.0 percent from last October, to 75,484 units.


2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

Hyundai: Hyundai sold 50,271 vehicles in October, which was up four percent from the same period last year, leaving year-to-date sales for the first ten months of the year up 8.2 percent. Sales of the Elantra were up 12 percent versus last year, while the new Santa Fe gained 16 percent from last October. Hyundai also boasted that its fleet mix often percent is one of the lowest in the industry.

Kia: Kia posted its best-ever October sales, with 42,452 vehicles sold--a 12.6-percent increase from October 2011. Kia's year-to-date sales levels for the first ten months of 2012 are 17.8 percent higher than in 2011. .

Volkswagen: Volkswagen had its best October ever for Passat and Tiguan, and year-to-date sales stand at their best since 1973 (up 35.6 percent just compared to last year). It was the brand's best October since 1972, with 34,311 units sold, which is a 22.4-percent increase over October 2011. Clean-diesel TDI models accounted for 24 percent of VW's October U.S. sales.

Subaru: Not yet available at the time of posting.

Mercedes-Benz: Mercedes-Benz sales were up 5.9 percent, to 23,978, in October, compared to last October, with Smart sales up sharply and calendar-year-to-date sales up 11.9 percent.

BMW / MINI: BMW Group sales, which include both BMW and MINI, were up 18.5 percent in October versus the same month last year, to 32,339 vehicles. BMW-brand vehicles were up 20.9 percent, to 26,451 compared to last October, while MINI-brand sales were at 5,888--up 8.7 percent versus October 2011. Year-to-date sales are up for both brands and stand 8.4 percent higher than at this point in 2011. 


Mazda reported an increase of 1.6 percent versus last October, for 18,622 vehicles sold for the month. Year-to-date sales stand at 8.8 percent higher than last year's levels, and it achieved its best October ever for both the Mazda2 and Mazda3 small cars.

Audi: It was a record-setting month for Audi, which reported an all-time sales high for October, up 14.5 percent from last year, to 11,708 vehicles. October marked the 22nd consecutive month of record performance in the U.S. market, and five different models in the lineup had year-over-year sales increases of 20 percent or more.

Volvo: At 4,200 units sold in October, Volvo Cars of North America reported a 14.3-percent decrease from October 2011, with year-to-date sales down 2.2 percent for the first ten months of 2011.

Jaguar / Land Rover: Jaguar reported sales down 20 percent compared to last October, at 3,828 for the month, combining Land Rover and Jaguar. Land Rover sales were down 19 percent, to 3,129, while Jaguar sales were down 23 percent, to 699. Despite that, Land Rover sales are up 18 percent on a year-to-date basis, and Jaguar awaits the arrival of significantly refreshed XF and XJ models.

Mitsubishi: Mitsubishi reported its second highest month ever for the Outlander Sport crossover, which is now being assembled in the U.S.  Otherwise, Mitsubishi's total U.S. sales were down 9.1 percent from October 2011, to 3,981.

Porsche: Not yet available at the time of posting. 

Suzuki: Not yet available at the time of posting.


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