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

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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:

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