Domestic Companies Move Metal In November

Strong demand for trucks and SUVs plus ongoing demand for cars helped Ford, GM and Chrysler report solid November new-vehicle sales figures. 

General Motors sales were up 14% versus a year ago. The automaker reported that its delivery totals were its best in six years, with retail up 19% and fleet sales down 3%. Lower fleet and higher retail means more money per unit sold.

Chevrolet sales volume improved 13% versus the month last year, with cars showing strong momentum. GMC sales were up 20%; Buick deliveries improved by 13%. The company says Buick is heading for its best year since 2005, with November the brand's 19th consecutive month of year-over-year retail sales growth. Cadillac was up 11%.

Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, says General Motors has benefitted from well-timed launches — particularly cars like the Impala, Malibu, Cruze, Spark and Sonic — feeding demand from consumers driving older cars. "With the average car on the road more than 11 years old, consumers are ready for something new," he writes.

Ford reported its best November since 2004, with retail sales up 9% to hit 147,021 units delivered. The company also says sales of its passenger cars have not been this strong since 2002, with Ford Fusion and Ford Fiesta both posting records. Fusion sales were up 51% versus the month last year. Some extra good news was that the car saw a 79% lift in the western region -- with a 101% increase in the critical California market, for which the domestics had had, for years, no marketing Rosetta Stone. Fiesta also had its best-ever November sales performance with 4,642 vehicles sold.

Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at Edmunds.com, says Fiesta sales may have come at the expense of Focus and C-Max, which both had a decline in numbers. "Ford cut production for those two vehicles because there was a build-up of inventory. This is going to be an interesting segment to watch in the coming months, especially with gas prices falling."

Also down slightly were sales of the Escape crossover, Ford's traditionally strong-selling compact SUV. The model has been the subject of a recent recall notice because of engine-heating issues, but that is unlikely to have had an effect, since it came late in the month. "In a month where most strong vehicles performed even stronger, Ford Escape's flat sales are certainly noteworthy," says Krebs.

Chrysler -- enjoying its 44th month of consecutive sales gains -- sold 142,275 vehicles in November, a 16% increase versus last year with its core brands -- Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram Truck -- all posting positives. Jeep had 30% gains, the biggest of all the brands.  

Jeep launched the new Cherokee in October, making November was its first full sales month, in which it accounted for 10,169 units delivered. "It took a while, but the Jeep Cherokee finally made it to showrooms in numbers last month," says Krebs. “Clearly, some of those sales were due to pent-up demand because consumers have been waiting for the small SUV while Chrysler delayed the sale due to quality concerns."

The Wrangler, Patriot, and Ram Cargo Van each recorded their best November sales ever. The Dart compact car achieved its record with a 44% year-over-year sales gain. Ram pickup truck were up 22% in November, its 43rd consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains and its best November sales since 2003. 

Krebs says Durango is also selling well. "Ron Burgundy's magic continued for Dodge Durango, which had another tremendous month," she says.

Tags: automotive, sales
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