The government shutdown panic bypassed dealer showrooms in October, as Ford (F), General Motors (GM) and Fiat’s (FIATY) Chrysler posted double-digit sales gains in the U.S. Even better news for shareholders: The average transaction price hit record highs in October, which translates into lower incentives and higher profit.
When all is said and done, total U.S. sales in October are expected to hit an annualized rate of at least 15.5 million vehicles. GM retained the top spot in the U.S., growing sales by 16% to 226,402 vehicles — beating out Ford at 14% and Chrysler at 11%.
The Detroit Three were not the only automakers to rack up strong sales last month: Toyota (TM) sold 168,976 vehicles — an increase of 9% — and Nissan’s (NSANY) 14.2% sales increase set a U.S. sales record in October, as the company sold 91,018 cars and light trucks last month. Bucking the sales growth trend was Volkswagen (VLKAY), which actually posted an 18% sales decline in October, selling only 28,129 vehicles during the month.
As far as the vehicle mix is concerned, pickup trucks and luxury vehicles were leaders of the pack in October — an even better sign for the industry, considering those vehicles have higher price tags and are more profitable. Here’s the breakdown on the best cars and best trucks for October:
GM: Chevrolet, Cadillac and Buick-GMC all posted strong performance in October. Buick was the biggest gainer for GM in October, as total sales increased 31% — the 18th consecutive month of year-over-year growth. The Regal sedan was one of the best cars for the company, with sales jumping a whopping 47 percent. GMC was up 16 percent, with the division’s Terrain midsize crossover recording its best October sales ever. On the luxury front, Cadillac’s sales were up 10%, driven by the new XTS full-size luxury sedan and ATS compact.
Ford: Ford, which posted its best October retail sales performance since 2004, had strong growth in passenger cars and light trucks. To no one’s surprise, Ford’s F-Series pickups are still some of the best trucks out there — the automaker sold 63,803 of them last month. Ford’s midsize Fusion was a big hit: Sales hit 21,740 — a 71% increase year-over-year, and the best-ever October sales performance. Ford’s Lincoln luxury brand even began to gain traction as sales of the midsize MKZ sedan topped 2,900 — an increase of 80%.
Chrysler: The company’s Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram Truck brands all posted year-over-year sales gains in October, although the Fiat brand sales slipped 1%. The Ram Truck brand’s 22% increase was the largest sales gain of any Chrysler Group brand during the month, while Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Patriot, Dodge Journey crossover, Dodge Dart compact and the Dodge Challenger muscle car all set October sales records, as did the Ram Cargo Van.
Toyota: Toyota’s U.S. sales reflected strength in the SUV and truck segments. SUV sales spiked 21.3%, led by a nearly 61% rise in RAV4 crossover sales. Sales of the Tundra full-size pickup rose 22.6% to more than 9,900 units. The Corolla compact continued its strong sales run, gaining 12.8% to 23,637 vehicles. However, sales of Toyota’s top-selling Camry slipped 2.6% last month. While the Camry remains the best-seller in the U.S., it faces headwinds: Consumer Reports withdrew its reliability recommendation over crash test data.
Nissan: Nissan must be producing some of the best trucks out there, as total truck sales surged 42.8% to 32,798. Top performers included a 53.1% increase in sales of the Rogue crossover, with robust sales of the midsize Frontier pickup and Pathfinder SUV, which rose by 72% and 90% respectively. Sales of the midsize Altima, however, slipped 11.5% to 21,785. Nissan reported small gains for its luxury Infiniti brand, rising 4.5% to 9,152 units.
Bottom Line: October auto sales were strong — and the results are even more impressive given the 16-day federal government shutdown. The resurgence of trucks is likely to continue as long as the housing market and overall economy cooperate. The good news: Economic catastrophes aside, there’s still enough pent-up demand for the best cars and best trucks to keep automakers’ sales revved up into 2014.
As of this writing, Susan J. Aluise did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.