What Shutdown? Strong Oct. Sales Buoy Automakers

Just a few weeks ago, automakers were wringing their hands as a federal government shutdown began to impact sales. By Oct. 17 the shutdown ended and many car dealer showrooms soon witnessed a surge in traffic. That boost erased earlier losses with Ford, GM, Subaru and Chrysler among the manufacturers reporting strong gains in month-over-month sales.

Shining Star: Subaru

Subaru’s sales rose by 32 percent and even with two full months remaining for 2013, this automaker has already set its all-time US sales record. Through Oct., Subaru has sold 336,441 vehicles, its fifth straight year of sales records. Subaru is also the only manufacturer to have enjoyed a sales increase during the past six years, including throughout the Great Recession.

Nissan sales jumped by 14.2 percent on the strength of a 53.1 increase in demand for its compact Rogue crossover. Pathfinder sales surged by more than 90 percent and sales for its small Frontier pickup truck climbed by more than 70 percent. Infiniti, which had been seeing a decline for much of 2013, reversed course. The all-new Infiniti Q50, released during late summer, helped move the brand’s sales up by 4.4 percent.

Nissan Versa Note Shutdown.

2014 Nissan Versa Note.

Shutdown Recovery: The Big 3

Among the “Big 3″ American manufacturers, GM reported the largest increase for the month. Sales for Buick led the way, increasing by 31 percent and helping to drive overall sales up by 16 percent. Big gainers for GM included the Cadillac ATS and XTS, three Chevrolet models: Cruze, Malibu and Impala, and strong demand for the Buick Encore, a subcompact crossover that hit the market in Jan.

Chrysler sales rose by 11 percent and Ford was up by approximately 14 percent. The Chrysler Group saw its best Oct. in six years as all four of its major brands posted gains. Its most significant gainers included the Jeep Compass, the Dodge Durango, and the Chrysler Town & Country.

Ford achieved its best Oct. for retail sales since 2004, thanks to the strength of two models. About the sales boost Erich Merkle, Ford Sales Analyst said, “A lot of it is our new vehicles. So, when you start taking a look at vehicles like the Escape and particularly the Fusion, that really helped us to have a really great October retail sales month, which was our best October retail sales month going all the way back to 2004.”

Shutdown Top down fun.

Top down fun with the Chrysler 200 Limited Convertible.


Toyota and Honda

Toyota sales increased by nearly 9 percent as demand for its Prius family hit record levels. The all-new Avalon continued to post three-digit gains while sales of the midsize Camry sedan approached 30,000 units. More than 23,000 copies of the all-new Corolla were also sold. Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager, acknowledged that the government shutdown affected sales early on, but Toyota did recover. Fay also noted that the auto industry continues to play a leading role in the nation’s economic recovery and said that “…Toyota is on track for a strong close to the year.”

Honda sales rose by 7.1 percent, largely on the strength of its three core products. Its midsize Accord accounted for 25,162 units, its compact Civic line added 27,328 vehicles sold, and its compact CR-V crossover brought in 22,554 customers. Its Acura division enjoyed a 17 percent boost in sales as its all-new MDX paced the brand with 5,608 units sold.

Shutdown and the Toyota Tundra.

Three editions of the 2014 Toyota Tundra.


The Korean Cousins

Hyundai and Kia have limited US capacity and have tapped out their respective manufacturing plants. Nevertheless, the Korean cousins continue to squeeze more production out of what they have with the Santa Fe leading Hyundai’s 7 percent increase with its sales jumping 36 percent for the month. Kia sales, however, took a tumble falling by over 6 percent. The company is in the process of introducing seven new or improved products by year end including the second generation Kia Soul.

Volkswagen sales fell by 18 percent, effectively cutting into its huge growth these past three years. VW reported that Beetle convertible sales accounted for a 4.8 percent model line increase, with the GTI the only other model showing an increase, finishing up by 6.8 percent. Volkswagen noted that it is now operating at a “new plateau,” but it still expects sales for the year to top 500,000 units as it did in 2012.

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.

The 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.

Best of the Rest

Other manufacturers reporting included BMW of North America with its sales up by 3 percent. Daimler sales rose by 22.4 percent, Volvo fell by 6.7 percent and Mazda climbed by 6 percent. Mitsubishi sales rose by 19.4 percent, Jaguar Land Rover soared by 51.5 percent and Porsche sales increased by 10.9 percent.

All in all, US sales increased by 10.6 percent for Oct., and are up by 8.4 percent for the year. Sales for the year should hit 15.6 million units, up 5 million units from 2009, the heart of the last recession.

See Also — Slipping Sept. 2013 Auto Sales: What’s Up With That?

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