DETROIT (Dec. 5, 2014) — Spurred by a 20-percent gain at Chrysler Group L.L.C., and aided by Black Friday discounts and light-truck demand, U.S. light-vehicle sales jumped 5 percent last month, pushing the annualized pace of deliveries above 17 million for the second time this year.
The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 17.2 million fell shy of August's 17.5 million. But it showed that demand remains robust as the industry winds up its fifth year of recovery since the recession.
Some analysts, however, warned that November's surge could steal some sales from December.
Sales of cars, crossovers, minivans, SUVs and other vehicles totaled 1.3 million in November, the highest tally for the month since 2001. Light-truck volume jumped 9 percent while car deliveries slipped 0.1 percent.
“Auto makers were keen marketers in November, tapping early into Black Friday magic to boost sales to levels not seen in more than a decade,” said John Krafcik, president of the TrueCar online car-buying service. “While the deals were good, auto makers held the line on incentives.”
Subaru led all auto makers with a 24 percent gain. General Motors Co., helped by strong truck and SUV deliveries, rebounded from a soft October with a 6 percent advance. American Honda Motor Co. set a November record with combined Honda and Acura sales of 121,814 units, an increase of 5 percent.
Toyota Motor Corp. and the VW brand each rose 3 percent. Volumes at Ford Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Corp. declined. Kia and Hyundai also fell.
Among GM brands, sales rose 27 percent at Buick, 23 percent at GMC and 3 percent at Chevrolet. Volume dropped 19 percent at Cadillac. GM's retail deliveries edged up 5 percent and fleet volume jumped 11 percent.
Edmunds.com estimated GM's incentives rose 23 percent in November to $3,505 from a year earlier.
“The buzz around Black Friday helped drive strong showroom traffic but there was a lot more at work in the market,” Kurt McNeil, vice president for U.S. sales operations at GM, said in a statement. “More people have jobs and job security, their wages are starting to increase, household wealth is growing, and low pump prices look like they're here to stay through 2015.”
At Ford, it was the third month in a row U.S. volume has fallen as the company retools U.S. plants that build the F-150 pickup—the nation's top-selling vehicle. Deliveries slipped 3 percent at the Ford division but jumped 21 percent at Lincoln.
Nissan's results ended a streak of 13 consecutive monthly sales increases.
At Toyota, deliveries rose 3 percent for the Toyota brand and 7 percent at Lexus, but slipped 21 percent at Scion. The auto maker said its light truck and Lexus volumes set November records.
Subaru's record-breaking run continued with the company posting its best November with sales of 45,273. Subaru has recorded 36 consecutive periods of month-over-month U.S. sales gains and remains on track in 2014 to surpass the 500,000 mark for the first time.
“Traffic to our retailers remains very strong,” said Jeff Walters, senior vice president of sales for Subaru of America.
Deliveries rose 2 percent at Mazda but slipped 4 percent at Hyundai, which cited “challenges in certain segments.” Sales also dropped 13 percent at Jaguar, 21 percent at Land Rover and 14 percent at Volvo.
Some analysts said the sales momentum enjoyed in October continued with an even stronger month spurred by the auto industry's continued reliance on aggressive deals and financing tactics such as extended-term loans and subprime leasing.
“Clever advertising from a handful of auto makers planted the seed in shoppers' minds that rather than standing in Black Friday lines at retail stores to save tens of dollars, they could instead pocket hundreds and even thousands by taking advantage of deals on cars,” said Jeremy Acevedo, an analyst for car-shopping website Edmunds.com. “This message seems to have resonated, particularly for GM's Buick and GMC brands that offered 20 percent off sticker prices for all models.”
Attitudes about buying a new vehicle are also the most favorable since 2005, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers.
The average transaction price for light vehicles sold last month was $32,482, up 0.6 percent from a year ago, while average incentive spending per unit declined $6 to $2,660, TrueCar estimated.
Reporter Hannah Lutz contributed to this report, which appeared in Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.