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Chrysler, Ford, GM, Nissan post big October sales gains

By Craig Trudell
Bloomberg News

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SOUTHFIELD, MICH.: General Motors and Ford reported U.S. auto sales gains for October as demand recovered following the 16-day government shutdown and remained on pace for the best year since 2007.

Sales of cars and light trucks rose 16 percent at GM, 14 percent at Ford and 11 percent at Chrysler Group LLC.

The results compared with analysts’ average estimates for increases of 7.9 percent for GM, 16 percent for Ford and 14 percent for Chrysler in a survey by Bloomberg News.

Gains at Toyota, Honda and Nissan trailed estimates.

Showroom traffic and sales accelerated after Congress and President Barack Obama agreed to fund the government and lift the debt limit Oct. 17, automakers said.

Automakers came within 6,000 deliveries of 13 million through the year’s first 10 months. Annual sales failed to cross that threshold in the three years through 2011.

“We’re seeing the resiliency of the consumer yet again,” said Michelle Krebs, an analyst at auto researcher Edmunds.com. “While we saw a little bit of slowdown during the shutdown, it picked right back up. We’re expecting a strong close and then a strong 2014.”

Sales of cars and light trucks climbed 11 percent to 1.21 million, trailing the 1.22 million average of nine estimates in the Bloomberg survey. The annualized industry sales rate, adjusted for seasonal trends, rose to 15.2 million, missing the 15.4 million average estimate of 14 analysts. The sales pace was 14.4 million a year earlier.

Deliveries for GM rose at all four brands, led by Buick’s 31 percent gain. Sales of the Silver­ado and Sierra large pickups increased 10 percent and 13 percent, respectively. The Detroit company this week posted third-quarter profit that beat estimates on demand for the redesigned Silverado truck, Impala sedan and Cadillac cars.

“What’s going on in Washington does have an impact at the margin, but it’s more like what we’ve seen with oil prices in recent years,” Mustafa Mohatarem, GM’s chief economist, said Friday on a conference call. “It may change people’s perspective on exactly when to pull the trigger on buying a new vehicle, which is a major purchase.”

Ford’s Fusion sedan sales climbed 71 percent to 21,740. The Dearborn, Mich., automaker has gained share in the mid-size car market, long dominated by Toyota’s Camry, the top seller for the segment and among all passenger cars.

“What we saw early in the month was some softness, but we were very encouraged when we saw the retail demand in the industry bounce back,” John Felice, Ford’s vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said on a conference call.

Toyota sales climbed 8.8 percent, missing the 13 percent average estimate of six analysts. The Japan company delivered 29,144 Camrys in October, down 2.6 percent. Sales of the car through the year’s first 10 months rose 1 percent to 348,134, while Fusion was up 20 percent to 248,033.

Chrysler, majority-owned by Fiat SpA of Italy, reported its first 579 sales for the Cherokee sport-utility vehicle, which originally was supposed to begin deliveries months earlier.

“After a choppy start to the beginning of the month, Chrysler Group sales accelerated in the second half of the month with renewed consumer confidence and the launch of our all-new Jeep Cherokee,” Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales for the Auburn Hills, Mich.-based automaker, said in a statement.

Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne is introducing redesigned SUVs including Cherokee and the Dodge Durango, featured in co-branded ads for the movie Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, to extend Chrysler’s sales-gain streak beyond 3½ years.

Durango monthly sales rose 59 percent to 5,120. Actor Will Ferrell starred in 70 television and online promotions for the new Durango and Paramount Pictures’ Anchorman 2, which features him as the character Ron Burgundy and will be released Dec. 20. Chrysler said the SUV’s campaign generated more than 7 million views as of Oct. 30.

“Consumers showed resiliency in October with steady auto sales despite headwinds caused by the government shutdown,” Bill Fay, group vice president of Toyota brand sales, said in an emailed statement.

Deliveries rose 7.1 percent for Honda and 14 percent for Nissan. The automakers trailed the average estimates of six analysts for gains of 12 percent by Honda and 17 percent by Nissan.

Hyundai and affiliate Kia’s combined deliveries advanced 0.6 percent, missing the 2.8 percent average estimate of six analysts. The Korean-based carmakers have trailed the industrywide sales pace each month since September 2012.

Volkswagen reported an 11 percent decline in combined October sales for its VW and Audi brands. That trailed the 3.3 percent gain that was the average of three estimates.

VW deliveries, which plunged 18 percent to 28,129 in October, risk missing the company’s 2018 U.S. sales target by 33 percent, IHS Automotive estimates.

The goal for 800,000 sales in the market is part of a broader aim to become the world’s biggest automaker in the same time frame.


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