Eric D. Lawrence, Phoebe Wall Howard, Greg Gardner, Detroit Free Press
Published 9:55 a.m. ET Nov. 1, 2017 | Updated 10:18 a.m. ET Nov. 1, 2017
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Sales for Fiat Chrysler were down 13% in October compared to the same month in 2016, but sales of the Jeep Compbad were up big.(Photo: FCA US)
U.S. sales for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and General Motors fell 13% and 2.2%, respectively, in October, but Ford sales were up 6.2%.
Even with drops in sales like those experienced by FCA, the numbers tell only part of the story because the industry remains in historically strong sales territory after a record 17.55 million new vehicles were sold in 2016. A company spokesman said FCA is trying to reduce lower-margin fleet sales.
The sales figures also reflect the continuing shift in consumer demand from cars to SUVs and trucks.
At GM, sales slipped at Chevrolet (-3.8%) and Buick (-4.5%), were flat at Cadillac (-0.1%), while GMC posted a 4.6% increase, reflecting the broader trend of light trucks rising as pbadenger cars fall.
GMC is helped by fresh updates of its Acadia and Terrain SUVs.
GM’s two full-size pickup models, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, had robust increases of 6.8% and 25.5%, respectively.
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Ford sold 75,974 F-Series trucks alone in the month, a 15.9% gain. Overall F-Series average transaction prices increased $4,000 over 2016 to $47,300.
The month’s results follow a generally better-than-expected September for most automakers.
Analysts had projected a slightly weaker month compared to the previous October. An average of the projections from Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds and J.D. Power/LMC Automotive had projected a 2.8% drop.
Sales have been boosted in recent months because of hurricane recovery in Texas and Florida.
“Recovery from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma continue to aid new-vehicle retail sales in October,” said Thomas King, senior vice president of the Data and Analytics Division at J.D. Power. “Despite one fewer weekend than last year, sales in the Hurricane-affected regions continue to post gains in October.”
But the main story could relate to incentives.
“We expect to see increasingly aggressive incentives offered on outgoing models through the end of the year as automakers look to build on this momentum, so car buyers can likely anticipate some door-buster deals this holiday season,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director of industry badysis.
Tim Fleming, badyst for Kelley Blue Book, said incentives could be a signal of things to come.
“Even with production cuts this year, incentives are on the rise and have reached 11% of average transaction prices. This is an indicator that new-vehicle demand is still contracting, and production cuts could be on the horizon to prevent oversupplies,” Fleming said.
U.S. sales at Fiat Chrysler were down 13% for October, compared to the same month a year ago. The Italian-American automaker sold 176,609 vehicles, which was a drop from 153,373 in October 2016.
The declines were felt across most of the company’s brands.
Jeep fell 3%, Chrysler dropped 22%, Dodge fell 41%, Ram decreased 3% and Fiat was down 33%.
Alfa Romeo as a brand was up but the volumes are small at 1,205. That’s in part because the Giulia sedan and Stelvio SUV are considered new. Alfa’s numbers are expected to continue to increase.
From the company’s perspective, the story behind the decline is a continuing reduction in lower margin fleet sales rather than a sign of trouble. In addition, several models – the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 — are no longer in production, and the new Jeep Compbad must work to replace both the old Compbad and Patriot. Sales of the Compbad were up 81%.
“In October, retail sales of 130,153 units were down 4 percent compared with the same month in 2016 and represented 85 percent of total sales. In line with FCA’s strategy to reduce sales to the daily rental segment, fleet sales of 23,220 units were down, as expected, 43 percent year over year. Fleet sales represented 15 percent of total FCA US October sales.”
The company been profitable in recent quarters, posting earnings of $1.07 billion (then-910 million euros) in the third quarter, which was a 50% increase over the same period in 2016.
Nissan said its U.S. sales were up 8.4% in October, a jump from 113,520 to 123,012, compared to the same month a year ago. While the company’s Nissan Division saw sales spike 10.2%, the luxury Infiniti brand was down 8.1%. Sales of Nissan’s trucks, SUVs and crossovers were up 13%, and the Rogue compact SUV was up 43% to a record 30,286 units.
Contact Eric D. Lawrence: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @_ericdlawrence.
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