The monthly sales report is a gold mine for the lover of automotive facts and figures. Every number has a story to tell. Here are some of those stories.
THE SKY'S THE LIMIT
It's not news to say sport-utility sales are setting records: Everybody knows that. But let's put numbers to some of those records.
Sales have exceeded 1997 every month this year. (See table at right.) Last June (a blockbuster month for the entire industry) deliveries totaled an astounding 271,503, up 35 percent over 1997. Ford Division was the car sales leader in June with a comparatively puny 120,291.
For 11 months this year, 2,494,375 new sport-utilities have been delivered by the nation's dealers. That is 14.4 percent more than in the corresponding period of 1997. And this year's 11-month sales are 3.4 percent higher than last year's 12-month total.
Need we add that 1997 was the previous record year for sport-utility sales?
ROUGH ROAD FOR CADILLAC
Barring a December miracle, you can pencil Lincoln in as the 1998 sales winner in the luxury class.
After 11 months, Lincoln led Cadillac by 6,783 sales. (See table at top of page.) Cadillac has been on top in only three months this year, and its biggest edge was 3,042 in October. A 6,800-unit victory by Cadillac in December is as unlikely as the woebegone Detroit Tigers winning the 1999 World Series.
Cadillac, however, is trying to boost sales in December with a fresh round of rebates. The 1999 DeVille, for example, now has dealer cash worth $2,000 plus a 'loyal customer' rebate of $1,000. The deal expires Dec. 31.
The 11-month sales figures show that Cadillac has a big lead in cars (31,000), but Lincoln has sold 39,489 Navigator sport-utilities to only 1,550 Cadillac Escalades. The Escalade was introduced as a 1999 model.
To put it another way, Cadillac bet on the Catera; Lincoln bet on the Navigator. Lincoln won.
The Catera, a Cadillac-badged Opel Senator sedan, had 23,433 sales after 11 months, hardly a match for the 39,489 Navigators.
Lincoln's last victory over Cadillac was in 1939, when the Lincoln Zephyr V-12 was riding high. Cadillac has led the luxury class since 1950, when it supplanted Packard.
Incidentally, Lincoln did not win the title in 1939. It beat Cadillac, but it didn't beat Packard.
CAMRY ON FAST TRACK
The Toyota Camry padded its lead over the Honda Accord in November in the race for the best-selling car. The Camry outsold its chief rival by 3,219 units to build its 11-month lead to 8,499 with only 26 selling days remaining in 1998.
It's too early to call Camry a lock, even though Honda Division boss Dick Colliver says he will not try to buy the crown with jumbo year-end incentives. That's what Ford did in 1992 when its spent an estimated $115 million in late-year spiffs to beat the Accord.