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.
IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR
For the industry as a whole and for two-thirds of the players, the 1999 model year was one to remember fondly. Industry sales totaled a record 16,777,754, an increase of 9.2 percent over the 1998 model year, and 24 makes posted a better percentage increase than the industry.
Nine other makes were up, but they didn't match the industry rate of gain. Only four makes showed sales declines.
The next record in the industry's sights is the biggest one of all: calendar year new-car and light-truck sales. The current standard is 16,026,426, set in 1986, and the industry was 5.3 percent ahead of the 1986 pace as October began.
But the 1999 lead lessened in September. September sales this year were 1.4 million; in 1986 they were 1.7 million. September was the best month of the year in 1986.
As October began, this year's sales totaled 12,918,834. That was 644,543 more than the 12,274,291 sold in the first nine months of 1986.
EUROPEANS RIDE HIGH
Without a lot of chest-thumping and back-patting, the Europeans are having another banner year in the United States. Last year, their sales rose 28.6 percent over 1997. For nine months this year, sales were 25.6 percent ahead of 1998.
Seven of the nine major Euro-pean marques are up 18 percent or more this year.
Who is the biggest gainer on a percentage basis? If you say Volkswagen, you're wrong. VW has a nifty 40.3 percent increase, but its stablemate, Audi, is the leader with a jump of 44.7 percent. The next two places go to Jaguar, up 44.2 percent, and Saab, up 43.7 percent.
Jaguar is an example of what a hot new model can do. The S-Type sedan went on sale in May. In September, it took 43 percent of Jaguar's sales, and for the year to date it had 39 percent.
And Saab's success makes GM partisans wish that the domestic brands could match GM's Swedish entry. Pontiac, Buick and Oldsmobile show gains of 20 to 22 percent for the year to date, but Cadillac and Chevrolet have upturns of less than 8 percent over 1998, and Saturn is down nearly 1 percent.