Hyundai-Kia, Subaru, Volkswagen and some smaller automakers posted sharp increases in October U.S. auto sales today as the industry appeared poised to record a solid month.
The results from those manufacturers who reported today bolstered prospects that the industry continues to rebound, though at a pace well below expectations.
On a seasonally adjusted annual selling rate basis, most analysts had expected October volume to be the best month since August 2009, when all reporting is final Wednesday. The average of nine analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg is a SAAR of 11.9 million, slightly higher than September's 11.8 million pace, according to AutoData Corp. figures.
Excluding the August 2009 spike caused by the federal government's $3 billion clunkers program, 11.9 million also would be the best month since September of 2008.
Because today is U.S. Election Day, most manufacturers are delaying the release of October sales until Wednesday.
Automakers that reported results today posted combined sales up 28 percent last month, according to The Automotive News Data Center. Several automakers reported big gains.
The major exception to the trend was Mercedes-Benz USA of Montvale, N.J., which late today reported sales of 19,076 Mercedes brand vehicles in October, up 5 percent.
The tally included 725 Sprinter vans, which Mercedes and Freightliner started to sell this year. Mercedes-Benz did not report sales of its Daimler sister brand Smart, which had been down 62 percent through the first nine months.
Hyundai-Kia Automotive boosted monthly sales 38 percent to 73,855 vehicles. That raised the South Korean automaker's 10-month sales to 751,926 units, up 19 percent from the same period in 2009. Hyundai and Kia will each set U.S. sales records this year.
Volkswagen of America gained 16 percent to 28,332 units in October. So far this year, VW sales are 21 percent higher at 295,566 vehicles.
Subaru of America sold 22,720 units in October, up 25 percent from a year ago. That eclipses last year as Subaru's best October.
For the first 10 months, Subaru has sold 216,334 units, up 23 percent from the same period last year and only 318 vehicles short of its record annual sales set in 2009.
“Subaru's consistent success over the past three years is not only a testament to their product line-up and customer loyalty, but also an indicator of how well positioned they are as the industry starts to recover,” Edmunds.com senior analyst Karl Brauer said.
Mitsubishi's sales jumped 32 percent for the month to 5,111 units, helping to pull the automaker's year-to-date results nearly even with 2009.
BMW Group sold 23,248 BMWs and Minis in October, up 13 percent.
Porsche's October sales jumped 61 percent to 2,647 vehicles. In the first 10 months of the year, the German automaker's sales totaled 20,337 units, up 28 percent from a year ago.
And Jaguar Land Rover sold 4,253 vehicles for the month, up 40 percent from a year ago.
Even struggling Suzuki had a good October, up 17 percent to 2,043 sales. Despite the monthly gain, Suzuki's U.S. sales are down 45 percent in the first 10 months, plunging to 19,015 units from 35,265 a year ago.
Car buyers are showing a slow and steady willingness to buy new vehicles as the model-year changeover begins at dealerships, said Edmunds.com CEO Jeremy Anwyl. Industry sales are running about 30 percent slower than the 16.8 million annual average from 2000 through 2007.
“The business is moving from 2010s being sold at big discounts to 2011s sold at a premium,” said Anwyl. “The 2011s are doing OK, so there is some indication that consumers are willing to pay more for the newer models. They're hesitant but feeling a bit better.”
The U.S. economy expanded at a 2 percent annual rate in the third quarter, the Commerce Department reported Oct. 29. Confidence among consumers fell last month to the lowest level in almost a year, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of consumer sentiment. The U.S. jobless rate is projected to stay above 9 percent through next year.
Among the larger automakers expected to report sales Wednesday, forecasts are mixed.
Ford Motor Co. may post a 14 percent sales increase, the average of six analysts' estimates. Chrysler Group may have led U.S. automakers for the third straight month with a 41 percent sales increase, according to the analysts' estimates.
General Motors Co. sales may decline 6 percent, the average of three estimates. Incentive spending by the largest U.S. automaker may have declined 15 percent from a year earlier, according to TrueCar.com.
“Without crazy incentive spending, you're not going to get to a 14 million annual sales rate anytime soon,” Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends at TrueCar, said . “But if automakers are able to make money with sub-12 million sales, perhaps this is a healthier way to recover.”
Honda Motor Co.'s deliveries may have climbed 16 percent, according to four analysts' estimates. Nissan Motor Co.'s sales may have increased 13 percent.
Honda may have more than doubled incentive spending from a year earlier, according to TrueCar.
Toyota Motor Corp.'s U.S. deliveries may have declined 6 percent, the average estimate of four analysts. The world's largest automaker had smaller discounts on 2010 model year vehicles compared with its competitors, said Ivan Drury, an Edmunds.com analyst.
“If you go into a dealership expecting a huge discount on 2010s versus 2011s and there really isn't that much of an incentive difference, you might look toward another automaker that does provide that huge gap in incentives,” Drury said. “Toyota has one of the smallest gaps of the Big 6.”
Sales of the Corolla and Camry may be lower, while truck deliveries gained, Chris Ceraso, an analyst with Credit Suisse Group AG, wrote yesterday in a note.
Bloomberg contributed to this report