Edmunds.com estimates November's SAAR to be 15.7 million, and Kelley Blue Book today said it expects 15.6 million. Richard Kwas, an analyst with Wells Fargo, today predicted a range of 15.7 million to 15.9 million.
"It's really dependent on what happens in that last week of the month. We always see a really strong push at the end of November," Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst for KBB, told Automotive News. "These are some of the best sales days of the year."
GM's head start
General Motors got a jump-start on the Black Friday frenzy this week by starting a promotion offering supplier pricing on many Chevrolet, Buick and GMC models through Dec. 2. KBB said it expects GM to post a 12 percent gain in November, the most among the eight largest automakers.
Edmunds projected increases of 8 percent for GM and 10 percent for Chrysler Group. Edmunds and KBB each estimate that American Honda, Hyundai-Kia Automotive and Volkswagen Group of America will lose market share.
This month's sales forecasts look relatively weak compared with the double-digit increases seen in July, August and October, because sales in November 2012 were unusually strong. That's when residents of the northeastern United States bought new vehicles with insurance checks they received after Hurricane Sandy struck the region. But analysts said the industry still has significant upward momentum.
"Any economic uncertainty that car shoppers might have felt in October seems to be a distant memory by now," Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst with Edmunds, said in a statement. "Car buyers are already taking advantage of advertised holiday deals, and as we plow deeper into the holiday season the table is set for 2013 to finish on a very strong note."
Best Nov. since 2003?
If sales this month reach 1.2 million, as LMC projects, that would be the highest November volume since 2003. LMC estimated sales of 1.22 million, which would be only the third time in the past 25 years that automakers sold more vehicles in November than October. Light-vehicle sales totaled 1.21 million units last month.
"The sales pace in September and October were plagued by external variables that caused a lower level of demand, so the returning strength in November confirms that the underlying recovery remains intact," said Jeff Schuster, LMC's senior vice president of forecasting. "Improvements in the economy and consumer confidence in 2014 will drive stable growth to 16.1 million units for total light-vehicle sales and 13.2 million units for retail light vehicles."
Inventories, as of Nov. 1, rose to a 77-day supply while averaging 63 days so far this year, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
J.D. Power and Associates, which provides the registration data used in LMC's forecasts, noted that the combination of higher sales and a projected $461 increase in average transaction prices would mean consumers spent 10 percent more on new vehicles this month than a year ago and double the amount they paid in November 2008.
Adam Jonas, a Morgan Stanley analyst, sent a note to clients today suggesting that November got off to an especially slow start. Jonas relayed a conversation he had Thursday with his uncle, an Ohio Chevrolet dealer he refers to only as "Chuck."
"Phones aren't ringing and hardly anybody's coming in the door. We're down on last month and last month wasn't pretty," Jonas quotes the dealer as saying. "GM's trying, doing everything in their power to help us: holiday cash, dealer cash, zero percent on 2013s."
Automakers are scheduled to report November sales on Dec. 3. Because Nov. 30 is a Saturday, the numbers will include sales closed on the first two days of December, giving November one more selling day than last year.
Through October, U.S. sales are up 8 percent on the year.