After three straight monthly dips, U.S. light-vehicle sales in November rose 3.6 percent from a year earlier, helped by more generous deals and strong truck demand.
Ford, Honda, Nissan, Toyota and General Motors posted increases in November as a rise in incentive spending helped put the industry back on a winning track.
Industrywide sales hit a record for the month -- 1.378 million -- easily topping the 1.328 million mark in Nov. 2001. Light-truck deliveries, behind double-digit increases in sales of crossovers and pickups, jumped 8.6 percent last month, while the car market continued to slump, with demand off 3.9 percent.
The seasonally adjusted, annualized sales rate remained strong but dropped to 17.83 million from this year’s highest rate -- October’s 17.98 million -- and the 18.07 million pace in November 2015, the second-strongest month of last year.
"That's a great, great market. Any time we're talking mid-17s, that's a wonderful market and a wonderful indication of where the North American economy is," said Bob Carter, vice president of automotive operations for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.
A 10 percent gain at GM and a 4.3 percent rise at Toyota Motor Corp. marked their strongest advances this year. Nissan Motor Co. climbed 7.5 percent, while Ford Motor Co. ended a four-month skid. The Volkswagen brand soared 24 percent. Fiat Chrysler was the exception among major automakers, tumbling 14 percent as fleet deliveries shrank.
Continued demand for light trucks amid low gasoline prices helped boost automakers’ results, as well as two extra selling days. Incentive spending last month, including Thanksgiving holiday deals, was up 13 percent vs. a year-earlier but down from October, according to TrueCar data. (See table below.)
The discounts were more generous on remaining 2016 car and truck models. GM dangled incentives that topped $10,000 on some Chevrolet Silverado pickups and Suburban SUV models. Some Hyundai dealers cut prices on 2016 car models by 21 percent to nearly 40 percent, and offered a $100 Visa reward card with the purchase of a new model as part of Black Friday deals.
What’s more, November left the industry in a better position to top last year’s 17.47 million tally. Sales through October were 0.3 percent behind their year-earlier pace after three straight monthly declines.
With November in the books, industry sales are running just 6,418 ahead of 2015's pace. If the industry manages to eke out an annual gain, 2016 would mark the first time in a century that U.S. sales topped year-earlier levels for seven straight years. Sales rose every year in a nine-year stretch through 1917.