Supply-chain disruptions, driven by the ongoing shortage of microchips that has dented new-vehicle stockpiles, undercut U.S. sales at Toyota Motor Corp., American Honda, Hyundai and Kia for the fourth straight month in November.
But there was another clear sign that the U.S. market is bottoming out. The seasonally adjusted annualized rate of sales (or SAAR), came in at 13.1 million units -- unchanged from October, according to Motor Intelligence. The SAAR was 16.1 million a year ago.
Among automakers that reported November results, sales slipped 14 percent, but LMC said overall sales fell 16 percent, which was worse than previous forecasts that called for a drop of 11-12 percent.
For the recent month, volume dropped 25 percent at Toyota Motor, 17 percent at American Honda, 20 percent at Hyundai -- its biggest decline of the current slump -- and 5.4 percent at Kia last month, the companies said Wednesday.
Deliveries at Subaru skidded for the sixth consecutive month, down 35 percent in November.
Volvo, the last major automaker to report November results, on Friday said deliveries plunged 34 percent to 7,667 units.
Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co. said Thursday it was the top-selling automaker in the U.S. for a third consecutive month, posting a 5.8 percent increase in November light-vehicle sales that contrasted with declines for nearly all other companies that reported monthly results.
Ford's utility vehicle sales jumped 21 percent from a year ago, and F-Series pickup sales rose 15 percent despite the ongoing microchip shortage that has thinned dealership inventories. The automaker said sales of its electrified vehicles grew at triple the rate of those from other manufacturers.
Ford said its total light-vehicle sales of 157,417 was enough to beat all other automakers, including General Motors and others that report on a quarterly basis, based on numbers those companies provide privately to analysts and industry data trackers. The last time Ford had such a streak at No. 1 was 1974, company officials said.
Toyota Motor, which has overtaken longtime U.S. market leader General Motors this year, has been forced to cut output in recent months because of tight chip supplies. It has now posted declines of 22 percent or more three consecutive months. Sales last month dropped 24 percent at the Toyota brand and 32 percent at Lexus.
The Toyota brand was hampered by a 47 percent drop in November car deliveries, with Corolla sales skidding 63 percent to 8,906 and Camry off 34 percent to 19,261 units. The brand's top-selling light trucks also saw double-digit declines: RAV4, off 14 percent; Highlander, down 13 percent; and Tacoma, off 21 percent.
Toyota said it had 116,638 cars and light trucks in inventory -- or an 18-day supply -- at the end of November, down 67 percent from 349,639 units a year earlier.
Honda said volume dropped 17 percent at the Honda division and 21 percent at Acura, with American Honda car volume off 24 percent and light-truck deliveries down 13 percent. Honda Civic sales slid 26 percent and CR-V volume dropped 19 percent.
Hyundai said it ended November with just 17,096 units in stock, down from 19,894 at the end of October and 145,885 at the close of Nov. 2020. Some of the company's top-sellers posted notable declines last month; Elantra, down 42 percent; Sonata, off 56 percent; Santa Fe, down 24 percent and Kona, off 37 percent.
Hyundai's fleet shipments also dropped sharply last month -- 97 percent, and represented less than 1 percent of overall volume.
Randy Parker, senior vice president for national sales at Hyundai Motor America, said "consumer demand remains exceptionally high" but “lingering availability issues persisted into November."
At Kia, some of the brand's key models -- led by the Telluride, Seltos, Sportage and Soul -- all posted declines. The company said it sold 77 percent of available U.S. inventory in November.
Three of Subaru top U.S. sellers -- the Outback, down 19 percent; Crosstrek, off 51 percent and Forester, down 70 percent -- suffered significant declines last month, leaving the company on pace to post back-to-back declines in annual U.S. volume for the first time since the 1990s.
Mazda said volume dropped 5.3 percent in November, its third straight decline.
Genesis, helped by an expanding product lineup, continued to rack up major gains, with November volume advancing 435 percent to 5,002 sedans and crossovers.
General Motors, Stellantis, Nissan Motor Co., Volkswagen Group and the rest of the industry post U.S. sales quarterly.
Analysts had expected a more substantial finish to 2021 fueled by traditional year-end holiday discounts -- after volume dropped 14 percent in 2020 at the onset of the pandemic.
The emergence of another COVID-19 variant also threatens to upend the spotty recovery to the extent supply chains and manpower are impacted by new travel and other possible operating restrictions.
Retail inventories remained below 1 million units in November for the fourth straight month, J.D. Power and LMC Automotive said.
"The typical Black Friday sales surge will be difficult to support," this year, said J.D. Power analyst Thomas King. "The traditional year-end sales push will be somewhat non-traditional."
Industry sales rose 13 percent through September behind a strong first quarter and a 4.96 percent rise in the second quarter, followed by a 13 percent decline in the third quarter.
Still, November sales are expected to increase slightly from October, rising less than a percent to reach an estimated 1.05 million, Cox Automotive said.
"The market is stuck in low gear," said Cox Automotive Senior Economist Charlie Chesbrough. "There are potential buyers out there, but many are waiting on the sidelines, put off by limited selection and high prices."
Even amid tight supplies, some automakers continue to pitch deals to keep consumers and buyers engaged.
Hyundai and Ford last month offered 0 percent financing and waived payments up to 90 days on select models, and BMW dangled up to $2,500 off on select new models through Nov. 30.