Toyota Motor Corp., Hyundai and Mazda racked up October U.S. sales gains on demand for crossovers and other light trucks, in the latest sign the market continues to claw back amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Overall, industrywide sales rose 1 percent last month, buoyed by light trucks, according to figures cited in a Credit Suisse note to investors and released Wednesday, Bloomberg reported.
The seasonally adjusted, annualized rate of sales tallied 16.38 million last month, according to Motor Intelligence, topping 15 million for the third straight month but ending a five-month streak of gains since bottoming out at 8.7 million in April.
Among other automakers that report monthly results, American Honda volume fell 3.4 percent on weaker car and light-truck deliveries, with sales off 3.7 percent at the Honda division and 1.2 percent at Acura.
Ford Motor Co.'s U.S. sales slipped 6.1 percent, behind weaker car and pickup demand, with volume down 6.5 percent at the Ford division but up 2.8 percent at Lincoln, according to a source familiar with the results.
Overall, the automaker's car sales skidded 45 percent, while pickup demand dropped 6.9 percent and utility vehicles rose 9.4 percent. Among Ford's key nameplates, F series volume fell 4 percent to 71,593, Explorer sales rose 20 percent to 21,079 and Escape volume slipped 3.1 percent to 15,959. Ranger deliveries rose 6.4 percent to 8,779.
Volume rose 8.8 percent to 205,349 at Toyota Motor -- a record for the month -- with sales up 7.8 percent at the Toyota division and 15 percent at Lexus. Overall, Toyota Motor said light-truck deliveries rose 14 percent, helping to offset a 0.4 percent dip in car volume.
Combined deliveries of Toyota's two pickups -- Tacoma and Tundra -- jumped 22 percent to 33,773.
U.S. sales of the RAV4 -- the country's top-selling compact crossover and Toyota's best-selling nameplate -- increased 8.6 percent to 40,717. Every Lexus light truck also posted a sales gain, with volume rising 26 percent or more for three models: The UX, NX and the GX.
Strong sales of higher priced vehicles continued in October, with some luxury brands and pickups faring especially well, suggesting buyers with high incomes remain in the market, according to Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox Automotive.
"Weakness in lower priced segments such as compact cars suggest these buyers, generally with lower incomes, have been hit hard by the pandemic recession," Chesbrough added. "All of which suggests the vehicle market is an example of the K shaped economic recovery, where higher incomes do well, while lower incomes do not.”
Subaru also set an October record, with volume rising 11 percent to 61,411.
Hyundai's sales edged up 0.5 percent to 57,395 in October behind a second consecutive month of double-digit growth in retail deliveries.
Retail demand, driven by an expanded crossover lineup, rose 10 percent to 52,117 last month while fleet sales fell 45 percent, Hyundai said.
“The automotive retail market continues to show resiliency,” said Randy Parker, vice president for national sales at Hyundai Motor America.
Hyundai said crossovers represented 68 percent of the brand's retail units sold in October, with retail sales of crossovers advancing 23 percent.
Retail deliveries of the redesigned Sonata rose 20 percent. Overall, Sonata sales rose 25 percent last month, but remain down 18 percent for the year. Still, Parker called the midsize sedan's performance last month "a sign that the right sedan can still drive consumer demand.”
At Kia, volume rose 12 percent to an October record of 56,094, behind higher light-truck deliveries.
Mazda said volume rose 17 percent to 22,736, with light truck sales advancing 24 percent, for its second straight month of double-digit growth. Volume rose for the fifth straight month at Volvo as the Swedish brand posted its biggest gain of the year -- 21 percent. At Genesis, volume skidded 46 percent last month.
Retail demand rebounded quickly in the spring, but the recovery seems to have plateaued amid lean stockpiles and sharply lower fleet sales. Third-quarter sales trailed 2019’s results by 9.5 percent, narrowing the year-to-date deficit to 18 percent.
What’s more, rising COVID-19 cases and new government restrictions on household and economic activity could undermine the rebound.
“Consumer demand is showing remarkable strength,” said Thomas King, president of the data and analytics division at J.D. Power. “The strong sales pace is occurring despite tight inventories. The combination of strong demand and lean inventories is enabling manufacturers to reduce new-vehicle incentives and is allowing retailers to reduce the discounts they typically offer on new vehicles.”
The average incentive in October was tracking at $3,678 per vehicle, a decrease of $425 from October 2019 and the second consecutive month below $4,000, J.D. Power estimated, adding discounts have trended down since peaking at $4,953 per unit in April.
ALG forecasts October incentives averaged $3,869, up 2.6 percent from October 2019 but down 5.2 percent from September, with General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Nissan Motor Co. among the top spenders. (See chart below.)
- There were 28 selling days last month, one more than October 201
- The average number of days a new vehicle sits on a dealer lot before being sold is on pace to fall to 49 days, the first time it has slipped below 50 days in more than eight years, J.D. Power said.
- For the fourth consecutive month, one in five vehicles was sold after being on a dealer lot for only five days or less, J.D. Power said.
- Average transaction prices are projected to rise 3.1 percent, or $1,123, to $37,018, from a year ago and up 0.7 percent, or $262, from September, ALG estimates.
- Fleet deliveries are expected to tally 128,500 last month, down 44 percent from October 2019 on a selling day adjusted basis, J.D. Power said, and fleet volume is expected to account for 10 percent of overall light-vehicle demand, down from 17 percent in October 2019.
“The auto industry recovery is absolutely striking. We clawed back more new car sales each month since sales bottomed out in April and are now seeing year-over-year new car retail sales growth for two consecutive months. This is a phenomenal outcome for the industry, as inventory is starting to rebound and demand remains high. There are positive signals that the recovery will sustain.”
-- Eric Lyman, chief industry analyst for ALG