Low Gas Prices Keep Sales Going in October

Trucks and fuel-efficient vehicles rolling off dealer lots.

by on Nov.03, 2014

Jeep sales were up 52% on a year-over-year basis in October. Chrysler Group sales were up for the 55th consecutive month.

New car sales, aided by falling gasoline sales and the popularity of trucks, remained robust in October with preliminary results suggesting the seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales, or SAAR, hit 16.9 million units as Chrysler, Nissan, Honda, Volkswagen/Audi and General Motors all reported sales increases for the month.

Analysts are expecting the overall sales to jump 6% and the early returns suggest they’ll be correct in that there will be another increase in purchasing. Not only did trucks perform well, but smaller cars, such as the Chevy Cruze, Nissan Versa and others also saw impressive returns.

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Chrysler Group reported the biggest overall jump in sales of the early reporters with a 22% increase compared with sales in October 2013 of 170,480 units, the group’s best October sales since 2001 when carmakers utilized an extra heavy dose of incentives to boost sales following 9/11.

“Chrysler Group sales increased 22% in October, our eighth month of double-digit growth this year and our 55th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains,” said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. Sales. “Chrysler Group is the industry’s fastest-growing automaker driven in part by sales of our all-new Jeep Cherokee and Chrysler 200 midsize sedan, and by the strong consumer demand for our award-winning Ram pickup trucks.”

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The Jeep brand’s 52% increase was the largest sales gain of any Chrysler Group brand and the brand’s best-ever sales in the month of October.

Nissan Division also set an October record with 94,072 sales in the month, a year-over-year increase of 14.9% thanks to strong sales of its most fuel-efficient vehicles, such as the Sentra and Versa, which were up 56 and 28% respectively. The company also set a new annual EV sales record with Leaf in October. The Leaf was the previous record holder as well, setting the mark last year. Leaf sales could hit 30,000 units this year. Nissan and Infiniti combined were up 13%.

“High consumer confidence and low gas prices helped Nissan set our 13th consecutive monthly sales record in October. We expect that these factors will continue to boost auto sales for the last two months of 2014.” said Fred Diaz, senior vice president, U.S. Sales & Marketing and Aftersales, Nissan.

Volkswagen, after a long sales slide, was able to report a 7.8% sales increase last month thanks to strong sales of the Golf models and the revamped Jetta. Audi also reported a 16.5% sales increase for the month. It was the 46th consecutive months Audi sales have increased.

Honda, led by a 29.7% jump in CR-V sales, saw its combined Honda and Acura sales rise 5.8% in October.

General Motors Co. reported its sales were essentially flat climbing only .2 %, but it was still the company’s best October in seven years led in large measure by a 51% increase in Cruze sales as well as at 10% jump in its full-size trucks.

The results were bolstered by Buick’s best October in more than a decade seeing sales rising 6.5%.

Chevy Cruze sales were up 51% in October, helping General Motors to small gain in year-over-year sales.

“The U.S. economy has steadily improved all year and now we are poised for a stronger expansion backed by an improved job market, higher consumer confidence and lower fuel prices,” said Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of Sales Operations. “

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We have a strong hand to play, with the industry’s newest and most complete line-up of pickups and SUVs, class-leading crossovers like the Buick Encore and a wealth of new products in the pipeline.”

Ford reported a 1.7% decline from a year ago. Daily rental business declined 13%, while government and commercial sales were up 4 and 18%, respectively.

The company’s results were hampered by the changeover to the 2015 version of the F-150. However, there were some bright spots, including an 18% increase in Expedition sales as well as 38% jump for its luxury twin, the Lincoln Navigator.

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However, Fusion October sales totaled 22,846 vehicles – an increase of 5% – representing the car’s best-ever October sales performance.

“Fusion is an outstanding success story with October marking six straight months of record sales,” said John Felice, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. “Fusion is on pace to break the 300,000-vehicle mark this year for the first time ever. Plus, based on the strong sales of the all-new MKC, Lincoln produced its best sales results in October since 2007.”

Nissan's sales increase in October was partly due to continuing strong results of the Versa, which was up 28%.

Lincoln also posted a 25% gain and the brand’s best October results since 2007. MKC continues to lift Lincoln, with sales of 2,197 vehicles.

Thomas King, J.D. Power vice president, said falling gasoline prices have helped stabilize the sales of full-size trucks.

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“As large pickup owners experience these low fuel prices each time they fill their tank, fewer of them are defecting from the segment,” he noted. “While fuel prices are important, they are just one driver of consumer behavior, with factors such as incentives and product availability also influencing defection patterns.”

In some parts of the country, gasoline prices have dropped below $3 per gallon.

The estimated average transaction price for light vehicles in the United States was $33,361 in October 2014.  New car prices have increased by $246 or 0.6% from October 2013, while rising $185 (0.7%) from last month.

“Utility vehicles, especially small and mid-size, are the story once again, as consumers are buying more and willing to pay more for these models,” said Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “With gas prices at a three-year low and with consumer confidence at a seven-year high, this trend should continue.”

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