Most automakers report sales jumps


A Hyundai Elantra is seen inside of a Hyundai car dealership in Des Plaines, Ill. Major automakers reported last Thursday that sales increased for October. (The Associated Press)

Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 1:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 1:12 p.m.

Detroit

Most major automakers reported sales increases in October despite losing at least three days of business to the punishing rain and wind from Superstorm Sandy.

Toyota said its sales rose almost 16 percent for the month, while Volkswagen reported another strong month with sales up 22 percent. Honda sales slowed from double-digit growth earlier in the year to 8.8 percent, while Chrysler sales rose 10 percent. General Motors was up 5 percent and Ford rose slightly.

Of major automakers, only Nissan reported a decrease, 3.2 percent, as Sandy pounded the Northeast, the company's top-performing region.

Yet, the results show that Americans continue to buy new cars and trucks at a strong pace. Chrysler predicted an annual sales rate of 14.7 million for the U.S. industry in October, making it one of the year's strongest months. Auto sales ran at an annual rate of 14.3 million through September.

Industry analysts estimated that the storm cut U.S. sales by about 20,000 cars and trucks in October as buyers hunkered down for the storm. But the Nissan brand, which gets 27 percent of its U.S. sales from the Northeast, was hit particularly hard.

"It is absolutely a hurt on us," said Al Castignetti, vice president of the Nissan division. As of last Wednesday, 65 Nissan dealers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were closed due to lack of electricity, and they account for 40 percent of the region's sales.

In past storms, sales were postponed, but they typically recover quickly after people's lives stabilized, said Ford U.S. sales chief Ken Czubay.

He also said there were a "significant number" of vehicles damaged by flood waters, and that could also boost sales in November. "Typically after the insurance companies come in, people use those proceeds to buy new vehicles, which they need to get back and forth to continue their lives," Czubay said.

Many automakers announced discounts in the storm-ravaged region, including Nissan, which is offering the same prices it gives to employees.

Volkswagen said one-quarter of its dealerships were affected by the storm, but it still delivered its best October in nearly 40 years at just over 34,000 vehicles. Sales were led by the Passat midsize sedan, which was up 66 percent.

Chrysler said it sold 126,000 cars and trucks for the month, led by the Ram pickup, which was up 20 percent, and the Dodge Caravan van, which saw sales rise 49 percent.

At Ford, sales increased only 0.4 percent to 168,000 cars and trucks. The company said F-Series pickup trucks, the most popular vehicle in the nation, had their best October in eight years.

At GM, sales rose to nearly 196,000 vehicles for the month, led by the Cruze and Sonic small cars. Cruze sales were up 34 percent, while Sonic sales rose 43 percent.

Toyota said its sales rose to 155,000 vehicles.

At Nissan, the company said October ended on a down note with Sandy causing major disruption in an area where it has 225 dealers. The company's Nissan and Infiniti brands sod nearly 80,000 cars and trucks, down from just over 82,000 a year earlier.

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