Retail new vehicle sales in the United States for the first 13 days of November were substantially better than the preliminary results for early October, bolstered in part by a rebound in consumer interest in large vehicles, according to the Power Information Network (PIN).

However, sales were still down 15% for the first 13 days of November compared with the same time period a year ago, and in contrast to the 33% drop in the first nine days of October. By the end of October, retail sales recovered slightly, resulting in a 22% drop versus October 2004.

Total pickup sales were up 4%, SUV sales up 2% and sales of full-size cars up 7% when comparing early November with early October results. At the same time, sales of compact, sporty and midsize vehicles all declined compared to early October results. The compact car segment was down 19%, sporty cars were down 14% and midsize cars dropped 9%.

"The industry is beginning to pull out of the September/October sales slump due to lower gas prices, a renewed interest in large vehicles, the initial success of several new products and an increase in incentives," said PIN senior director of industry analysis Tom Libby. "Both rebate [incentive] amounts and the use of rebates have rebounded substantially from October."

PIN reckons the average customer cash rebate in the first 13 days of November was US$2,640 compared with $2,154 in early October, and 51% of all transactions in November included a rebate compared with 49% in October. Rebates on pickups reached $3,617 in November versus $2,887 in the prior month, and SUV rebates climbed to $2,936 from $2,412.

"By the end of the year, we expect total car sales to be up approximately 3%, while truck sales will remain flat," said JD Power and Associates senior analyst Michael Dawson. "However, this is not attributed to small cars, as full-size car sales will increase approximately 22%. Overall, the market is essentially flat compared to 2004."

At manufacturer level, Ford retail sales have declined 30% from the same period in 2004 and its share of the retail market is 15.3% (compared to 18.3% a year ago). General Motors' retail sales are down 24% and its share is 18.8% (versus 21%). DaimlerChrysler's sales are off slightly compared to the industry, and its share of 13.6% remains flat versus early November 2004.

Honda and Toyota continued to outperform the retail sales market average. Honda's retail sales were up 1% and its share has climbed to 12.2% (versus 10.2%). Toyota's sales have declined by 2% versus a year ago and its share has climbed to 17.9% (versus 15.4%).

Toyota's early November share is the second largest in the industry after GM.

Nissan North America's sales have dropped 15% and its share remained flat at 7.8% compared to the same period a year ago.