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US: November another good sales month

By Bill Cawthon | 2 December 2010

Fords Fusion set new sales record and outsold Corolla and Civic

Ford's Fusion set new sales record and outsold Corolla and Civic

November was another good month for automakers. According to Ward’s, more than 869,000 cars and light trucks left dealer lots, down 8.2% compared to October but 12.0% ahead of November 2009. Crunching those numbers yields a seasonally adjusted annualised rate (SAAR) of 12.26m light vehicles, the same as to October, indicating a slow but steady recovery. So far this year, sales are up 11.1%.

General Motors kicked off the reporting with a 7.5% gain driven by strong light truck sales. Year-to-date (YTD) sales of GM's four core brands are now more than 103,000 vehicles ahead of its eight former brands.

Ford posted the largest improvement of the Detroit automakers. Sales improved 19.1% as the Fusion set a new sales record and outsold the Corolla and Civic. Lincoln sales rose but it’s likely there are many happy people in Dearborn with the announcement of a new styling director for the brand. Mercury sales were down as the brand heads into its final month.

A year will come when the F-series isn't the best-selling vehicle in America but 2010 won't be that year. The Ford pickup’s uninterrupted reign now covers almost a quarter of the history of automobile production in the United States.

Chrysler made it eight months in a row, coming in 11.5% ahead of November 2009. Grand Cherokee sales broke the 10,000-unit mark. Chrysler held onto fifth place, 2,786 sales ahead of Nissan for the month.

Toyota came up short again: sales dropped 7.3% as slumping car sales dragged down a double-digit gain in light trucks. Lexus sales stumbled 1.4%.

Honda sales jumped 16.1% as both Honda and Acura beat their 2009 figures. Nissan’s numbers were up 21.5% last month. Light truck sales were the key.

Subaru set another monthly record and an all-time annual sales record. Suzuki came up a winner for the second month in a row with a 45.7% leap. Mazda sales improved a modest 2.9%. Mitsubishi truck sales fueled its 41.2% jump.

Both Hyundai Group brands matched Subaru, setting new monthly records and achieving all-time annual sales records.

The German automakers all reported improved sales. Porsche finished the month 43.0% ahead of last November. BMW sales climbed 20.0%. Daimler was up 5.7% and Mercedes finished the month just 545 YTD sales behind BMW.

Volkswagen Group ended November ahead 22.8%. Audi had a record month and looks to be on pace to sell 100,000 vehicles in the US.

For the first time in quite a while, Saab reported improved sales. Volvo sales fell 15.6% last month. Tata brands had split results: Jaguar dropped and Land Rover improved as overall sales rose 16.6% in November.

The resurgence in light truck sales is a positive sign consumers are returning to the showroom. If December can post a gain similar to those in October and November, the industry will finish the year with about 11.7m sales. 11.5m is a done deal but 12m is too much on the Pollyanna side of optimistic.