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US: Incentives, lower fuel prices, boost October sales

By just-auto.com editorial team | 2 November 2006

Light vehicle sales in the United States last month rose 10.3% year on year to 1,212,849. Year to date sales were off 3% to 13,883,112.

According to WardsAuto.com data, car sales, adjusted for the number of selling days in the month, were up 1% to 546,489 in October while light trucks, including SUVS, bounced back 19.4% to 666,360 as fuel prices fell. YTD, cars were up 1.4% to 6,596,391 while trucks were off 6.6% to 7,286,721, reflecting recent months when high fuel prices, temporarily it seems, suppressed demand.

Sales of domestic cars were off 1.5% to 376,073 units while import models posted a 7% rise to 170,416.

Domestic light truck sales were up 16.7% to 555,317 (YTD 6,179,074; -9.0%) and the import brands posted a 34.6% rise to 113,043 (YTD 1,107, 647; +9.3%).

Detroit's 'Big Three' posted mixed fortunes - GM (up 22% to 297,555) and Ford (+12.3% to 210,249) reported healthy rises trailed by inventory-swollen Chrysler whose sales reflected that, off 0.7% to 159,586. The Big 3 reported combined sales of 667,390, up 13.2%.

Amongst the Asian imports, collectively up 7.7% to 475,666, Toyota boosted October sales 13.6% to 189,011, Nissan was up 8.1% to 75,115, Hyundai up 7.8% to 30,479 and Honda 3.7% to 110,624.

Amongst the European brands, Mercedes 16.5% gain to 20,601 was notable.

Year to date, Chrysler sales of 1,787,534 were off 8.6%, Ford was off 7.7% to 2,446,359 and GM off 9.4% to 3,438,995. Overall, Detroit's sales were down 8.6% to 7,672,888.

Amongst the Asian brands, Suzuki, reflecting some new model launches this year, is up 25.2% to 87,278 and Toyota was up 12.2% to 2,117,507. Overall, the Asian brands were up 4.9% to 5,462,346 YTD.

Mercedes led the European brands, up 12.8% to 197,689 YTD. European brands were up 6.9% to 747,878 YTD.

Independent and industry analysts noted that last month's results looked even better because October 2005 was a slow month, after an incentive-fuelled summer selling season. Heavy incentives and reduced fuel prices last month gave trucks and SUVs a boost.

GM's chief of global market and industry analysis, Paul Ballew, told the Associated Press that the decline in petrol prices from a peak of $US3 a gallon earlier this year helped the industry as a whole and truck sales in particular.

"What we're seeing right now is not a movement back into (SUVs), but at $2.20 a gallon, some of the pressure which was really dampening demand ... has been lessened. We are not seeing the mass migration out of (SUVs) into cars or crossovers that we saw in the spring," he was quoted as saying.

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