October Sales Results Are 2010’s Best to Date

By Chris Haak

The auto industry’s gradual recovery from the doldrums of 2008 and 2009 – when sales volumes fell nearly 50 percent off of their peak levels – continued in October 2010.  Overall, industry sales were up 13 percent in October 2010 compared to October 2009.  For the first time in 2010, the month’s sales were above the 12 million unit annual selling rate (which accounts for seasonal fluctuations).

Among larger brands, another big winner for the month was Chrysler, which saw its sales jump 37 percent on the back of truck sales.  Specifically, the all-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee.  Thanks to that single vehicle, Jeep’s sales more than doubled.  On top of that, the Ram pickup saw its sales increase by 41 percent compared to the year-earlier period.  Chrysler’s supposed “survival” sales volume is 95,000 units per month, but the company missed that bogey by about 5,000 units, with 90,137 in October.  Chrysler is also a bit short of this goal if you look at the average sales over the first ten months of the year; the 910,357 sales through October 31.  With a stream of new or improved products coming imminently, Chrysler should see things perk up for the rest of the year.

Hyundai and Kia both continued to do well in the market, thanks to the strength of their new products.  The two brands were up a combined 38 percent for October, and are up 19 percent over the first ten months of 2010.  Subaru did well, gaining 25 percent, which slightly outpaces its 23 percent gain over the first ten months of the year.  You may recall that Hyundai/Kia and Subaru were the only brands that saw sales increases during 2009.

Ford’s sales grew 15 percent for October, on the strength of the Fusion and Focus.  Ford brand car sales were up 23 percent, and Ford truck sales were up 20 percent.  Helping to boost Ford truck sales, the F-Series pickups (otherwise known as the franchise) were up 24 percent.  The Lincoln brand does not seem to have much traction in the market, with sales increasing just 2 percent from October 2009.

GM’s results are often a mixed story, at least until the company has chronologically gotten far enough from regular sales of its three shuttered brands (Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer), plus Saab.  Nonetheless, GM’s October sales increased by four percent.  The company only sold 367 units of the three shuttered brands’ vehicles in October, while it sold 15,083 of them last October.  Helping GM’s results were crossovers such as the Equinox, Terrain, and Cadillac SRX.  Chevrolet sales were up  7 percent (truck sales up 10 percent, and car sales up 3 percent).  Buick’s sales rose 39 percent, and GMC’s sales rose 32 percent as recovery in the truck market, plus sales of the Terrain helps the comparisons.

Toyota had a disappointing March, with sales down 4 percent on a company basis.  The Camry and Corolla, in particular, saw sales declines for October.  These models – the Camry in particular – are approaching the waning years of their life cycles, and larger incentives may be required to keep sales afloat.  Toyota brand passenger car sales fell 17 percent in October, and are down 8 percent year to date, likely thanks in large part to the infamous recall crisis that Toyota suffered in the earlier part of the year.

Honda’s October sales were solid, with a 16 percent gain.  That slightly outpaces the market’s 13 percent gain.  Thanks to the 2011 Odyssey – which we just posted a quick drive piece on  – Honda brand light truck sales were up a solid 37.8 percent.  Honda also outsold Chrysler, among others.  Meanwhile, Nissan sales were up 16 percent (including Infiniti), which keeps pace with Honda.  On a year to date basis, Nissan is up 16 percent against Honda’s less-substantial 4 percent gain.

Volkswagen sales were up – you guessed it – 16 percent, but there is still an incredibly long road ahead of this company if it intends to sell 800,000 new vehicles in the US by 2018.  Year to date volume for the first ten months of 2010 was just 295,566, which means VW is just over a third of the way toward its objective (which its management refuses to change until then).

Two brands that many (myself included) were questioning the viability of saw some solid gains at long last.  Mitsubishi’s sales increased 32 percent (which made the company’s YTD results basically flat), and Suzuki posted a 17 percent increase.

Saab and Volvo don’t yet have historical data published after their respective divestitures, so it’s hard to get a feel for how they are doing sales-wise against 2009 numbers, but we can see that Porsche had a nice month, with a 61 percent gain, as did Maserati, with a 78 percent gain.  Other premium automakers include Mercedes-Benz (up 3 percent, including Smart), BMW (up 17 percent), and Jaguar Land Rover, which found itself with a 40 percent gain for October and 21 percent gain year to date.

Bottom line:  the auto market will recover, and indeed is showing signs of recovery.

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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