October was a fairly good month for American-based auto manufacturers, who posted their best sales during the month in several years. The company that easily blew its competitors away was Fiat Chrysler, which saw U.S. sales jump 22% behind sales of pickups and SUVs, coming out ahead of analysts’ predictions.
But not all was rosy in Detroit: Ford had a tough month, along with General Motors. Ford saw sales drop 2% for a total of 188,654 vehicles sold, according Reuters. Although that was a decrease, it still beat what analysts had predicted by 6,000 units. Ford’s ever-popular pickup truck line kept things moving along, although there was a 6% decrease in sales of those units, as well.
General Motors, on the other hand, had been swinging off of some recent momentum swings. That momentum was slowed considerably this past month, but GM still managed to see sales growth of 0.2%. That marked the company’s best October sales since 2007, with nearly 227,000 vehicles sold, according to USA Today. Among GM’s victories for October was a big upswing for the Buick brand, which saw sales spike by 6.5%, including sales of the compact Encore SUV jump by 32.7%. The brand’s other SUV, the Enclave, also saw sales bump up by 1.8%.
As far as Chevrolet was concerned, sales of the Cruze — which was refreshed for the 2015 model year — increased by an impressive 51%, and Silverado sales went up by 10.1%. Overall, however, Chevy sales were up only 0.5% and GMC sales were down 0.8%; Cadillac took a big tumble, down 8%.
Among the imports, Nissan, Honda, Toyota, and Volkswagen all saw a bump in sales, and the small but mighty sales powerhouse that is Subaru saw sales jump by 25%. In all, October turned out to be a solid month of sales for manufacturers across the board, even if there were some disappointments from the Ford and General Motors camps.
For Ford, the slow month was not unexpected. The company is currently undergoing some serious revamps to its production process as it gears up for the unleashing of the all-aluminum F-150 pickup truck. General Motors, on the other hand, is still trying to claw its way back from an absolutely disastrous beginning to the year, in which the company was forced to recall millions of vehicles. Hot on their heels is Fiat Chrysler, which appears to finally be picking up some ground with a new strategy for selling Ram trucks and Jeep SUVs.
The Jeep brand as a whole saw sales increase 51.7% to lead the way for Fiat Chrysler, but its other brands weren’t far behind. Ram reported a 33.5% increase, too. The one dark spot? Dodge, which actually declined 8.4%.
“Chrysler is on a streak of growth that’s virtually unheard of for American auto manufacturers,” Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell told USA Today. “The company’s renewed focus on SUVs comes at a perfect time when gas prices are plummeting and shoppers are falling back in love with large vehicles. Chrysler’s weak small car lineup may not be able to fully absorb the blow.”
Those falling gas prices likely have helped automakers pick up the pace, but as to whether those prices will remain low for a sustained period of time is another story altogether. The other important thing to take away from October’s sales spike? It could be a good indicator as to the overall health of the economy. Things have been sluggish, as everyone is well aware, and a pickup in consumer spending would undoubtedly be welcome news to executives in the auto market.
“The U.S. economy has steadily improved all year and now we are poised for a stronger expansion backed by an improved job market, higher consumer confidence and lower fuel prices,” Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. sales chief, told Reuters.
As we head into the fall and winter months of the year, sales can be expected to contract a bit as fewer people will be headed out to the lots. Of course, that can be counteracted as new 2015 models hit dealerships as well. Trucks, SUVs, and all-wheel-drive models will likely remain strong as the weather turns. But if consumer spending is up, as last month’s sales numbers indicate, perhaps the auto segment will be able to close out the year strong and get a jumpstart to 2015.
If gas prices can stay low and automakers keep offering impressive incentives to get consumers out to dealerships, strong sales should continue.