NASDAQ

U.S. New-Car Sales Pace Nears Record Level


By Dow Jones Business News, December 02, 2014, 08:35:00 AM EDT


Auto makers in the U.S. beat the Black Friday Blahs that hit other retailers, racking up strong
sales of light trucks and cars as consumers jumped at holiday-season deals.


General Motors Co., Chrysler Group LLC and Honda Motor Co. on Tuesday posted their best
November U.S. sales figures in at least several years, powered by strong demand for large pickup
trucks and sport-utility vehicles.


The No. 2 U.S. auto maker, Ford Motor Co., said its sales fell 2%, in part because the company
was just starting deliveries of a redesigned F-150 pickup truck.


Overall, U.S. car and light truck sales hit a 17.2 million vehicle annualized pace in November,
according to researcher Autodata Corp. That's the highest November sales pace since 2003, and
is up from a 16.3 million vehicle annualized pace a year ago.


Auto executives expressed optimism that sales will stay strong in the coming months, citing
falling gas prices, an improving job market and relatively low interest rates. "By any measure,
consumers are netting significant household- income gains each week" because of the lower fuel
prices," said Emily Kolinski Morris, Ford's chief economist.


While interest rates could rise next year, Ms. Kolinski Morris said that shouldn't hurt vehicle
demand.


Auto makers also benefited from a mid-November launch of holiday sales promotions. "The
weekend before Black Friday ended up being pretty big," said John Krafcik, chief executive of
car-sales website Truecar.com. By launching year-end promotions early, he said, auto makers are
creating a "60-day sale" at the end of the year.


European auto makers posted mixed results. BMW AG's sales slipped less than a percentage
point mainly because of a 14% drop in sales of its SUVs.


"It's entirely availability," said a BMW spokesman. The Munich-based car maker builds its highvolume
SUVs in Spartanburg, S.C., and U.S. dealers have to fight for a share of that production
with dealers in China, Europe and other markets.


Volkswagen AG said sales rose 3% at its VW brand, aided by a lease promotion that boosted
sales of its Golf and Jetta compact cars. Its Audi luxury-car unit posted a 22% increase in sales
over the same month last year.


Daimler AG said U.S. sales of its Mercedes-Benz brand cars and SUVs edged up less than a
percentage point despite a 45% drop in E-class sedan sales. Counting strong sales of its Sprinter
commercial van, Mercedes said it recorded its best month ever in the U.S. market.


GM's U.S. sales rose 6.5% to 225,818 vehicles last month, making it the best November for the
company in seven years. Its retail sales rose 5%, GM said, while deliveries to fleet customers
such as rental-car companies jumped 11%.


Sales at the nation's largest auto maker were driven in large part by double-digit increases in its
Silverado pickup, up 24% over a year earlier, and its Cruze car model, which recorded a 26%
improvement. Its GMC brand posted sales growth of 23% as it advertised discounts of as much
as 20% off list prices.


Analysts expected Ford to post a decline as it manages inventory and ramps up output of its new
pickup and Mustang sports car. The Ram and Jeep brands again delivered for Chrysler,
registering sales gains of 31% and 27%, respectively, while each enjoyed their best November
ever, the company said.


SUVs were a bright spot for Ford, however, as their sales rose 15% to 60,911 units. Escape SUV
sales rose 22%, the model's best November yet, according to the company, while the Explorer
model posted 13% sales growth, its best figure for the month in 10 years.


Chrysler, the third-biggest Detroit auto maker after Ford, relied on big promotions leading into
the holiday-shopping season, offering a variety of deals that included thousands in cash back and
discounts, and it appears to have paid off.


Chrysler, a unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, said it sold 170,839 vehicles last month, an
increase from 142,275 a year earlier. It was the company's best November since 2001.


Its truck sales rose 18% to 129,320 vehicles. Its car sales, which had recently been posting
weaker results than those for trucks, increased 26% to 41,519 units.


Among other manufacturers, Toyota Motor Corp. said its November U.S. sales rose 3% from a
year earlier, while Honda said its sales rose 4.6% as the company shook off a volley of bad
publicity from the auto maker's admission that it failed to properly report incidents involving
safety defects to U.S. regulators. Honda has also been tangled in the controversy over defective
Takata Corp. air bags.


Nissan Motor Co. said its U.S. sales declined 3%. Sales of its electric Leaf rose 34% in the
month, but some of the company's higher-volume models, including its Altima sedan and
Murano SUV, suffered declines. Sales fell 13% at Nissan's Infiniti luxury division with the
brand's Q50 sedan, its highest-volume model, slumping 28%.


A big winner in November was Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.'s Subaru brand, which boosted sales
in November 24%.


Subaru said that as of Nov. 7, it had beat its previous full-year U.S. sales record of 424,683
vehicles.


Write to Michael Calia at michael.calia@wsj.com and Joseph B. White at
joseph.white@wsj.com
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
12-02-140835ET
Copyright (c) 2014 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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