U.S. auto sales down; Cruze deliveries fall

Staff, wire reports

Domestic auto sales took a hit last month with the Big Three each reporting drops in new vehicle deliveries despite Black Friday deals and strong consumer confidence.

General Motors, which makes the Cheverolet Cruze sedan at its local assembly plant in Lordstown, said Friday its overall sales for November, at 245,387, fell nearly 3 percent from 252,644 the same month last year. The carmaker’s year-to-date sales, as of Nov. 30, were down 1.1 percent, from 2.72 million last year to 2.69 million this year.

Cruze sales, including the company’s Mexican-made hatcback version also sold in the United States, were down 33.1 percent from 16,414 in November 2016 to 10,982 last month. There were 171,345 Cruzes sold as of Nov. 30, down slightly from 171,552 in the same 11 months in 2016.

For GM’s best-seller, the Chevrolet Silverado pickup, deliveries were up 3 percent, from 45,280 deliveries in November 2016 to 46,441 last month.

Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler sales fell 4 percent to 154,919. Chrysler brand sales jumped 14 percent on strong sales of the Pacifica minivan, and Alfa Romeo sales rose. But sales fell for the company’s Ram, Jeep, Dodge and Fiat brands.

Ford Motor Co. sales jumped 7 percent to 210,771 on strong demand for trucks and SUVs. Ford sold 72,769 F-Series pickups, marking that vehicle’s best November since 2001. Luxury Lincoln sales fell 5.5 percent.

Some analysts initially predicted November sales would drop as post-hurricane sales slowed in Texas and Florida. But Black Friday promotions that began in early November helped lure buyers to dealerships.

Fiat Chrysler was offering up to $16,000 off its Chrysler 300 sedan, while Hyundai was kicking $3,750 off the price of a Santa Fe SUV. Car buying site KBB.com said automotive credit applications rose 42 percent on Black Friday compared to other Fridays in November.

Automakers were offering an average of $3,700 to $3,800 in incentives per vehicle in November. As prices creep up, deals are creeping up with them, analysts say. The trend will likely continue in 2018, when U.S. sales are expected to drop and automakers will be keen to hold on to their market share.

Additionally, U.S. consumer confidence last month was at its highest level since November 2000, according to the Conference Board.

“U.S. economic growth has stepped up and we expect the momentum will carry over to 2018,” said Mustafa Mohatarem, GM chief economist. “Employment continues to grow at a solid pace, wage growth will accelerate and consumer confidence just hit a 17-year high, so industry sales should remain strong.”

Results also reported Friday:

• Subaru brand sales rose 1 percent to 51,721 vehicles. Sales of the recently revamped Impreza sedan more than tripled, offsetting declines for the Outback SUV.

• Hyundai Motor Co. sales fell 9 percent to 55,435 vehicles. Sales of its Tucson SUV were up 51 percent but couldn’t offset steep declines in car sales. Genesis luxury sales rose slightly.

• Toyota Motor Corp. sales fell 3 percent to 191,617 even though the revamped Camry sedan and the RAV4 small SUV posted record November numbers. Increased truck and SUV sales were offset by steep declines in car sales. Luxury Lexus sales were down 7 percent.

• Honda Motor Co. sales rose 8 percent to 133,156. Sales of the CR-V SUV jumped 25 percent. Luxury Acura sales were up 10 percent.

• Volkswagen brand sales were down 1.6 percent to 29,207 as a new Tiguan SUV started rolling out to dealerships.

• Nissan Motor Co. didn’t report its sales due to a computer problem, but said preliminary data indicated they would be up 14 percent.