US auto sales jump despite  government shutdown

Chrysler kicked off automakers' monthly sales by posting an 11 percent increase in Oct., showing that buyers returned to showrooms after the 16-day go...
Chrysler kicked off automakers' monthly sales by posting an 11 percent increase in Oct., showing that buyers returned to showrooms after the 16-day government shutdown earlier in the month. Carlos Osorio

U.S. auto sales returned to form in October with most makers reporting sales increases despite the 16-day federal government shutdown.

Sales were slow early in the month, but began hopping after the Washington stalemate was settled — at least temporarily, the manufacturers said.

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Detroit's Big Three was led by General Motors with a 16 percent sales increase over October 2012. The maker delivered 226,402 vehicles with Chevrolet, Cadillac and Buick-GMC performing well, according to Kurt McNeil, vice president, U.S. sales operations.

Buick increased 31 percent, Cadillac was up 10 percent, GMC rose 16 percent and Chevrolet was up 15 percent. McNeil noted the sales tempo really picked up after the government shutdown ended, including increases in Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, which posted increases of 10 percent and 13 percent respectively.

“We are particularly pleased with our truck momentum,” he said. “Chevrolet and GMC have the newest and best light duty trucks, sales are accelerating and we are gearing up for the second, third and fourth phases of our strategic truck plan.”

Chrysler Group reported an 11 percent increase in sales last month -- its best October since 2007. The Ram pickup helped to lead the increase with a jump of 18 percent while the Dodge Durango, perhaps on the strength of its new spokesman, Ron Burgundy, rose 59 percent.

Ford reported a 13.9 percent rise in auto sales in October from 142,487 units to 191,985. Fusion led the increase with a 71 percent jump, while the Fiesta saw a 9 percent increase. Both models set new October sales records. The F-Series continued its strong sales pace last month with sales of more than 60,000 units for the sixth consecutive month. The last time that kind of run occurred with 2006.

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“October was simply an outstanding retail performance, as consumers continued to choose Ford for great fuel efficiency, styling and value at all levels of the market,” said John Felice, vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service.

“The combination of great new products, such as Fusion and Escape, along with the strength of our dealers helped us achieve our best October retail sales month since 2004.”

Lincoln also saw a jump of 38 percent in October, led by MKZ sales of 2,909 vehicles: an increase of 80 percent over a year ago, leading the Lincoln brand to an overall increase of 38 percent. MKZ has now reported record sales for six of the last seven months.

Ford said the industry sold 1.26 million vehicles in October, which translates to a high 15 million seasonally adjusted annual sales rate: a 12 percent increase compared with year ago levels.

The post shutdown excitement for new vehicles certainly spilled over to other automakers, including Hyundai North America. After a few months of flat or lower sales, Hyundai sales jumped 7 percent in October from a year ago to a record 53,555, according to CEO John Krafcik. The Santa Fe crossover sales jumped 36 percent. Krafcik said in a tweet that the refreshed 2014 Sonata saw an increase of 18 percent and the 2014 Equus flagship premium sedan was up 14 percent.

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Nissan set an October record with 91,018 units: up 14.2 percent. Nissan division also set a record with a jump of 15.4 percent to 81,866 while Infiniti sales totaled 9,152 for the month, up 4.5 percent.

However, Volkswagen didn’t enjoy the same success reporting sales of 28,129 units, which was down 18 percent in October. Jonathan Browning, president and CEO, said the shutdown did affect the maker in the first half of the month. Only the GTI and Beetle posted gains against the year-ago period.

In spite of the drop, Browning noted the company is on track to sell more than 400,000 vehicles in the U.S. for the second consecutive year – a feat accomplished only once before in the makers 40-year history in the U.S.

TrueCar, Inc., which provides new car pricing information, trends and forecasting, estimated that the average transaction price for light vehicles in the U.S. was $30,798 in October, up $312, or 1 percent, over October 2012 and up $206 (0.7 percent) from September 2013, the previous high mark for average transaction prices.

Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen achieved record highs for their average transaction price in October.

“Expect to see incentives to jump in the fourth quarter — competition for market share will be fierce,” said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for TrueCar. “Average transaction prices continue to hover around record levels thanks to the consumers’ demand for vehicles loaded up with options.”