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USA October 2017: Market down 1.1% but SAAR remains above 18m

The Honda Civic is up 15% to lead U.S. passenger cars for the 2nd straight month. 

* See the Top 15 groups, Top 40 brands and Top 285 models by clicking on the title *

After posting its first year-on-year gain of the year in September, the U.S. new light vehicle market returns to negative for the 9th time in the past 10 months at -1.1% in October to 1.356.789 registrations, leading to a year-to-date tally down 1.7% to 14.240.706. However the seasonally adjusted annualised rate (SAAR) remains above 18 million for the second straight month at 18.11m, thanks to higher discounts, strong fleet sales, replacement business in hurricane-stricken areas and as very robust light truck deliveries it has been the case for a couple of years now. According to Automotive News, it is only the 12th month since 2000 and the 14th time since 1976 that the SAAR is above 18 million. Light trucks are up 3.6% to 876.701 whereas passenger cars are down 9.2% to 478.274. Pickups are up 8% to 243.945, crossovers up 8.8% to 437.112 but SUVs down 5.9% to 137.504. Year-to-date, passenger cars are down 10.4% to 5.332.913 while light trucks are up 4.3% to 8.896.535.

The VW Atlas is the best-selling recent launch in the U.S. 

Continuing on September, it would appear consumers are more keen to benefit from more generous offers on 2017 models rather than forking out higher prices for a newer 2018 vehicle: 72% of new vehicles sold this month are 2017 models vs. 60% in October last year being 2016 models, this according to Edmunds. As noted above, incentives are on the up: according to J.D. Power they averaged $3.901 per vehicle over the first 17 days of the month, up $66 on October last year. Based on ALG figures, October incentives are estimated at $3.820, up 8.4% year-on-year. General Motors, BMW, Daimler, FCA, Ford and Nissan all offer higher incentives than average whereas Subaru, Honda, Toyota and Hyundai are the more frugal (see table below). J.D. Power estimates the average transaction price is up $615 year-on-year to $32.185 which indicates that incentives aren’t hurting benefits.

Source: Automotive News

General Motors remains the most popular group in the country but drops 2.2% to 252.813 units, declines at Chevrolet (-3.8%), Buick (-4.5%) and Cadillac (-0.1%) weren’t compensated by a strong 4.6% increase at GMC. GM’s passenger cars tumble down 24% to 52.800, a drop crossover sales (+8.3% to 78.057) and pickups (+8.6%) failed to compensate for. Fleet sales account for 23.1% of sales vs. 19.5% a year ago and 19.4% year-to-date. The Chevrolet Equinox (+29%), Traverse (+1%), Buick Encore (+25%), Enclave (+31%) and GMC Acadia (+5%) all post October volume records, with the GMC Sierra up 26% and the Chevrolet Bolt hitting a new high at 2.781 deliveries. Reversely the Chevrolet Cruze (-35%), Corvette (-49%) and Sonic (-66%) struggle, with only three nameplates in the entire GM passenger cars lineup posting a year-on-year gain.

The F-Series (+15%) accounts for 40% of Ford U.S. sales in October.

After gaining 8.9% in September, Ford Motor manages its first back-to-back year-on-year gains in 2017 at +6.4% in October to 199.698 units. Truck sales are up 11%, SUVs up 5.3% but cars drop 2.4%, with fleet sales up 15% to account for 26% of sales while retail sales are up 3.5%. The Ford brand is up 6.8% but Lincoln is down 1.8%. A whopping 40% of Ford brand sales come from the F-Series up a stunning 16% to post its highest October volume since 2004. The F-Series is the only Ford nameplate to post a double-digit gain so far in 2017 (+11%).

Toyota RAV4 sales are up another 29% in October.

Toyota Motor edges up 1.1% to sign its 5th consecutive gain thanks to truck sales soaring 19% to an October record, offsetting a 15% decline in passenger car sales. Year-to-date, a 12% improvement in light truck sales is cancelled by a 12% drop in passenger car sales. The Toyota brand is up 2.5% but Lexus is down 7.7% despite both its crossovers shining: the NX is up 6% and the RX up 4%. The carmaker’s best-seller is once again the RAV4 up a whopping 29% in 4th place overall and best-selling non-pickup truck. Surprisingly, the Camry is down 11% despite the new generation and trails the Honda Civic for the title of best-selling car of 2017 at 308.759 vs. 314.699. If the Civic wins 2017 it would be its very first U.S. annual win and the end of 15 consecutive years of Camry reign. Notice also the 4Runner up a very solid 31% to break into the Top 30.

Jeep Compass sales are up 81% this month.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles posts a 14th consecutive decline at -13.2% to 154.513 units with Alfa Romeo (1.205 sales) its only brand in positive. Jeep is down 2.5% for a 14th consecutive drop, Ram down 3.3%, Chrysler down 22% (21st consecutive fall), Fiat down 33% (18th consecutive decline) and Dodge down 41%. Fleet sales are down 43% year-on-year to 23.220 or 15% of FCA’s total sales, retail deliveries are down 4%. The company’s best-seller, the Ram Pickup, is up a meagre 0.7% and is losing significant ground on the #2 the Chevrolet Silverado (+7%). Jeep’s three best-sellers are down – Grand Cherokee -4%, Wrangler -7% and Cherokee -3% but the new Compass is up 81% and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio is up 32% on September to 434 sales.

The Nissan Rogue is up 43%

Nissan Motor soars 7.6% to 130.393 with the Nissan brand up 10.2%, Infiniti down 8.1% – its first decline in 14 months – and slipping below both Cadillac and Acura year-to-date, and Mitsubishi down 3.4%. Once again, Nissan’s superstar is the Rogue shooting up 43% to 30.286 units, but the Sentra (+29%), Maxima (+72%), Titan (+29%) and Armada (+100%) also shine. Honda Motor edges up 0.9% to 127.353 and is a rare case of cars performing better than light trucks: +5.9% vs. -3.6% with all Honda-branded light trucks except the Pilot (+19%) declining in October. The Honda brand is up 1.2% but Acura is down 1.3%. Honda’s strong car sales are led by the Civic up 15% to a new October record at 30.319 and the best-selling car in the U.S. for the 2nd straight month and the new generation Accord up 5%, outselling the Camry at 26.740 vs. 26.252.

 Kia Cadenza sales are up 252% in October.

The nightmarish year continues for Hyundai-Kia, down 12.6% to 94.407 with Hyundai down 16.4% and Kia down 9.4%. The 48.7% surge in Genesis sales is far from compensating the two main brand’s harsh drops. Hyundai fleet sales are down 23% year-on-year. A few positives are the Santa Fe up 15%, the Tucson up 8%, the Forte up 15%, Sportage up 4% and the Cadenza up 253%. Reversely the Sonata is down 49%, Veloster down 83%, Soul down 29%, Sorento down 15% and Optima down 24%. Subaru manages to hold onto its streak of 71 consecutive months of year-on-year gains at +0.5% to a new October record at 54.045 deliveries. The Outback remains the brand’s best-seller but is down 12% just as the Impreza (+124%) and Crosstrek (+30%) break their October volume record.

Audi posts a 96th consecutive month of year-on-year gains in the U.S. 

Sales at the Volkswagen Group are up 10.2% to 52.148, lifting the year-to-date tally up 7.8% to 509.219. The Volkswagen brand is up 11.8% to 27.732 with the Jetta up 14%, the Tiguan up 54% and the Atlas remaining the best-selling recent launch (<12 months) at #95 just above the Toyota C-HR (#96). Audi extends its streak of year-on-year gains to an incredible 96 months (eight full years) thanks to deliveries up 9.6% to 19.425. This is also the 82nd consecutive month of record U.S. sales for Audi. The Q5 is up 44%, the Q7 up 23% and the A5 up 252%. Daimler sales are down 0.8% to 31.541 with Mercedes down 0.1% to remain by far the #1 luxury brand in the U.S. BMW is down 3.4% to 23.208. Finally, Tesla sales are up 44.1% to an estimated 4.900 just as the Model 3 is up to 500 units vs. 220 in September.

Previous month: USA September 2017: First gain this year, SAAR at highest in 12 years

One year ago: USA October 2016: Record year now unlikely as market drops again

Full October 2017 Top 15 groups, Top 40 brands and Top 285 models below.

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