GM, Nissan, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Mercedes, and VW improve; Ford and Chrysler down

Wildfires don’t stop red-hot sales at Toyota GM, Nissan, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Mercedes, and VW improve; Ford and Chrysler down
Wildfires in one of its key markets -- Southern California -- didn’t stop Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. from posting a record for October U.S. sales, the automaker said today.
Toyota said it sold a record 197,591 vehicles during the month, a 4.5 percent gain over October 2006.
General Motors posted a gain, but Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC posted sizable drops for the month. Other automakers posting gains were Honda, Nissan, BMW, Daimler AG, Volkswagen and Mazda.
All told, 1.23 million vehicles were sold in October, a 1.2 percent increase over the same month a year ago. For the year to date, sales were down 2.5 percent to 13.58 million vehicles.
Toyota Motor Sales said it sold 2.20 million vehicles in the United States during the first 10 months, up 3.9 percent from the same period a year ago. But the October gain was a surprise because wildfires disrupted dealerships for several days in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas.
“Showroom traffic was strongest from the Midwest through the Gulf States,” Jim Lentz, Toyota Motor Sales’ executive vice president, said in a prepared statement. “In Southern California, wildfires crimped a key market already impacted by the housing downturn.”
Lexus also set an October sales record, the company said.
Ford slump drags on
Ford Motor’s year-long troubles continued in October. Ford posted a 9.3 percent decline in U.S. vehicle sales compared with the same month last year. Ford has not posted a monthly sales gain since October 2006.
“Almost all of this is due to our previously planned reduction in daily rental sales,” George Pipas, Ford’s sales analyst, said in a conference call with reporters this afternoon.
“This summer has been tough, beginning in May, the daily rental reductions have had a big impact in the total sales result.”
For the year to date, Ford said it sold 2.17 million vehicles, down 13 percent from the same period a year ago.
Ford said it reduced sales to daily rental companies by 12,000 units last month compared with October 2006, a 38 percent decline.
Ford entered 2007 planning to cut daily rental sales by 30 percent or 135,000 vehicles. Pipas said today that the decline in daily rental sales through October is around 142,000 vehicles or about 35 percent.
He indicated that year-end totals would probably mirror those numbers. Ford is expecting another daily rental cut in November, but that should be canceled by a planned increase in December, Pipas said.
Ford Motor’s retail sales also were down in October, but by a much narrower margin than at other points in the year. Retail sales declined by 1 percent, or about 1,000 vehicles, Pipas said. Even though competitive results weren’t available, Pipas said it looked like Ford’s share of industry retail sales in October again hovered around 13 percent.
Though lower than Ford had targeted for 2007, that 13 percent retail market share figure is important because it has been relatively consistent since December 2006, Pipas said.
“That gives us confidence that we have a number we can plan our business around,” he said.
GM up for month, down for year
At GM, officials remained cautiously optimistic about their results after posting a 3.4 percent gain for the month. GM, however, was down 5.7 percent for the year to date.
“We posted another solid sales month,” said GM’s top sales analyst, Paul Ballew. “We expect our market share to be around 25 percent again. We are able to buck the industry trends and post sales increases both on the retail side and total sales.
“A large part of it we attribute to our new products in the marketplace.”
Cadillac, Ballew said, had its best month with retail car sales up 20 percent. The CTS sedan led the gains.
“We had our best sales month for the CTS in history,” he said. “We are just now getting adequate supply of the product -- we had a 20-days supply.”
Mark LaNeve, GM’s vice president of North American vehicle sales, service and marketing, said GM’s long-term sales outlook has improved.
“We’ve stabilized our retail sales over the last 26 or 27 months,” he said. “If you look at the last four months, we’re on a positive trend there as well as pricing. We added the warranty, and we’ve seen some of our competition is following this plan.”
Ballew said GM’s inventory is down by about 125,000 units at 950,000 units and will remain below a million units by year-end.
Altima paces Nissan
At Nissan North America, sales grew by 13.1 percent to 84,947 vehicles. The Nissan Altima paced the growth with a record month of 21,778 sales, a 41.9 percent increase over the previous year.
Nissan said that 3,117 of the Altima sales were for the coupe.
The automaker also said the new Nissan Rogue crossover, in its first full month on the market, posted sales of 5,038 units, “outpacing expectations.”
American Honda Motor Co. said it posted a 3.8 percent gain for the quarter. Its sales are up 2.9 percent for the year. The automaker said sales of the Honda Accord sedan increased 25.8 percent to 30,936. Sales of the Honda Civic increased 7.3 percent to 23,809.
“Car sales are gaining momentum, and response to the new Accord has been positive,” Dick Colliver, executive vice president of American Honda, said in a prepared statement. “Car sales are up for a variety of reasons, but the No. 1 reason is that compelling products with inherent value generate consumer interest.”
More bad news for Chrysler
Chrysler LLC, which today announced it would lay off more than 11,000 employees, posted a bleak 8.9 percent decline in monthly sales. The company also said it will cease production of the Chrysler Pacifica crossover, the Dodge Magnum station wagon, the Chrysler Crossfire convertible and the Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible.
“Growing concerns about the housing slump are showing up in consumers’ expectations about future economic conditions as auto sales for the month of October continue below trend levels,” Darryl Jackson, vice president of U.S. sales, said in a statement. “Today’s company announcement on product changes reflects our customer-driven philosophy and current market conditions.”
Chrysler plans to introduce a variety of incentives this month.
“Given the competitive market, our approach is to provide substantial value to our consumers by offering consumer cash and lease cash on the majority of our 2008 models in November,” Michael Keegan, vice president of sales operations, said in a statement. “We will also introduce 0 percent APR for 36 months on 2008 models through the end of the month.”
In other reports, BMW AG said its October sales increased by 9.6 percent to 26,855 vehicles. For the year to date, BMW said it sold 275,434 vehicles, an 8.2 percent increase.
Volkswagen of America said it sold 25,060 vehicles in the United States during October, a 10.8 percent gain over the same month a year ago. VW remains on a breakeven pace for the year to date with 271,577 vehicles sold.
Daimler AG, which includes Mercedes and Maybach, posted a solid 10.8 percent gain for the month and a 2.8 percent gain for the year to date. Mercedes sold 22,820 vehicles for the month -- the brand’s best showing of the year and a record for October.
Mazda North American Operations notched a 17.8 percent gain to 22,201 vehicles for the month. For the year to date, Mazda has sold 250,597 vehicles, a 9.9 percent improvement. Sales of the Mazda3 sedan have led the gains, the company said.
With 8,157 units sold in October, the car already has passed the 100,000 sales mark this year. Mazda said the vehicle’s previous best year was in 2005 when it recorded 97,388 units sold.
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