Gov’t shutdown doesn’t dent US car demand too badly
DETROIT — The government shutdown dampened — but didn’t stall — Americans’ demand for new cars and trucks.
Automakers released October U.S. sales figures this week. A look at the month’s top-selling vehicles, units sold and the change from October 2012.
Ford F-Series 63,803 +12.9%
Chevrolet Silverado 42,660 +10.1%
Ram pickup 29,846 +18.3%
Toyota Camry 29,144 -2.6%
Honda Civic 27,328 +32.1%
Honda Accord 25,162 -11.2%
Toyota Corolla 23,637 +12.8%
Honda CR-V 22,554 +11.6%
Ford Escape 22,253 +12.2%
Nissan Altima 21,785 -11.5%
Source: Autodata Corp.; AP
The 16-day shutdown slowed U.S. auto sales in the first two weeks of October, but they picked up speed in the last two weeks. Sales rose 11 percent to 1.2 million.
General Motors, Ford, Nissan and Chrysler all recorded double-digit sales gains, while Toyota, Honda and Hyundai saw smaller increases. Of major automakers, only Volkswagen’s sales fell.
Stable fuel prices, low interest rates and the increased availability of credit pushed people to buy regardless of the political wrangling, said Kurt McNeil, GM’s vice president of U.S. sales.
“All those things that have been driving the economy? They’re still there,” he said.
Pickup trucks sold well as business improved for contractors and other workers.
SUV sales were also strong. Sales of Nissan’s Pathfinder, which was recently redesigned, nearly doubled from last October. Sales of the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban large SUVs both jumped more than 50 percent.
The weak spot was small cars and hybrids, which have been struggling to win buyers as gas prices fall. Gas prices averaged $3.27 per gallon at the end of October, the lowest level of the year. The national average has dropped 31 cents since Labor Day, according to AAA.
Toyota Prius hybrid sales fell 7 percent while the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid was down 32 percent. The tiny Fiat 500 fell 36 percent.
Sales of Ford’s Focus small car were down 17 percent, while its C-Max small hybrid fell 20 percent. Ford recently announced plans to idle the Michigan factory where those vehicles are made for two weeks this fall because of weak demand.
U.S. consumers have started to gradually shift from smaller, more fuel-efficient cars to larger vehicles, said Jesse Toprak, an analyst with the TrueCar.com auto pricing web site.
Stable gas prices aren’t the only reason, he said. Cheap financing and sweet lease deals have made larger vehicles more affordable, cutting the monthly payments so people can afford them even if gas prices go up.
“History has shown us that consumers in the U.S. would rather buy a larger vehicle given the choice,” Toprak said.
Other October results announced Friday:
Detroit: GM’s sales rose 16 percent, with increases in all of its brands. Ford’s sales increased 14 percent. Chrysler’s rose 11 percent, led by its two most profitable vehicles, the Ram pickup and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV.
Japan: Nissan’s sales rose 14 percent to more than 91,000, an October record for the company. Toyota sales rose 9 percent, while Honda sales were up 7 percent.
Others: Hyundai sales rose 7 percent as 2014 Sonata sedan and Santa Fe SUV models saw increased sales. Volkswagen’s sales fell 18 percent compared with strong growth last year.