Honda Motor Co. (7267)’s record November U.S. sales paced the best month for industrywide deliveries in almost five years as buyers returned to showrooms that were disrupted by Hurricane Sandy a month earlier.
Honda led major automakers with a 39 percent gain in deliveries from a year ago, topping analysts’ average projection of 33 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Ford Motor Co. (F:US) and Nissan Motor Co. (7201) also topped estimates and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) posted a 17 percent sales gain.
The annualized industrywide light-vehicle sales rate, adjusted for seasonal trends, accelerated to 15.5 million, beating the 15 million average estimate of analysts, to give the best monthly pace since 15.6 million in January 2008, according to Autodata Corp. Replacement demand from owners of damaged vehicles and purchases deferred by Sandy boosted U.S. light- vehicle sales for the eight largest automakers.
“The overall health of the industry is good, clearly,” said Jesse Toprak, industry analyst for TrueCar.com, a vehicle pricing and data website in Santa Monica, California. “There were clearly positive impacts from Sandy with a lot of consumers who didn’t even plan to buy but had to buy because their cars were damaged. That’s going to continue to help in December.”
Autos contributed 14 percent of the 2.2 percent average rate of growth for gross domestic product in the recovery that began in the third quarter of 2009 to the third quarter of 2012, according to data from the Commerce Department.
Honda, the Tokyo-based maker of Accord sedans and Civic compacts, said yesterday deliveries of those two models surged 83 percent and 76 percent, respectively, from a year earlier. The CR-V compact crossover, the top-selling sport-utility model in the U.S. this year, rose 36 percent last month.
“At the start of the year Honda was just barely starting to emerge from their tsunami woes last year, and no one knew what to expect from CR-V,” said Alec Gutierrez, industry analyst for Kelley Blue Book, a vehicle pricing and data company in Irvine, California. “They’re certainly finishing the year in a much better place.”
Honda’s sales in the U.S. increased 24 percent through November, and its market share was 10.2 percent last month, up from 8.4 percent a year ago, according to Autodata.
The 17 percent increase in deliveries for Toyota fell short of the 20 percent average of eight analysts’ estimates for the Toyota City, Japan-based company. Deliveries of Corolla compacts surged 40 percent to 22,616 and Camry sedans increased 23 percent to 28,765.
Sales for Toyota, Asia’s top selling U.S. automaker, are up 29 percent through November, and its market share last month improved 0.2 percentage point to 14.1 percent, according to Autodata.
South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. (005380) and Kia Motors Corp. (000270) combined to sell 9.1 percent more vehicles in November compared with a year earlier, matching the average of six analysts’ estimates. U.S. regulators said last month that the affiliates overstated the fuel-economy ratings for most of their 2012 and 2013 models.
Sales for Nissan, based in Yokohama, climbed 13 percent, according to an e-mailed statement. That topped the average analyst estimate of 4.8 percent.
U.S. deliveries for Japanese and South Korean automakers rose 21 percent last month to 524,330, based on company releases.
Ford deliveries of cars and light trucks rose 6.4 percent, the company said yesterday in a statement. That surpassed the average estimate of analysts of 2.4 percent.
The company said it plans to increase North American production in the first quarter by 11 percent to 750,000 vehicles. The automaker reiterated that it’s making plans to prepare for the combination of U.S. tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff should they occur at the end of the year and disrupt the economy.
“That is the biggest uncertainty out there over the next couple months,” Jenny Lin, the senior U.S. economist for Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford, said yesterday on a conference call with analysts and reporters. “We are watching it very carefully as to how the final package is and the final agreement is from the Congress and the administration.”
General Motors Co. (GM:US) sales rose 3.4 percent, the company said in a statement yesterday on its website. The Detroit-based automaker trailed the 7.6 percent gain that was the average estimate of 11 analysts.
Chrysler Group LLC, the automaker majority owned by Fiat SpA (F), said deliveries increased 14 percent, trailing the 16 percent average gain of 11 analysts. The Auburn Hills, Michigan- based company extended its streak of consecutive monthly sales gains from a year earlier to 32.
“There is nothing wrong with these numbers,” Alan Baum, principal of auto-industry researcher Baum & Associates in West Bloomfield, Michigan, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “We are obviously coming from much lower numbers, and more and more people are coming back into the market.”
Deliveries of Chrysler’s Ram pickups rose 23 percent to 24,337, according to the statement from the automaker controlled by Turin, Italy-based Fiat. Ford said sales of its F-Series trucks climbed 18 percent to 56,299.
GM’s deliveries of Chevrolet Silverado pickups declined 10 percent to 30,674, while GMC Sierra truck sales slipped 2 percent to 11,726. The automaker said inventory of its full-size pickups ballooned to 139 days’ supply as of Nov. 30, from 110 days a month earlier.
“Competitors ramped up spending to sell down their 2012 model-year stock,” Kurt McNeil, GM vice president of sales operations, said of the truck market on a conference call yesterday with analysts and reporters. GM’s full-size pickup inventory, which was 245,853 at the end of November, may end the year at more than its goal of as much as 220,000, he said.
Ford slipped 0.3 percent to $11.41 at the close in New York yesterday. GM slid 1.4 percent to $25.51. Toyota’s shares fell less than 1 percent to 3,510 yen at 10:12 a.m. in Tokyo. Honda rose 1 percent to 2,726 yen while Nissan fell 1.5 percent to 795 yen.
U.S. light-vehicle deliveries rose 15 percent in November to 1.14 million, exceeding the 1.11 million average estimate of 10 analysts. For October, all automakers reported deliveries that trailed average estimates from Bloomberg’s survey after Hurricane Sandy inflicted almost $70 billion in damage to New York and New Jersey alone.
Honda began the month with almost double the inventory it had in November 2011, according to researcher WardsAuto. Dealers for the company faced shortages a year ago after the tsunami in Japan and floods in Thailand disrupted production and supply of parts.
This year, Sandy damaged more than 230,000 vehicles, including 190,000 in New York and New Jersey, according to estimates from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The storm, which made landfall on Oct. 29, disrupted East Coast dealerships during the busiest time of the month. The October industry sales rate was 14.3 million, Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based Autodata said.
The U.S. market has been in steady recovery this year and is headed for a third consecutive annual increase of more than 10 percent. Industry sales may increase by about 4 percent to 15 million in 2013, according to a Bloomberg Industries analysis. That gain, predicted by researchers Edmunds.com and LMC Automotive, would be the slowest growth for the industry since 2009’s 21 percent plunge.
The U.S. averaged 16.8 million light-vehicle deliveries annually from 2000 to 2007, then dropped to 10.4 million in 2009, a 27-year-low, according to Autodata.
Volkswagen AG (VOW) surpassed its full-year target for U.S. sales of 500,000 vehicles, with combined deliveries by its Volkswagen and Audi brands of 518,597 through November. The automaker boosted sales in November by 28 percent, exceeding the 25 percent average of three estimates.
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