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Car Sales Show Solid October Rebound

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jeffgilbert Jeff Gilbert
Automotive reporter for WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBS Radio News....
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AUBURN HILLS, MI (WWJ) —  Car companies put a weak September in the rear view mirror–and consumers put aside government shutdown worries–as car and truck sales jumped around 13 percent in October.

“There was, I think, some question leading up to today, as to whether the recovery would restart,” said LMC Automotive analyst Jeff Schuster.  “I think the reports, so far today, answer that with a resounding yes.”

All three domestic companies posted double-digit sales increases…11 percent at Chrysler, 14 percent at Ford and 16 percent at General Motors.

Analyst Jessica Caldwell of Edmunds.com says it was a great truck month.

“I think the fact that the Detroit three are not only known for their trucks and SUV’s, but have come out with some new ones that are very compelling, I think that’s helping their sales even further.”

But the strength of the domestic brands seems to go even further than just their traditional stronghold of trucks.

“They are very competitive, and they are arguably doing better than some of the imports,” says Kelly Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer.

Toyota posting an 8.8 percent sales increase, lower than analysts were expecting.  Brauer says that is a reflection of the increased competition.

“It’s a much more competitive market.  It’s very impressive that in this competitive market, the domestics are doing quite well.”

And that’s reflected in a solid feeling of confidence among the domestic carmakers.

“When you look at our results, with what we’ve got coming as far as launches are concerned, and an ever improving economy, we feel pretty good now,” said sales operations manager Kurt McNeil,

McNeil says all four of General Motors brands posted sales increases in October.

Ford was helped by a 70 percent increase in Fusion sales, and an 80 percent jump for the Lincoln MKX mid-size luxury car.   That pushed overall Ford sales up 14 percent.

“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.”

Chrysler sales, meanwhile, were up 11 percent.

“After a choppy start to the beginning of the month, Chrysler Group sales accelerated in the second half of the month with renewed consumer confidence and the launch of our all-new Jeep Cherokee,” said Reid Bigland, Head of U.S. Sales. “Following a meticulous focus on quality, our new Jeep Cherokee began shipping to dealers and quickly selling which helped us to achieve our 43rd-consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases.”

The Ram brand lead the way, with sales up 22 percent.  It was also the first month for the Jeep Cherokee mid size car.  Chrysler only sold 579 Cherokee’s.

But the Dodge Durango saw its sales up 59 percent, possibly on the strength of the very popular ad campaign, featuring comedian Will Ferral as in his “Anchorman” role.

“We saw sales up, of course, and they have been up for quite a while,” said analyst Michelle Krebs of Edmunds.com.  But, we also saw a huge spike in shopping on our website.”

Nissan also posted a sales increase–14 percent.

“Nissan’s record October performance demonstrates that a Washington shutdown was not enough to shut down our sales momentum,” said Nissan Vice President Fred Diaz. “With the all-new 2014 Rogue hitting dealer showrooms this month, we expect Nissan’s growth to continue to accelerate.”

Hyundai sales were up 7 percent.  Subaru sales soared 32 percent.

Analysts had been concerned that a prolonged shutdown might hurt consumer confidence. Jeff Schuster of LMC Automotive says there may have been a few sales delayed from the beginning of the month to the end. But, he also says that consumers are getting used to drama in Washington.

“Consumers are aware of that, and ultimately have to go on with their everyday lives, including purchasing vehicles.”

October’s sales report, Schuster says, is likely to return sales to the pace we’ve seen most of the year. It should end on a relatively strong note.

“The year is still on pace for the mid fifteen million selling rate, which is certainly a favorable level from where we were last year.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Email: jdgilbert@cbs.com
Facebook: facebook.com/carchronicles
Twitter: @jefferygilbert

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