News Column

Auto Sales Rise Despite Sandy

No. 2, 2012

Chris Woodyard and Fred Meier

auto sales

Superstorm Sandy put a last-minute dent in October new-auto sales, but the industry still showed a solid 6.9 percent sales increase compared with October last year, according to Autodata figures released Thursday.

The increase kept the industry on track to finish 2012 with at least a million more sales than last year.

Among Detroit's Big 3 automakers, General Motors and Chrysler Group registered gains compared with a year ago, while Ford was about even. Volkswagen and Toyota scored some of the biggest increases.

It was "not a bad performance for the year," says Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at research site "People are still buying cars. That's an encouraging sign."

She estimates that Hurricane Sandy resulted in at least 30,000 fewer sales for the month, out of a total of 1.1 million. She says about 17 percent of October sales typically come in the last three days, and the storm struck a densely populated part of the nation that accounts for about 20 percent of new-vehicle sales.

Chrysler sales rose 8.8 percent, GM saw a gain of 4.7 percent and Ford was up 0.3 percent, Autodata reports. Those sales gains could figure in next week's presidential election, where the American auto industry has been a big issue.

Some big import brands were up even more. Volkswagen gained 20.4 percent, Toyota rose 15.8 percent and Honda was up 8.8 percent. Yet Nissan fell 3.2 percent and Hyundai was down 4.1 percent. Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik has complained about shortages of high-demand models because Hyundai factories are maxed out.

VW noted that its increase was a 34th month of gains and its best October since Beetle Mania days in 1972. The boost was powered largely by the brand's mainstay midsize sedan, Passat. The model hit a sales record as it posted a 66 percent increase over last year.

Toyota said it, too, saw some of the biggest increases from its bread-and-butter models, Camry and Corolla. Camry sales rose 35.8 percent, keeping it ahead of Honda Accord as the nation's best-selling car.

The top-selling vehicles overall remain a pair of pickups -- Ford F-Series and Chevrolet Silverado.

Among smaller brands, Subaru was up 30.1%. It has been on such a sales tear that it has sold more cars in 10 months this year than over all 12 months in any year previously. It credited its redesigned Impreza model as one of its sales leaders.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2012

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