With two months left in 2017, overall auto sales seem headed for a slight decline from 2016’s strong finish. "While a new sales record won’t be set this year," says Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Autotrader, "U.S. vehicle sales are still surprisingly strong. This year’s sales may well hit 17 million again," she continued. "Only the fifth year that has happened."
The auto industry sold over 1.35 million vehicles in the U.S. in October 2017, a 1 percent decline over the same period in 2016. Most analysts consider this performance strong, as it continues to mostly be driven by retail sales over fleet. While light trucks remain popular among buyers, cars also made a good showing this month.
Ford truck sales were particularly healthy in October, posting an 11.4 percent increase versus 2016. But trucks weren’t the whole story of Ford’s 6.2 percent overall boost for the month. "Ford beat analysts’ forecasts largely due to higher fleet sales, which apparently included a good number of Ford Focus models as the compact showed a rare increase in sales," Krebs stated.
General Motors finished out the month with a 2 percent decline, but still holds the lead in market share with 17 percent, a figure that they’ve matched for three consecutive months. "General Motors strength in October came almost entirely from sport utilities and pickup trucks, vehicles that contribute mightily to the bottom line," said Krebs. "Only three cars in its entire line showed any increase at all – two likely due to fleet sales."
FCA sales were down 13 percent for October 2017 vs. October 2016, a figure that would’ve been even worse were it not for strong showings from the Jeep Compass, Cherokee and Renegade. "Finally, Jeep appears to be righting the ship after re-jiggering its product line. Sales of the Jeep Compass soared and, this month, not at the expense of the slightly more expensive Jeep Cherokee, as in months past," said Krebs. Ram pickups also performed strongly, posting the best October sales ever for the lineup.
Toyota Motor North America continued to rely on its light trucks to buoy sales, posting a 1.1 percent increase for the month over last year’s figures. The venerable RAV4 set an October sales record on a 30 percent increase, driving a best-ever October for TMNA’s light trucks.
American Honda continues to build on 2016’s sales with a mild 0.9 percent increase in October 2017 over October 2016, and a 0.3 percent increase year-to-date. The newly revised Civic and Accord each showed healthy gains for the period, while taking the top two spots in new car sales in the U.S..
The overall robust U.S. vehicle sales environment reflects a positive view from consumers, according to Jonathan Smoke, Chief Economist for Cox Automotive. "Incentives, including numerous lease pull-ahead offers, are pulling in consumers who are feeling confident about the economy and the future," he stated. "The recent 2-month trend is decidedly stronger than we’ve seen this year, and the improvement is not all explained by hurricane replacement demand."
Brian Moody, Autotrader’s Executive Editor, has some advice for shoppers looking to benefit from current auto sales trends. "Price conscious shoppers who MUST have an SUV should look at well-known models that may be aging slightly — Chevy Tahoe, Ford Escape and 2017 Ford Expedition are good examples," he said. "Shoppers looking for a good car AND a good deal should look to midsize or full-size sedans like the Chrysler 300, Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Impala as sales of these vehicles, in general, continue to fall."