U.S. auto sales fell sharply in October, dampened by hurricanes, fidgety consumers and high gas prices.
DETROIT — U.S. auto sales fell sharply in October, dampened by hurricanes, fidgety consumers and high gas prices. Demand was down after a summer of heavily hyped discounts, and automakers warned that they don’t expect an upswing in November.
General Motors, Ford and Nissan reported big declines Tuesday, while Toyota’s U.S. sales edged up slightly, Honda’s sales rose and DaimlerChrysler’s sales were flat. Sport utility vehicles took the biggest hit across all makers. Sales of the Ford Explorer, Lincoln Navigator, GMC Yukon, Hummer H2 and Toyota Land Cruiser were all down 50 percent or more.
General Motors Corp., the world’s biggest automaker, said its U.S. sales fell 22.7 percent in October from a year ago, led by a 30.3 percent decline in sales of trucks and SUVs. GM’s car sales fell 10.6 percent for the month. Overall, GM’s sales fell 2.7 percent for the first 10 months of the year.
Paul Ballew, GM’s executive director of market and industry analysis, said it was the industry’s worst month since 1998. But he said October must be viewed in the context of the summer sales blitz, which was fueled by U.S. automakers’ employee-discount incentives. This year is still on track to be the second or third best in history for U.S. auto sales, Ballew said.
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Ford Motor Co.’s U.S. sales fell 23 percent in October from a year ago. Sales of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury trucks and sport utility vehicles fell 30 percent compared to last October, while car sales slipped 3.7 percent. Ford’s popular F-series truck saw sales fall 32 percent.
“October wasn’t a very good month for anybody,” said George Pipas, Ford’s U.S. sales analysis manager. “It was pretty much weak from the start and showed little improvement as the weeks progressed.”
Ford said its new Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr midsize sedans were notable exceptions, exceeding Ford’s expectations in their first month in dealerships. Pipas said Ford expected to sell 2,700 Fusion sedans in October but sold more than 4,000. Ford’s car sales rose 7 percent for the year, but overall sales fell nearly 3 percent.
DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group said its car sales rose a whopping 37 percent, and the Dodge Stratus sedan had its best October in nearly 10 years. But truck and SUV sales fell 9.5 percent and Chrysler’s overall sales were flat for the month. Chrysler’s sales were up 6.9 percent for the first 10 months of the year.
U.S. automakers ended their program under which they sold cars to the public for the discounted price that their employees pay in the first week of October. They were expecting some payback after phenomenal sales this summer. GM began its discount in June, and Ford and DaimlerChrysler AG followed in July.
Asian automakers stayed out of the employee discount fray, but several of them experienced a downturn in October anyway.
Nissan Motor Co. said U.S. sales were down 19 percent, including a 23 percent dip in car sales. Nissan’s overall sales were up 12.5 percent for the year.
South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co. said sales were down 7.7 percent in October, led by a 9.7 percent decrease in car sales. Hyundai’s overall sales were up 8.4 percent for the year.
But Toyota Motor Corp. said its overall U.S. sales rose 5.2 percent in October, boosted by a 12.6 percent jump in car sales.
Toyota’s truck and SUV sales were down 4 percent for the month. Its hybrid Prius continued to dazzle, with sales up 68 percent over last October.
Toyota’s sales rose 10.7 percent for the first 10 months of the year. Jim Press, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., said he’s optimistic heading into the last two months of the year.
“The incentive-induced daze is lifting, and the hurricane season is coming to a close,” Press said.
Honda Motor Co. reported an increase of 4 percent, which the company attributed to strong sales of its redesigned Civic sedan as well as the new Ridgeline pickup. Honda’s car sales were up 7 percent and truck sales were flat. The automaker’s sales were up 6 percent for the year.
Sales percentages were adjusted for differences in the number of selling days. There were 26 selling days in October 2005 and 27 in October 2004.
GM shares fell 35 cents to $27.05 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange, while Ford shares lost 10 cents to $8.22 and DaimlerChrysler’s U.S. shares fell 76 cents to $49.29. Toyota’s U.S. shares rose 41 cents to $93.22 on the NYSE, while Nissan’s U.S. shares fell 18 cents to $20.77 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.