Once again, sales news is somewhat mixed for the month, depending on vehicle category. October vehicle sales numbers in the U.S. came in at 17.57 million, which – while showing slippage from last October – is better than many estimates, including the J.D. Power and LMC Automotive estimate for 17.4 million as well as September’s sales of 17.44 million. There is no doubt, however, that a number of factors are causing a slowdown in sales.
“Rising interest rates and higher vehicle prices are also thinning the crowds of shoppers,” Edmunds analyst Jeremy Acevedo said. “That’s a trend we see stretching into the new year.”
It should still be noted that demand in October 2017 was somewhat inflated by replacement sales following Hurricane Harvey.
Specifically, FCA US and Toyota Motor Corp. both showed modestly higher U.S. numbers thanks to truck sales. Demand for crossover vehicles remained high, as well. General Motors, Ford, Nissan and Honda all slipped, largely due to the weakness in demand for cars. (GM’s numbers were estimated, since the company no longer reports sales on a monthly basis.)
“Many signs in the economy would suggest that vehicle demand should be moderating – higher interest rates, import tariffs, weak housing market, stock market volatility, elevated gas prices – yet vehicle buying remains strong,” said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist for Cox Automotive.
“The key ingredients for strong sales exist – low unemployment, high confidence and credit availability. However, most market watchers expect demand to decline as economic conditions change in 2019. But for now, the robust sales pace in 2018 continues,” he said.
The October sales news comes the day after GM released a strong third-quarter earnings report. GM reported $2.5 billion in profits for the third quarter of 2018, nothing that its strong results in North America were the result of robust truck and crossover vehicle sales. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US reported that October sales were up 16 percent year over year, to 177,391 vehicles. Toyota reported 191,102 units sold, which is a 1.4 percent increase on a volume basis and a 2.5 percent decrease on a daily selling rate basis over October 2017.