Fiat Chrysler, GM and Ford post Nov. sales gains

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

The story has been updated to include Mercedes-Benz sales numbers.

Automakers are getting closer to setting a new vehicle sales record in 2015, as car buyers were drawn to showrooms in November for month-long Black Friday specials that helped car companies post near-record sales last month.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US, General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. each posted November U.S. sales gains on Tuesday, led by Fiat Chrysler’s 3 percent rise in sales, fueled in part by consumers seeking Black Friday car deals.

November sales rose  1.3 percent from the same period a year ago to just shy of 1.32 million, according to Autodata Corp. Wednesday.

Figures on Tuesday were estimated by the company because Mercedes-Benz did not release November sales figures Tuesday, The German company attributed the delay to a systems malfunction released results Wednesday that showed the luxury brand's sales fell 11.7 percent year-over-year to 33,475.

Stacey Doyle, a senior auto industry analyst at TrueCar Inc., said Tuesday that when counting the estimated 10.01 percent drop  for Mercedes-Benz, November would come in as the second-best November ever. The record for the month is 1.32 million vehicles sold in November 2001.

“It’s going to be really close,” she said.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US, General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. each posted November sales gains, led by Fiat Chrysler’s 3 percent rise. The month included two fewer selling days than the same month a year ago and four selling weekends in the month, the first time that’s happened since 2012. But consumers were enticed to buy vehicles with Black Friday sales and kept the pace of seasonally adjusted annual rate of auto sales in November at 18.19 million vehicles.

The industry has sold an estimated 15.83 million vehicles through November and appears on pace to possibly eclipse a sales record for the full year, several analysts say. The annual record is 17.4 million sales in 2000. November sales did not quite hit TrueCar estimates of 1.35 million sales, and Doyle also expects a close race on whether 2015 sales will top 2000 sales, or finish second-best. TrueCar predicts a double-digit sales increase in December — typically a big sales month for the industry — from a year ago.

In mid-November, LMC Automotive boosted its 2015 full-year U.S. new vehicle sales forecast to 17.5 million from 17.3 million. And Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, says the industry has a “strong potential” at setting a new record.

“There’s nothing in place that is going to slow us down in December,” he said, adding incentives and inventory are plentiful.

Doyle said strong economic fundamentals, low gas prices and confidence about finances are driving new vehicle sales. “I think that’s just making consumers feel confident about making a big ticket purchase of a vehicle,” she said.

Fiat Chrysler said its November sales of 175,974 marked the company’s best November in 15 years as it posted its 68th straight month of year-over-year sales gains. Jeep brand sales jumped 19.9 percent year-over-year, while Ram sales were up about 0.5 percent. Chrysler sales fell 12.1 percent, Dodge brand sales slid 7.5 percent and Fiat sales dropped 2.6 percent.

GM said its U.S. sales rose 1.5 percent to 229,296, led by crossovers and trucks.

Chevrolet posted a 4.8 percent sales increase, and Cadillac sales also were up 1.8 percent. Buick brand sales fell sharply, down 16.6 percent year over year, while GMC sales were down 1.9 percent. GM also said it posted record average sales prices of $35,800 in November.

GM ran Black Friday promotions for Buick, Chevrolet and GMC, advertising savings of up to 20 percent. Fiat Chrysler’s Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram brands also had Black Friday deals, including zero percent interest loans for up to 75 months; Hyundai offered customer cash.

“Holiday and Black Friday promotions generally resonated with consumers,” said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst for AutoTrader.com.

Ford’s sales rose 0.3 percent to 187,794, as Ford brand sales increased 0.6 percent and Lincoln fell 2.4 percent year over year. The Dearborn company said its car sales were down 11.5 percent year-over-year, utilities fell 9.6 percent compared to November 2014, but truck sales surged 18.3 percent.

Ford on Tuesday began a new “Holiday Sales Event” that includes 0 percent financing for 60 months and $1,000 cash back on select models. The new campaign replaces its “Friends and Neighbors” event, which it canned a month early after it failed to resonate with customers.

Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said the Friends and Neighbors campaign helped sell higher-priced vehicles, but the company wanted more balance on its incentive offerings across its lineup, including low interest financing in a “very critical month in December.”

Nissan North America, Hyundai Motor America and Kia Motors America reported record November sales, while Toyota Motor Corp. sales increased 3.4 percent.

Volkswagen of America, which is dealing with a diesel emissions scandal, reported its November sales fell 24.7 percent to 23,882. American Honda Motor Co. said its November sales fell 5.2 percent, primarily due to a drop in Acura sales.

mburden@detroitnews.com

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Staff Writer Michael Martinez contributed.