10 Takeaways from U.S. Auto Sales in October
Tuesday November 12, 2019
We’ve combed through October auto sales results in the U.S., looked at retail, fleet, CPO and the individual brands. We know the headlines, as you do as well: Sales were slower than expected and the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) came in at 16.5 million, the slowest month since April. Fleet sales, which have been reliable and strong this year, were down year over year in October and so was retail. New-car sales have been generally hot in 2019, so the somewhat slower October could be a predictable payback; our team is forecasting a slowing in Q4.
Here’s a quick look at 10 additional points we found in the small print of October sales, items that perhaps tell a bigger story. (All data based on Cox Automotive analysis and estimates.)
- Luxury sales were up 4% in a down market, led by Audi and Lincoln. It was the best month for Audi this year and they needed it. Year-to-date sales are down more than 3% for the once high-flying German brand. Lincoln, on the other hand, has been hot in luxury in 2019, with sales up 7% year to date.
- The average transaction price (ATP) for a new vehicle last month was $37,186, up just slightly from October 2018, according to Kelley Blue Book. According to our Dealertrack team, the average monthly loan payment for a new vehicle last month was $567; the loan term was 69.1 months, the longest loan term of the year. By price, what’s the most average car in the U.S.? The very above-average Nissan 370Z, which posted a nearly-average ATP of $37,182.
- Unlike the new market last month, used vehicles were humming, with sales up 1.4% year over year. The used-vehicle SAAR was a healthy 39.6 million. Certified pre-owned (CPO) sales were up 8% in October versus last year and are on pace to set an all-time record in 2019.
- It was a good month for pickups of all sizes. In all, our Kelley Blue Book team counted more than 258,000 pickups sold in October. Pickup truck share of the total market in October is near 20%, the highest point so far in 2019. We are a pickup truck nation.
- Fiat Chrysler and the PSA Groupe are planning a merger, and the heir apparent of the new mega company has indicated that all 11 FCA/PSA brands are safe from the chopping block. That may be the case, but the Fiat brand’s long-term future in the U.S. is being questioned. In October, total sales were less than 800 units. With approximately 375 dealers, that’s simply not enough volume to be viable.
- What’s hot in the U.S. right now, sales wise? Likely the dynamic duo from Korea. Hyundai and Kia both have their SUV mojo rolling. Hyundai sales were up 7% in October, year over year, and Kia jumped by more than 9%. Their profitable new three-row SUVs — Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride — are still in a high-demand, short-supply situation. Most are sold within 20 days of reaching a dealer lot.
- In October, there were 294 different vehicles sold in the U.S., from the A3 to the Z4. The top 11 best-selling models accounted for 30% of all sales and top-30 best-sellers accounted for 50%. Most interesting, the bottom half of the list accounted for only about 92,000 sales – roughly 7% of the U.S. market. If you want to argue there’s too many vehicles on the market today, the data backs you up.
- In October, the most expensive “mainstream” product in the U.S was the Audi R8. Average transaction price: $196,898. Number sold: 39. (Note: Our team does not track super exotics from Ferrari, Bentley, and the like, nor the million-dollar freak shows from Bugatti.)
- When Ford confirmed less-than-great Q3 financial performance, they pointed to a slow launch of the all-new, high-profit Explorer. And indeed, by Kelley Blue Book estimates, Explorer sales were close to 10,000 units in August and September, half the normal tally. In October, our team is estimating Explorer sales near 17,500. Still below normal, but closer to the target.
- The compact SUV/crossover segment continues to be the top segment in the U.S. market with sales of 230,000 units in October. There are 14 good choices in the segment. Average price: $29,575, well below industry average. With sales of 37,500 in October, the segment’s top player is the Toyota RAV-4.