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October Auto Sales Conclude on a Stormy Note

October Auto Sales Conclude on a Stormy Note

By Jeff Youngs, November 02, 2012
Usually, the end of the month means a higher finish for auto sales. However, the last 3 days of October 2012 in the Northeast U.S. were basically wiped out in the car business by the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

As many as 18 states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions were impacted by ocean storm surges, heavy storms that destroyed homes and downed trees, flooding, and massive power outages. Many dealerships had to close their doors due to damage and inventory losses.

Yet, there was still some good news. Although J.D. Power analysis had predicted an 11% increase in auto sales from the same month a year ago, auto sales still rose 7% in spite of the storm's devastation during the last few days of the month. All three of the Detroit-based automakers sold more new vehicles, especially compacts, during October.
However, their sales volumes were definitely hampered by the storm's impact.

Automakers said in their end-of-month statements that volumes were lower and that consumers in the Northeast states may have postponed their purchases due to the bad weather. Volkswagen, Toyota and Fiat-Chrysler Groups posted the best month-over-month sales gains. Even though the VW Group and brand celebrated its best October since 1972, with a sales rise of 22%, its deliveries were hurt by the hurricane's impact in two of its strongest markets: New York and New Jersey.

The five brands that reaped the biggest sales increases from last year were those with compact model lineups. One of these also was a niche-market luxury brand. The biggest gains in October vs. 2011 were for Smart (+205%); Fiat (+89%); Scion (+49%); Porsche (+42%); and Subaru (+30%).

Compact model sales continued to rise in October, similar to September and August of this year, as prices at the gas pump remained relatively high. The average price of a gallon of unleaded regular across the United States was $3.50 on Nov. 1. However, three states, including California, had prices that hovered above $4 per gallon.

Also, there was more demand for vehicles with alternative powertrains. Sales for the Toyota Prius lineup of four hybrid models, including a plug-in hybrid, rose 52% from a year ago. General Motors said the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid (PHEV) sales more than doubled (+167%) from October last year.

Following the aftermath of the hurricane, some automakers already were promoting discounts to consumers in the FEMA-designated damaged areas. For example, General Motors is offering $500 discounts.

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