5 Highlights from October U.S. auto sales

Ferrari’s streak of consecutive, year-over0year monthly sales gains reached 94 in October.

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U.S. auto sales edged up in October, which was not what analysts had expected. Here are five highlights from the month.

Dead-car bounce?

Anyone in the auto industry (as well as many casual observers in middle America) can tell you that light trucks have been outselling sedans — and it’s not even close. “Share for cars continues to decrease and has the momentum to fall below 28 percent soon,” Zo Rahim, research manager for Cox Automotive, said in a statement Thursday morning, before October results were announced. But the erosion of cars’ market share took a surprise breather, ticking back up 1 percentage point to 31%.

Don’t expect that to continue.

Tesla sold an estimated 18,000 Model 3s last month, helping spur an uptick from the previous month in car market share.

Surprising discipline on incentives

Even amid model-year changeovers, automakers seem to be exercising newfound discipline on discounting. Based on the first 17 of 26 selling days, incentives tracked downward in October as an average spend per vehicle slipped to $3,742, according to J.D. Power. The final number will probably rise from that initial estimate, said Tyson Jominy, senior director of automotive consulting and analytics at J.D. Power Information Network, but remain lower than a year ago, making October the fourth straight month of year-over-year declines.

Go figure.

SAAR hits a high

The second-half downturn in U.S. auto sales was supposed to arrive in earnest in October. But that didn’t happen, as light-vehicle deliveries crept up 0.4%, thanks in part to an extra selling day. So the seasonally adjusted, annualized rate of sales was down year over year, but the 17.59 million-vehicle pace was the swiftest yet in 2018. Here’s the SAAR breakdown for 2018 (in millions of vehicles):

January
17.22
 
June
17.32

February
17.08
 
July
16.73

March
17.33
 
August
16.69

April
17.25
 
September
17.54

May
17.26
 
October
17.59

 

Photo credit: JOE WILSSENS

“For the manufacturers, the shift to trucks is extremely profitable and they’ll be fine.”

AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson

Audi’s streak snaps

Audi’s streak of consecutive, year-over-year monthly U.S. sales gains ended at 107 months in October, as Volkswagen’s premium brand reported a 17% decline. That leaves Ferrari and Lamborghini neck and neck with the longest sales-gain streaks — both at 94 months, based on estimates. Those marques have only Subaru on their heels, but certainly have a more economically insulated set of buyers. Here are the top 5 remaining sales streak gains, as well as the 5 longest streaks of consecutive losses (excludes Lotus and Rolls-Royce because of low volume):

Brand
Consecutive MONTHLY gains
 
Brand
Consecutive MONTHLY losses

Ferrari
94
 
Fiat
30

Lamborghini
94
 
Smart
22

Subaru
83
 
Jaguar
13

Tesla
43
 
Genesis
10

Alfa Romeo
22
 
Lexus
8

 

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