New vehicle sales continued their slow, steady improvement in November across most of the major brands, automakers reported along with monthly sales today. Projections had the month coming in at anywhere from TrueCar's estimated seasonally adjusted selling rate (SAAR) of 13.3 million units, to some automaker estimates of a SAAR as high as 13.8 million.
Analysts said the baseline improvement over year-ago numbers means this recovery is solidly underway, even if it's not a particularly vigorous one. “The improving performance of the past three months suggests that the current momentum, primarily driven by replacement demand and improvements in vehicle availability, is not an aberration,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates.
For the year, Power's figures now predict a year-end SAAR of 12.8 million units including fleet sales, with an early estimate of 13.8 million for calendar year 2012.
Which brands posted increases on the month, and which have more warning signs to read as economic recovery fails to gain steam? The results by automaker, with some still to come:
General Motors (GM) said it sold 180,402 vehicles in November, an increase of 7 percent over November 2010. Chevrolet sales grew by 9.8 percent, and GMC's numbers rose by 6.8 percent--but Buick fell 7.2 percent and Cadillac was off 5.6 percent, both somewhat victims of the wind-downs in sales of outgoing models like the Lucerne and DTS. Trucks accounted for a big part of GM's growth, with increases on most of its full-size SUVs. Of concern at Chevrolet, the mainstay Impala sedan was off 26 percent, while the big Traverse crossover was down 28 percent.
Ford (F) saw its sales rise by 13.3 percent, while its Lincoln brand fell by 17.6 percent. Big numbers were posted by the Explorer, which was up 217 percent over November 2010, and the outgoing Ranger compact pickup truck, which was up 85 percent. On the downside, Ford's big crossovers were off: the Flex saw its sales fall 13 percent, while Lincoln's MKT was off 45 percent.
Chrysler reported buoyant sales of 107,172 -- a 45-percent increase over sluggish November 2010 numbers. Chrysler as a brand was up 92 percent; Jeep was up 50 percent and Dodge rose 43 percent, while Ram truck sales were up 8 percent. Sales of the Fiat 500 hit a grand total of 17,444 units on the year, far off initial estimates of 50,000 units for calendar-year 2011.
Toyota (TM), Lexus: Toyota sold 137,960 units in November, for a 6.7-percent sales increase--its first since the March earthquake in Japan. Toyota-brand vehicles were up 2.4 percent, while Lexus rose 6.7 percent. The Scion brand, fresh off its introduction last night of the 2013 FR-S coupe, saw its sales drop by 11 percent.
Nissan (OTCPK:NSANF), Infiniti: Nissan sales strengthened in November 2011 to 85,182 units, up 19.4 percent over a year ago. Nissan-brand sales rose 21 percent to 76,754 units, including 672 Nissan Leaf sales. Infiniti sales were up 3 percent on the month.
Honda (HMC), Acura: Honda says it sold 83,925 vehicles in November, a 10.1-percent drop over a year ago. On the year, the company's sales are down 5.7 percent. Acura sold 9,909 vehicles in November, a drop of 11.2 percent.
Hyundai (OTC:HYMLF) said sales of 49,610 vehicles marked an all-time November record, and a 22-percent increase over the same period in 2010. Year to date, Hyundai is up 21 percent.
Kia says it sold 37,007 vehicles in November, an increase of 39 percent over last year and its best November ever. Year to date, Kia sales are up 35.7 percent, behind the strength of its U.S.-made vehicles, the Georgia-built Sorento crossover and Optima sedan.
Volkswagen (OTCPK:VLKAF) continued its sales surge behind the year-old Jetta sedan and the new 2012 Passat sedan. The duo both are up 59 percent on the year. November sales for VW on the whole were 28,412 units, an increase of 40.7 percent; year to date, VW is up 25.3 percent. Last month, one in five vehicles sold by Volkswagen in the U.S. was powered by a diesel engine.
Mercedes-Benz: Mercedes sold 28,255 vehicles in November, up 55.2 percent over November of 2010, and an all-time record for the month. On the year, Benz is up 20.4 percent.
BMW and MINI sold 26,271 vehicles, for an increase of 14.8 percent over a year ago. BMW was up 7.1 percent, while MINI rose more than 70 percent on the month. On the year, the two are up 14.6 percent.
Subaru sold 17,657 vehicles in November, down 15.1 percent; on the year, Subaru has sold 233,288 vehicles, down 1.6 percent from 2010.
Mazda: The Japanese automaker sold 18,432 vehicles in November, an increase of 20.4 percent; on the year, it's up 9.6 percent. The Mazda6 sedan shone, with sales up 53 percent on the month.
Audi sales were up 3.6 percent in November, for a total of 9,700 units. On the year, the brand is up 15.2 percent--and as of this month, it's passed its all-time sales record of 101,629 cars sold in 2010.
Volvo reported U.S. sales of 4,844 units, an 18.8-percent increase from November 2010. On the year, Volvo is up 25.8 percent, behind its top seller, the S60.
Porsche's November sales tally of 2,255 vehicles represented a 7-percent decrease from last year. On the year, Porsche has sold 27,189 cars, up 19 percent.
Mitsubishi sold 3,735 vehicles in November, down 13 percent from a year ago.
Jaguar/Land Rover: Combined sales for Jaguar and Land Rover were up 17 percent in November, to a total of 4,735 units. Jaguar sold 918 vehicles, down 18 percent from a year ago, while Land Rover was up 31 percent to 3,820 units. On the year, the duo is up 10 percent.
Suzuki sales were off 22 percent in November, but the company says it's still up 13 percent on the year.
Saab has not yet reported.