Analysis

With late-October floods in Thailand disrupting world vehicle supply chains, auto makers sold 6.29 million units in the month, the sixth-highest monthly result of the past 10 months.

October’s results represented a slim 1.3% gain on like-2010, the third-lowest year-over-year result in more than two years. Worldwide deliveries also were down 9.3% from September, a seasonal decline twice as large as year-ago.

The Thai floods caused a number of Asia-based auto makers to reduce output, hitting Honda particularly hard just as the auto maker was beginning to make up production lost to the March tsunami and earthquake in Japan.

However, the effects of the flood on global vehicle sales likely will be felt most strongly in December and first-quarter 2012, as the dip in production lowers inventories around the world.

Related document: World Vehicle Sales Summary

North America led all regions in year-over-year growth in October, with sales rising 7.4%. Most of the gains were in the U.S., the world’s second-largest vehicle market, where deliveries climbed 8.5% to 1.05 million units.

Positive results in Canada, up 2.7%, and Mexico, up 1.7%, helped bring North America vehicle sales to 1.25 million units for a 19.9% global market share, up from September’s 18.6%.

Asia/Pacific sales in Thailand, which was the region’s fifth-largest market in September, plunged more than 50% from the prior month and 40.5% from like-2010, dropping the country to the No.9 spot in the region.

In China, the world’s largest vehicle market, deliveries dipped 1% to 1.52 million cars and trucks, marking the country’s fourth negative year-over-year result in the past 10 months.

Japan sales grew 25.2% in October to 381,000 units, buoyed by an increasing supply that is starting to meet pent-up post-tsunami demand in the world’s third-largest market.

Despite a nearly 10% drop in volume compared with September, total vehicle deliveries in the Asia/Pacific region inched up 0.4% vs. year-ago, accounting for 42.5% of world sales.

Europe’s deliveries rose 2.3% in October to 1.6 million units, for a 25.7% market share. Germany led the region with 287,000 units for the month’s fourth-best result worldwide and up 1.2% over year-ago. Russia’s sales surged 26.2%, making it Europe’s second-largest market.

Brazil, South America’s largest vehicle market, retained its No.5 sales position worldwide in October, but its 282,000 deliveries represented a 6.9% decline compared with like-2010.

Continued double-digit growth in Argentina, up 34.9%, plus small but consistently positive results in lesser markets, nudged South America’s sales up to 464,000 units, for a 7.4% world share.

Global vehicle deliveries from January through October totaled 64.5 million units, up 4.7% from year-ago.

jsousanis@wardsauto.com