light-vehicle sales in October climbed 4.7%, despite the late-month arrival of Hurricane Sandy that left much of the U.S. East Coast under water and without power.
The auto maker delivered 195,764 cars and trucks in October, compared with 186,895 in like-2011, according to WardsAuto data. There were 26 selling days in the month, unchanged from year-ago. It was GM’s best October since 2007.
GM sales chief Kurt McNeil says Wall Street estimates of 300,000 sales lost off the seasonally adjusted annual rate because of the storm probably will prove accurate.
“We’re still trying to quantify it,” McNeil says in a conference call today to discuss the auto maker’s sales results. “There’s no question, given the lead-up to the storm and after, it impacted the industry.”
Dealers are reporting “large quantities” of cars and trucks damaged on their lots, he says. “Dealerships under water, no power; some real horror stories.”
GM expects consumers to bounce back quickly and sales lost to the storm will be recouped in November and December. To help spur demand in Sandy’s wake, the auto maker has launched a disaster-relief incentive of roughly $500 on most of its vehicles.
Chevrolet deliveries in October rose 2.7% to 135,305 units, with small cars doing some heavy lifting.
The tiny Spark, recently launched as a new-for-’13 model, sold 2,134 units, while the Sonic subcompact accounted for 5,495. The Cruze compact saw deliveries jump 33.8% to 19,121.
The closely watched Chevy Volt extended-range electric vehicle posted its third consecutive month of record sales with 2,961 units.
Deliveries of the popular Chevy Equinox 5-passenger cross/utility vehicle climbed a modest 1.9% to 15,387, while the Silverado large pickup enjoyed a 5.7% increase to 38,739.
However, sales of the newly redesigned Malibu midsize sedan stumbled in October, falling 6.0% to 9,629 units. The new engines for the model meant to drive volumes only started arriving at dealers last month.
Don Johnson, U.S. vice president-Chevrolet sales, says stocks of the new model remain tight, and October sales grew 16% compared with September. The new Malibu also commands a higher price than its predecessor, so incentives are down and its advertising push is just starting.
“We’re still getting our (Malibu) inventories to ideal levels,” Johnson says. “All the signs are positive.”
Buick sales last month jumped 14.5% to 13,384 units on the strength of the LaCrosse, which was up 2.2% to 4,139. The recently launched Verano registered 3,502 deliveries, but the larger Regal suffered a 35.7% decline to 1,466. Sales of the Enclave large CUV slipped 5.2% to 4,273.
Cadillac sales increased 14.5% to 13,505 units, led by a 10.8% gain for the SRX 5-passenger luxury CUV with 5,521. The newly launched ATS compact sports sedan and XTS large sedan accounted for 1,266 and 2,540, respectively. October deliveries of the CTS line of midsize cars fell 40.2% to 2,344.
Chase Hawkins, U.S. vice president-sales at Cadillac, says in its two months on the market the ATS has been winning over buyers to GM at a rate of about 50%. Most new customers are coming out of models fromand Mercedes-Benz.
GMC sales in October rose 6.2% from year-ago to a robust 33,570 units. The Sierra large pickup was up 9.0% to 14,568, while the Acadia large CUV was up 11.5% to 5,613. Deliveries of the Terrain 5-passenger CUV climbed 14.7% to 7,286.
GM has increased its year-end inventory target to between 660,000 and 670,000 cars and trucks from a previously anticipated level of 650,000. The auto maker says it expects greater year-end demand for cars. The inventory goal for trucks was unchanged at between 200,000 and 220,000 units.
GM closes October with an inventory of 739,034 cars and trucks. Stocks of large pickups, which will see redesigned models launched next year, finished the month with 235,585 units.
McNeil continues to expect 2012 industry sales to finish the year at the high end of the auto maker’s forecast – between 14.0 million and 14.5 million units. This would be quite a feat, he says, given the all-important housing market remains the missing link in the nation’s gradual recovery from the recession.
However, McNeil points out that new-home construction activity is rising by double digits, foreclosures have reached new lows, existing-home prices are increasing and key consumer-confidence metrics are at record highs since the downturn.
“It looks like we are at, or near, an inflection point,” he says.