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Major Automakers Report Higher October U.S. Sales


Major automakers on Thursday reported higher U.S. vehicles sales for the month of October despite the impact of Hurricane Sandy in several East Coast states, as demand for fuel efficient vehicles remained strong. Chrysler Group LLC and Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) posted double digit percentage growths in U.S. vehicle sales for the month, while General Motors Co. (GM) and Ford Motor Co. (F) reported gains of 4.7% and 0.4%, respectively.

GM, the largest U.S. automaker, said that its October U.S. sales rose 4.7% to 196,764 vehicles from 186,895 vehicles in the same month last year.

There were 26 selling days for the October 2012, the same as last year.

The automaker noted that this was its highest October sales in the United States since 2007.

"GM had a solid October in a month that was marked by a devastating national tragedy," said Kurt McNeil, vice president, U.S. sales operations.

Year-over-year sales to retail customers were up 7%, but sales to fleet customers were down 2% during the month.

For October, GM's passenger car sales increased 15%, while crossovers were up 3% and sales of full-size pickup trucks rose 8% from a year earlier.

Among GM's brands, Chevrolet sales grew 2.7% to 135,305 units, while GMC sales rose 6.2% to 33,570 units, Cardillac sales surged 14.5% to 13,505 and Buick sales jumped 14.5% to 13,384 units.

In anticipation of robust demand, GM has increased its year-end inventory target from the 650,000-unit range to 660,000 to 670,000 units. The change reflects higher planned stocks of new passenger cars, the automaker said and added that the truck inventory target is unchanged.

GM on Wednesday reported a 14% decline in third quarter profit, reflecting a wider loss at its Europe operations and lower profit in North America.

Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford, the second largest U.S. automaker, said it sold 168,456 vehicles in the U.S. in October, up 0.4% from 167,803 vehicles sold in the same month last year. For September, Ford had reported a 0.1% decline in U.S. vehicles sales.

Ford's retail sales for September were up 2% from the year-ago level.

Ford's car sales grew 1.9% year-over-year to 50,960 units in October, while truck sales for the month fell 1.8% to 67,831 units. Utility vehicle sales for the month increased 1.9% to 49,665 units.

"Our commitment to deliver a fuel-efficient lineup of cars, utilities and trucks is winning over customers and helping grow our retail sales," said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. "Our fuel-efficient and capable full-size pickups delivered our strongest October sales results since 2004 - an F-Series record year - and we surpassed our own expectations for the first full month of C-MAX Hybrid sales."

Combined sales Focus, all-new C-MAX Hybrid and Fiesta sales surged 54% to 25,493 vehicles in October, making it the automaker's best October small car sales month since 2001.

Among utilities, Escape sales rose 4.1% to 19,832 vehicles, while explorer sales surged 12.9% to 13,538 vehicles.

Sales of Ford's F-Series truck, America's best-selling truck for 35 years in a row and America's best-selling vehicle, car or truck, for 30 straight years, rose 7.6% to 56,497 units in October, its 15th straight month of sales increases.

Ford was less ravaged by the recession than most of its peers. The company also did not have to restructure with federal assistance. The automaker has reported a profit for each of its last thirteen quarters. The company has also reinstated its quarterly stock dividend. However, the automaker's profit has declined in the last three quarters due to weakness in Europe.

Earlier this week, Ford reported third quarter profit that edged down 1.2% from last year, as record results in North America and continued solid performance from Ford Credit were just more than offset by weakness in Europe and South America.

Ford said last month that it planned to close three European facilities, relocating production of key products for a more efficient manufacturing footprint, significantly improved plant utilization and work force reductions. The company is projecting profitability in Europe by mid-decade.

Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally plans to stay in his position through at least 2014, the company said Thursday. The company has also appointed Mark Fields as its new chief operating officer, effective December 1.

Chrysler Group LLC , majority-owned by Italian carmaker Fiat SpA (FIATY.PK) , reported that its U.S. vehicle sales for the month of October increased 10% to 126,185 units from 114,512 units in the prior year month.

Chrysler's car sales for the month rose 18% to 38,455 units, while truck sales grew 7% to 87,730 units. FIAT Brand sales surged 89% to 3,720 units in October, while Chrysler Brand sales increased 5% to 22,222 units.

Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., a division of Toyota Motor Corp. (TM), said that its U.S. vehicle sales for October rose 15.8% year-over-year to 155,242 units.

Among other automakers reporting U.S. sales Thursday, Nissan North America Inc., a unit of Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (NSANY.PK), reported October U.S. sales of 79,685 units, down 3.2% from 82,346 units a year earlier. Total car sales for the month fell 0.2% to 52,138 units, while total truck sales slipped 8.4% to 27,547 units. Total Nissan Division sales for the month decreased 6.0%, while total Infiniti Division sales rose 27.6%.

GM shares are currently trading at $25.43, down 7 cents, while Ford shares are currently trading at $11.05, down 11 cents or 1.03%.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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