Initial results for December auto sales indicate the industry may be headed toward recovery, as Chrysler, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Subaru all reported month-to-month increases in December.
On a year-over-year basis, Chrysler, Ford and Mercedes-Benz all experienced declines in volume, while Subaru reported a record-breaking year with a 15 percent increase in sales.
The uptick in December sales falls in line with forecasts made by analysts at J.D. Power and Associates and Edmunds.com.
Analysts at J.D. Power and Associates forecasted that December’s new-vehicle retail sales would hit 839,600 units, which represent a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 9.1 million units.
Analysts at Edmunds.com forecasted December total sales to hit 1.01 million units, a 13.3 increase from the year-ago period. They also predicted that December's seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) would be 11.11 million, up from 10.89 million in November 2009.
“We could potentially reach a December SAAR of 11.7 million units given the current site traffic trend,” noted Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell. “Our Website activity is through the roof, which makes sense as there are so many bargain-hunters scrambling to get year-end deals and cash in on the sales tax deduction opportunity that expires on December 31.”
While Web traffic was up across the board for manufacturers, Edmunds.com said some brands experienced better than average interest in the last four days of the year compared with the first three weeks of December. Here are some examples:
• BMW – Increase of nearly 70 percent; may be due to heavily publicized “BMW Joy Sales Event.”
• Chevrolet – Increase of nearly 85 percent; may be due to “Red Tag” event that includes “Holiday Cash.”
• Ford – Increase of nearly 100 percent; may be due to “Ford Year-End Sales Event.”
• Honda – Increase of nearly 100 percent; may be due to increased advertising of “Happy Honda Days.”
• Pontiac – Over ten times as much activity; may be due to media hype about close-out deals.
• Saturn – Nearly ten times as much activity; may be due to media hype about close-out deals.
The following are December sales reports for Chrysler, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Subaru:
Chrysler: Chrysler Group LLC reported total December 2009 U.S. sales of 86,523 units, a month-over-month increase of 36 percent and a year-over-year decline of 4 percent.
The company finished the year with 931,402 units sold, a decline of 36 percent compared with 2008.
Ford: Ford Motor Company posted December sales of 184,655 vehicles, up 32.8 percent from the year-ago period. Total year-to-date sales reached 1.62 million, down 15 percent from 2008.
Ford also posted its first full-year market share gain since 1995; December marks the 14th time in 15 months the manufacturer increased retail market share.
Ford, Lincoln and Mercury December sales totaled 179,017, up 33 percent versus a year ago.
Ford cars were up 42 percent, crossovers were up 51 percent, sport utilities were up 33 percent, and trucks and vans were up 18 percent. Among brands, Ford sales were up 37 percent, Lincoln sales were up 16 percent and Mercury sales were up 6 percent.
Mercedes-Benz: Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) reported December sales of 20,025 vehicles, the highest monthly volume of the year and up 8.2 percent from the year-ago period.
The manufacturer’s total 2009 volume was 190,604, down 15.3 percent from 2008.
Separately, through the Mercedes-Benz Certified Pre-Owned (MBCPO) program, MBUSA sold 5,098 vehicles in December 2009. This boosted the MBCPO year-end total to 71,886 units, an 11.2 percent increase over the annual sales record set last year.
Subaru: Subaru of America Inc. today announced a record breaking sales year as the company sold 216,652 units in 2009, an increase of 15 percent. This breaks the previous sales record of 200,703 units sold in 2006.
Subaru also had a record sales month for December 2009 with 23,074 units sold, an increase of 33 percent from 17,287 units sold in year-ago period.