Fleet, SUV Sales Buoy November SAAR

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November’s seasonally adjusted annual rate of light vehicle sales climbed 1.2% year-over-year, to 17.5 million units, and that benefitted car manufacturers heavy with sport-utility vehicles in their product lineup.

“The car-to-SUV ratio, on the monthly sales, were about 70% light trucks, SUVs, van, and pickups, and only 30% cars,” Edmunds Data Strategy Manager Jeremy Acevedo told Auto Finance News. “We’re seeing companies like Chrysler, who a few years ago made the transition to being an SUV- and truck-heavy lineup, lean on their Jeep and Ram brands. That’s put them ahead of the pack as far as sales go.”

While monthly sales at Fiat Chrysler increased 17%, many of the largest OEMs saw sales drop. New-car sales at Nissan, which is grappling with the arrest of the company’s Global Chairman Carlos Ghosn, dropped 18.7% in November, exceeding both Edmunds and Cox Automotive sales projections of 16.3% and 15.4% declines, respectively.

“Nissan has a twofold issue: their transition to SUVs hasn’t been as smooth as other automakers’ — the transition for a traditionally car-heavy automaker has been tough,” Acevedo said. “Nissan’s incentive spending has been pretty high. Average incentive spending for the industry is $3,976, for Nissan they’re above that at $4,556.”

Meanwhile, fleet sales were the primary driver for Kia and Subaru’s year-over-year sales increases of 1.8% and 9.8%, respectively, Acevedo said.

“Industry-wide we’ve seen a lot more fleet sales than we have in the past, but I do think that’s sustaining these growth numbers a bit,” he said. “A lot of automakers would see an even steeper year-over-year decline if there weren’t fleet numbers buoying their sales in 2018.”

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