DETROIT – The worst U.S. sales slump in recent Ford Motor Co. history may finally be screeching to a halt.
In November, Ford's sales including its European luxury brands totaled 182,096, 0.6 percent higher than last November's sales of 180,947 vehicles. The November tally is Ford's first sales increase since October 2006.
But dont pop those champagne corks just yet. For the rest of the industry, November was a mixed bag. GM reported an 11 percent decline and Chrysler posted a 2 percent decline. Toyota, VW, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai all posted gains.
All told, the industry reported total sales of 1,180,269 vehicles, down 1.6 percent from November 2006. For the first 11 months of the year, the industry has sold 14,763,831 vehicles, a decline of 2.4 percent from the same period last year.
Ten automakers reported higher sales in November, while six others posted lower numbers over a year ago.
Fords sales increase didnt come at the all-important retail level. It was driven primarily by a rise in commercial and government fleet sales, said George Pipas, Fords sales analysis and reporting manager. Retail sales suffered as consumer confidence, falling home prices and high food and fuel costs converged to keep consumers from showrooms, according to Ford economist Emily Kolinski Morris.
For the first 11 months of 2007, Fords sales dropped 12.1 percent to 2,348,278 vehicles, compared with 2,670,398 vehicles sold during the same 11 months of 2006.
In January, Ford said it expected to post lower sales all this year as it weaned itself off profit-draining sales to daily rental car fleets and while it brought production in line with demand.
Ford said the November gain was driven by sales of the new Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers. The Ford Focus car posted an 18 percent sales gain, while sales of the Ford Fusion sedan were up 39 percent, Ford said.
Continuing to deliver more quality products that people really want and carefully gauging customer demand in the months ahead will help ensure we stay on track with our plans, said Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, said in a prepared statement.
- Toyota sales were up slightly, mirroring the trend of basically flat sales this fall. Toyotas overall sales, including Lexus and Scion, were 197,188, the companys best November ever. That's up 0.3 percent from sales of 196,696 in November 2006. Toyota's sales for the year are up 3.6 percent.
But Toyota hit a few potholes last month. Sales of the new Tundra pickup fell.
Toyota hinted that it might boost incentives on the big truck so that it can meet its goal of 200,000 sales this year.
We use incentives tactically to offer reasons to buy Toyotas at certain times of the month, said Bob Carter, Toyota division general manager in a conference call Monday with reporters. We still expect to sell 200,000 Tundras this year. Its going to be close. For that to happen, Toyota will need to sell 22,664 Tundras in December.
Lexus sales also were down in November, but the luxury division remains on track for a record year.
- Chrysler LLC saw its sales dip 2.1 percent. But there were a few bright spots. Chryslers new Town & Country minivan and Sebring notched gains of 10 percent and 15 percent respectively over last year. The Charger and Nitro helped the Dodge brand to a 6 percent gain over year-ago sales. Chrysler, for the year, has posted a 3.4 percent decrease in U.S. sales.
- General Motors snapped a three-month winning streak in November with a decline of 11.0 percent. GM said lower sales were due to a cutback of more than 14,000 in sales to low-profit rental fleets and soft consumer demand. In November, GM delivered a total of 261,273 vehicles, down from 293,558 last November.
For the year, GM sales are off 6.1 percent compared with the same period last year.
But not all the news from GM was bad. GMs newest vehicles are sprinting out of the starting gate. In its first full month on the market, the redesigned Chevrolet Malibu posted a 40 percent increase in sales over last year. The revamped Cadillac CTS is up 15 percent.
Three new crossovers the Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia sold accounted for more than 13,000 sales combined and continue to be some of the hottest vehicles in the industry. Even GMs long-suffering Pontiac division showed signs of a pulse in November with a gain of about 8 percent.
We had three straight months of retail and total sales increases and November turned out to be a weak seasonal month over the last few years, said Mark LaNeve,GMs vice president of vehicle sales, service and marketing.
You get into the first full month of October and the new models and you push some business into December as people wait for sales.
- Honda sales, on the strength of the fuel efficient Fit and newly restyled Accord, jumped 4.7 percent. The Japanese automaker has posted a 3.1 percent gain for the year.
- Hyundai group, which includes Kia Motors, sold 56,060 vehicles in November, up 10.7 percent from November 2006. For the year, Hyundai is up 2.9 percent from the period a year ago.
- Nissan posted a gain of 6.1 percent over a year ago mostly due to two new vehicles, the Rogue small SUV and the revamped Altima coupe and sedan. Rogue tallied November sales of 5,650 units in its second month on the market.
The Altima had its best November ever with sales of 19,811 units. Sales at Nissans Infiniti luxury division inched ahead 2.1 percent over a year ago. Nissans November sales, including Infiniti, were 80,864, up from 76,015 a year ago.
For the year, Nissan sales are up 5.5 percent from 2006.
Ryan Beene, Mark Rechtin and Jamie LaReau contributed to this report