Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

U.S. sales healthy, despite superstorm

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DETROIT -- Most major automakers reported sales increases in October, despite losing at least three days of business to the punishing rain and wind from superstorm Sandy.

Toyota said its sales rose almost 16 per cent for the month, while Volkswagen reported another strong month with sales up 22 per cent. Honda sales slowed from double-digit growth earlier in the year to 8.8 per cent, while Chrysler sales rose 10 per cent, General Motors was up five per cent and Ford rose slightly.

Of major automakers, only Nissan reported a decrease, 3.2 per cent, as Sandy pounded the Northeast, the company's top-performing region.

Yet the results show Americans continue to buy new cars and trucks at a strong pace. Chrysler predicted an annual sales rate of 14.7 million for the U.S. industry in October, making it one of the year's strongest months. Auto sales ran at an annual rate of 14.3 million through September.

Industry analysts estimated the storm cut U.S. sales by about 20,000 cars and trucks in October as buyers hunkered down for the storm. But the Nissan brand, which gets 27 per cent of its U.S. sales from the Northeast, was hit particularly hard.

"It is absolutely a hurt on us," said Al Castignetti, vice-president of the Nissan division. As of Wednesday, 65 Nissan dealers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were closed due to lack of electricity, and they account for 40 per cent of the region's sales, Castignetti said.

Ford said Sandy probably cost the industry 20,000 to 25,000 sales for the month as buyers in the Northeast hunkered down for the storm at the end of the month.

In past storms, sales were postponed, but they typically recover quickly after people's lives stabilized, said Ford U.S. sales chief Ken Czubay.

Volkswagen said one-quarter of its dealerships were affected by the storm, but it still delivered its best October in nearly 40 years at just over 34,000 vehicles. Sales were led by the Passat mid-size sedan, which was up 66 per cent.

Chrysler said it sold 126,000 cars and trucks for the month, led by the Ram pickup, which was up 20 per cent, and the Dodge Caravan van, which saw sales rise 49 per cent.

At Ford, sales increased only 0.4 per cent to 168,000 cars and trucks. The company said F-Series pickup trucks, the most popular vehicle in the nation, had their best October in eight years.

At GM, sales rose to nearly 196,000 vehicles for the month, led by the Cruze and Sonic small cars. Cruze sales were up 34 per cent, while Sonic sales rose 43 per cent.

Industry analysts were expecting an annual sales rate in October of 14.7 million to 14.9 million, but that was before Sandy hit Monday.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 2, 2012 B8

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