The Washington Post

Holiday weekend gives a boost to auto sales

Americans proved last month that they’re head over heels about small SUVs and that they wanted to buy more than video-game consoles and big-screen TVs on Black Friday.

November auto sales rose 9 percent over last year, with a solid piece of the gains coming over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Sales ran at an annual pace of 16.4 million cars and trucks last month, the best in almost seven years.

The numbers provided further evidence that the small SUV is replacing the car as the vehicle of choice for families and baby boomers.

Erich Merkle, Ford’s top sales analyst, said the small SUVs gained two percentage points of market share in November compared with last year, while small and midsize cars lost two points combined.

Compact SUVs such as the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V make up 15.5 percent of U.S. sales. Through November, Americans bought more than 1.8 million of them, a 21 percent increase from a year ago.

“The compact SUVs are the perfect functional family vehicle of today,” said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for the auto-pricing Web site. “They provide a lot of car for your money, better gas mileage than larger SUVs. They actually are fashionable nowadays.”

Also popular in November were Black Friday deals, traditionally a mainstay for chain stores and technology retailers.

Toyota said that more than 25 percent of its sales came over the holiday weekend. General Motors said Black Friday is “obviously becoming a bigger go-to-market strategy in automotive, a little more consistent with other industries.”

Dealers said November sales started slowly but rose after Thanksgiving.

“Black Friday did give us a lift,” said Bill Perkins, president of two Chevrolet dealerships in the Detroit suburbs of Taylor and Eastpointe.

Americans’ willingness to spend on big-ticket items such as automobiles, even with the deals, could indicate that conditions are improving for consumers.

“The economy is creating jobs and household wealth,” said Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. sales chief. “Energy costs are dropping and credit is available and affordable. All of this bodes well for future growth.”

The future looks especially promising for the small SUV category.

The CR-V led the segment with 23,509 sold, up 5 percent, to set a second-straight monthly record. RAV4 sales rose 57 percent, to 19,447. The all-new Jeep Cherokee sizzled, topping 10,000 in sales during its first full month on the market.

Last month’s overall sales of 1.25 million cars and trucks came in stronger than many analysts had predicted. Many automakers reported their best November in at least six years.

Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of auto sales forecasting for LMC Automotive, expects 2013 to end with sales of about 15.6 million, rising 3 percent to 16.1 million next year. That’s almost back to pre-recession levels and far above the recent low of 10.4 million in 2009.

— Associated Press



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