Chrysler sets record for the month; Ford stays flat; GM says sales up 5%

Chrysler Group LLC said it sold 11,310 Toledo-built Wranglers last month, up 14 percent from October 2011
Chrysler Group LLC said it sold 11,310 Toledo-built Wranglers last month, up 14 percent from October 2011

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.

Chrysler Group LLC set a new October sales record for the Jeep Wrangler and three other vehicles as overall sales increased 10 percent over last year to 114,512.

The automaker said it sold 11,310 Toledo-built Wranglers last month, up 14 percent from October, 2011. For the year, Chrysler has sold 119,787 Wranglers.

Also setting October sales records were the Jeep Patriot, the Fiat 500, the Dodge Avenger, and the Dodge Journey.

Jeep Liberty sales fell considerably last month. The automaker said it sold 4,099 Liberty vehicles in October, down 32 percent from the year prior. The vehicle, which was built in Toledo, has been out of production for 2-1/2 months now, though dealers still have new vehicles on their lots. Chrysler is expected to unveil the Liberty’s successor, which is unnamed but will also be built in Toledo, in the coming months.

“In spite of Hurricane Sandy, Chrysler Group posted its best October sales since 2007 and we achieved our 31st consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth,” said Reid Bigland, Chrysler’s head of U.S. sales.

Ford Motor Co. said its sales were mostly unchanged from a year ago, at 168,456. The automaker said it had its best October for small-car sales in 11 years, selling 25,493 of its Focus, Fiesta, and new C-MAX Hybrid.

General Motors said its sales rose about five percent to nearly 196,000 vehicles for the month, led by the Cruze and Sonic small cars. Cruze sales were up 34 percent, while Sonic sales rose 43 percent.

Toyota said its sales rose almost 16 percent for the month, while Volkswagen reported another strong month with sales up 22 percent. Honda sales slowed from double-digit growth earlier in the year to 8.8 percent.

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

Yet the results show that Americans continue to buy new vehicles 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 that the storm cut U.S. sales by about 20,000 cars and trucks in October as buyers hunkered down for the storm.

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

He also said there were a “significant number” of vehicles damaged by flood waters, and that also could boost sales in November. “Typically after the insurance companies come in, people use those proceeds to buy new vehicles, which they need to get back and forth to continue their lives,” Mr. Czubay said.