US auto sales extend gains despite government shutdown

The US auto industry extended its steady gains in October despite economic uncertainty caused by a government shutdown.

Chicago: The US auto industry extended its steady gains in October despite economic uncertainty caused by a government shutdown.

Total industry sales rose 11 percent in October while the sales pace came in at an adjusted, annualized rate of 15.2 million vehicles. That was the weakest pace since April, but it remained well above the historic lows posted in the lengthy recession which followed the 2008 financial crisis, according to Autodata.

"Pent-up demand remains a powerful driver of new-car activity, and it should continue for the rest of the year and well into 2014," said Karl Brauer, an auto analyst with Kelley Blue Book.

General Motors, Ford and Chrysler posted double-digit rises from October 2012 sales while sales at Japanese rivals Toyota and Honda grew more modestly. Volkswagen bucked the trend with a double-digit dive.

Weekly data suggested that consumers "started to get jittery" toward the end of the October 1-16 partial federal government shutdown over a budget impasse, which saw hundreds of thousands of federal employees laid off with no certainty of being paid, said Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell.

But sales soon recovered when the government got back to work on October 17 and back pay was assured.

GM`s sales rose 16 percent to 226,402 vehicles in October and were also up 16 percent for the year to date.

"The sales tempo really picked up after the government shutdown ended," GM sales chief Kurt McNeil said in a statement.

"We are particularly pleased with our truck momentum."

Ford posted its best October retail sales since 2004 while total sales, which include fleet sales, rose 14 percent to 191,985 vehicles. Its sales for the first 10 months of the year were up 12 percent.

"October was simply an outstanding retail performance, as consumers continued to choose Ford for great fuel efficiency, styling and value at all levels of the market," Ford sales chief John Felice said in a statement.

Chrysler`s sales rose 11 percent to 140,083 vehicles in its best October performance since 2007.

The third-largest US automaker has now posted 43 consecutive months of sales gains and its sales are up nine percent for the year to date.

"After a choppy start to the beginning of the month, Chrysler Group sales accelerated in the second half of the month with renewed consumer confidence and the launch of our all-new Jeep Cherokee," Chrysler sales chief Reid Bigland said.

Toyota`s sales rose nine percent to 168,976 vehicles in October and were up eight percent for the year to date.

"Consumers showed resiliency in October with steady auto sales despite headwinds caused by the government shutdown," said Bill Fay, general manager and group vice president.

"The growth in the auto industry continues to play a leading role in the economic recovery, and Toyota is on track for a strong close to the year."

Honda`s sales rose seven percent to 114,538 vehicles in October and were up nine percent for the year to date.

"Despite consumer uneasiness early in the month, real demand remains strong across the Honda brand and we remain on track to achieve number-one retail sales this year for our core models: Civic, Accord, CR-V and Odyssey," said American Honda sales chief John Mendel.

"With the all-new Accord Hybrid arriving at dealerships this week and a significantly updated Civic coming later in the year, we anticipate sales will continue to be hot even as the weather cools down heading into winter."

Nissan sales jumped 14 percent to 91,018 vehicles in October and were up 11 percent for the year to date for Japan`s number-two automaker.

Germany`s Volkswagen saw sales drop 18 percent in October to 28,129 vehicles, settling into what it described as a "new plateau."

"After more than doubling our sales over the past three years, it is a significant recognition of the strength of our products that we are on course to close out a second consecutive year with over 400,000 vehicles delivered for the first time in 40 years," said Jonathan Browning, head of Volkswagen Group of America.

VW`s sales for the year-to-date were down four percent at 342,962.