U.S. November auto sales keep pace for record 2015

U.S. November auto sales keep pace for record 2015

© Joe Skipper / Reuters

DETROIT (Reuters) - Strong U.S. auto sales in November kept the industry on pace for a record year in 2015, helped by marketing promotions and strength in sport utility vehicles, according to monthly sales figures released by automakers on Tuesday.

U.S. auto sales last month rose 1.4 percent to 1.32 million vehicles, a whisper below the industry record for November in 2001.

On a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, however, last month was a record for any November at 18.19 million vehicles sold, partly due to fewer selling days this year, according to Autodata Corp.

Figures may be revised on Wednesday when Daimler AG issues Mercedes-Benz results, Autodata said.

Most analysts say 2015 sales will top the record of 17.35 million vehicles in 2000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Year-end holiday promotions were pushed into November as automakers emphasized Black Friday deals. Auto industry spending on television ads rose to $1.098 billion in the Oct 1 to Nov. 29 period, up nearly 25 percent from $880.3 million during the same period a year earlier, according to data provided by iSpot.tv, which tracks advertising on television.

“Black Friday has become a much bigger part of the auto industry over the last several years," said Nissan's U.S. sales chief, Dan Mohnke. "It used to be a nonautomotive retail holiday but now it is becoming more and more an automotive retail holiday as well, feeding right into the holiday season which traditionally has been December and luxury sales."

Now, the holiday season includes mainstream models as well as luxury ones, said Mohnke.

Jeff Schuster, forecaster for LMC Automotive, said promotions drew customers even if incentives did not rise sharply.

"Incentives were strong for the Black Friday weekend but I think it was more of the messaging than substance.”

GM's sales rose 1.5 percent. Like most automakers, GM showed gains for SUVs but losses for sedan sales.

Full-size pickup truck sales, combining the Chevrolet Silverado and GM Sierra, fell 6 percent, while sales of the Ford Motor Co F-Series pickups jumped 10 percent to 65,192. Ford said its F-150 pickup, usually two-thirds of its F-Series sales, set a record for November.

Ford sales rose 0.4 percent.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said its Ram pickup sales rose 2 percent.

Volkswagen AG's U.S. sales in November fell 25 percent as it coped with a scandal over diesel emissions cheating.

Last November, VW sold 5,462 diesel-powered models, which it has stopped selling due to the scandal. Before the crisis erupted in September, 21 percent of its U.S. sales in 2015 were cars with diesel engines.

Fiat Chrysler stretched its streak of consecutive months of year-over-year sales gains to 68 as its SUV brand Jeep showed sales up 20 percent.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Matthew Lewis and Andrew Hay)