Falling consumer confidence hasn't deterred car shoppers, as pent-up demand raised October sales versus a year ago for all but one major carmaker. Chrysler, Hyundai/Kia and Nissan posted big gains, with GM, Ford and Honda growing modestly. Toyota was the sole loser, dropping 7.9 percent in sales. Pickup trucks, typically strong in the fall, saw continued gains, but family sedans made a comeback, taking three of October's top five slots — something not seen since May.
Detroit pickups took the top two spots, with GM's Chevrolet Silverado and Ford’s F-Series posting some sales gains. The F-Series stayed atop the sales pile this month, comfortably outselling the No. 2 Chevrolet Silverado. Six-cylinder engines account for more than half of all F-150s sold, Ford sales chief Ken Czubay said in a conference call. It gives shoppers of the soon-to-be-discontinued Ranger a truck with similar gas mileage, he said.
Despite the 2012 redesign hitting dealerships last month, Toyota's popular Camry fell 11.9 percent — dethroned for the moment by the Honda Accord, down 1.1 percent. Accord inventory is only about half of what it was in October 2010, according to Automotive News.Bob Carter, Toyota's general manager, attributed lower Camry sales to a transition between selling off the outgoing 2011s and stocking enough 2012s, which isn't unusual during new model introductions. However, the process should be well along: In Cars.com's national new-car inventory, 81 percent of Camrys are 2012s.
The Ford Escape jumped 30.6 percent in sales despite lower dealer stocks and an aging design. Cash incentives on the Escape are high, amounting to $3,000 in some areas right now.
GM remained America's top-selling automaker last month. Ford came in second, with sales up 6.2 percent, buoyed by a 12.6 percent bump in the Ford brand itself. The automaker performed near analysts' expectations, which Bloomberg averaged to 6.6 percent.
Toyota sales fell 7.9 percent versus a year ago, leaving the automaker in third place. Analysts had expected a slightly greater drop of close to 10 percent. Honda fell 0.5 percent, matching analysts' expectations
In fourth place, Chrysler moved up 27 percent versus a year ago, matching analysts' expectations for the month, thanks to its revamped cars: the midsize Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger sedans, which increased 257 percent over their predecessors. Hyundai/Kia (up 22 percent) and Nissan/Infiniti (up 18 percent) round out October's top seven carmakers.