Top 10 Best-Selling Cars: October 2015

15_Ram1500_ES.jpg 2015 Ram 1500; | photo by Evan Sears

October sales should have automakers grinning like trick-or-treaters counting their candy. Shoppers drove six of the biggest seven automakers to double-digit sales gains, and nine of the top 10 best-selling cars for the month had sales increases. Importantly, October’s numbers aren’t buoyed — as September’s were — by an extra holiday weekend.

Related: Top 10 Best-Selling Cars: September 2015

With the largest seven automakers reporting, October’s new-car sales gained 13.7 percent versus October 2014. Shoppers drove full-size pickup trucks to a modest 4.3 percent growth, and that came as the Ford F-Series and GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra had lower cash incentives versus a year ago, according to Automotive News. Here are the top 10 best-selling cars in October 2015:

October_Sales_Chart.jpg chart by Paul Dolan |

Among other mainstream segments, strong popularity persists for midsize pickups (up 30.8 percent) and compact SUVs (up 25.7 percent). Subcompact SUVs, meanwhile, drew more attention than the house with king-sized candy bars on Halloween. The segment gained 157.1 percent in October, though most of that comes from new products. Next year’s sales will give a better picture of whether subcompact SUVs have sustainable interest or are just a flash in the pan.

Subcompact sedans and hatchbacks, meanwhile, were the proverbial homes that handed out apples or toothbrushes, falling 7.2 percent for the month. Compacts (up 3.1 percent) saw a few more shoppers, while midsize family cars (up 11.3 percent) gained significant popularity as cars like the Kia Optima, Volkswagen Passat and Chevrolet Malibu found substantially more buyers.

The Chevrolet Malibu more than doubled its sales despite year-over-year incentives falling slightly. The gains (up 122.1 percent) come versus a weak October 2014, but even then, the Malibu’s nearly 25,000 sales signal strong popularity for the nameplate. And this is before the redesigned 2016 Malibu hits dealerships.

Then there’s the Passat, up 24.6 percent despite Volkswagen’s current diesel crisis. October is the first full month of sales since the crisis began on Sept. 18, and this month’s results aren’t distorted by comparisons to an unusual year-ago month.

Volkswagen-brand sales were roughly flat as models affected by the diesel crisis had mixed sales results. The Golf and Passat had double-digit gains; the Beetle and Jetta had big losses. Did the automaker offer massive deals to keep the metal moving? October incentives data is pending, but September, a month with nearly two weeks of the diesel crisis, increased by $784 per car, according to Motor Intelligence.

Volkswagen is reportedly offering big discounts now as the crisis rolls on, but average transaction prices for core models affected by the diesel crisis — the Golf, Passat, Beetle and Jetta — stayed steady throughout the month.

Still, flat sales in an industry that’s up by double digits is a lot of lost market share. The industry’s strength comes as the economy picks up steam, with months of strength in the housing market and consumer confidence. Shoppers also have a little more in their paychecks, with income growth resuming its usual pace in the third quarter after a weak spring, according to the government figures. Combine that with a rising tide of average incentives over the past few months and shoppers have pushed new-car sales to some of their best post-recession numbers this fall.

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