Black Friday deals and post-election confidence helped pull November U.S. auto sales out of their recent slump — and increased the chances that 2016 could set a record for new vehicle sales.
Total U.S. sales were expected to rise 4 percent for the month to 1.37 million units, according to Kelley Blue Book. That would be the highest November on record, beating the previous record of 1.32 million set in 2001.
General Motors’ sales jumped 10 percent over last November to 252,644. Its Buick, GMC and Cadillac brands all saw double-digit percentage increases in sales, while Chevrolet sales were up 8 percent.
Full-size SUVs were strong sellers; sales of the Cadillac Escalade were up 25 percent while sales of the Chevrolet Tahoe jumped 31 percent. Both vehicles are built at General Motors plant in Arlington.
Toyota Division General Manager Bill Fay said November sales were so good that the industry may even break last year’s sales record of 17.47 million.
“I think it will be right around last year’s record, maybe a little bit less,” Fay told The Associated Press in an interview in Detroit. “But I think either way everybody will sign up for a lifetime of this.”
Ford’s sales were up 5 percent, while Toyota and Hyundai both saw 4 percent sales increases. Honda’s sales were up 6.5 percent and Nissan’s sales rose 7.5 percent. Even Volkswagen, which has struggled all year because of its diesel cheating scandal, saw sales rise 24 percent.
Fiat Chrysler bucked the trend, with sales falling 14 percent as it made big cuts in sales to rental car companies. Other automakers were expected to report sales later Thursday.
Higher incentives enticed buyers who sat out much of the fall. July was the last month that sales increased year-over-year.
The average discount per vehicle last month was near $4,000, up by $600 from the same month last year, said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president for forecasting at the consulting firm LMC Automotive.
Automakers and dealers have always flooded the airwaves with holiday ads in December. But Black Friday is taking on increasing importance. Since 2013, sales during the weekend after Thanksgiving have been nearly double the sales during a typical November weekend, according to car shopping site Edmunds.com. Prior to 2013, automakers only saw a 39 percent increase in sales that weekend.
“Dealers and automakers clearly have found a way in recent years to break through the Black Friday clutter and connect with more car shoppers,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ senior director of industry analysis. An offer for $10,000 bonus cash on a 2016 Kia K900 was among the Black Friday deals Edmunds cited.
Because automakers seem to be willing to discount, Schuster said the industry probably will have a strong December and likely will break last year’s record of just under 17.5 million U.S. sales.
“I don’t think they’re necessarily going to pull back with all the holiday deals in December,” Schuster said.
Consumers also had a newfound confidence after the tumultuous election. U.S. consumer confidence reached its highest point in nine years in November, according to the Conference Board. That’s a crucial factor for purchasing big-ticket items.
Toyota is expecting at least three more years of solid U.S. sales, barring some unforeseen political event, said Bob Carter, senior vice president of auto operations. Even if sales don’t match last year’s record and are slightly below it, it’s still good business, he said, adding that the industry already has seen an unprecedented six years of growth.