| 4:42 PM EST

U.S. Car Sales Climb 7% in October

Second month of growth bolsters cautious optimism


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Monthly retail car sales in the U.S. are headed for their second consecutive year-on-year gain.

October sales are expected to climb 7%, according to LMC Automotive and J.D. Power. That will translate to an annualized rate of 15.9 million units. U.S. deliveries last year totaled 17.1 million light vehicles.

Big seller: the Ford 150 Series pickup (Image: Ford)

It’s Back!

The back-to-back monthly increases prove the U.S. auto market has rebounded—at least on the retail side—in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. More important, it’s growing even with 9% lower sales incentives per transaction.

Power estimates that the average discount per sale this month was slightly below $3,700—or some $400 less than October last year. That’s a sharp drop from April, when carmakers spent an average of nearly $5,000 to jumpstart the market as states began lifting their pandemic stay-home orders.

LMC and Power note that the average price per vehicle sale is on the rise too. The reason is the continuing boom in demand for higher-margin crossovers and pickup trucks. That’s good news for carmakers, since it means their retail sales revenue is stronger than the unit sales figures suggest.

The Dark Side

But the news is more somber on the fleet sale side of the U.S. market. As you might expect, deliveries to rental car companies and corporations are down significantly.

When October fleet and retail sales are combined, deliveries will come in at 1.32 million, down 5% below last year, Power and LMC say.

Results for November are likely to be muted too, but mainly because there will be four fewer selling days in the month this year.


Carmakers and analysts are cautiously optimistic. But they are reluctant to get too carried away by the early autumn sales surge.

Their cause for concern is obvious: What if rising COVID cases trigger a fresh round of market-numbing quarantine measures?

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