Chrysler and Hyundai led the way for strong automotive sales in the United States in October, as sales continue to rebound from recession slumps, according to analysis from the Great American Group released Monday.
Mike Marchlik, the Great American Group's national sales and marketing director, said that 1.02 million new cars were sold in October, a seven percent increase from October 2010.
It marks another encouraging sign for the auto industry amid a still-gloomy economic forecast. Marchlik pointed to a number of factors -- the continuing economic crisis (especially throughout Europe), Hurricane Irene, Standard & Poor's downgrade of the U.S. credit rating and lower supplies in Japan -- as reasons for encouragement at the overall results. Albeit a somewhat tempered enthusiasm.
We've seen this trend all year, Marchlik said in a phone interview Monday with IBTimes. Because if you look at the year-over-year comparison, it has to go up at this point. The previous year's numbers are really beat up. The denominator was really low. Part of the reason for recovery is the fact that this past year was really low.
Still, jumps in sales were just one factor of a multitude of positive signs for the industry. Of auto sales, Chrysler and Hyundai saw the most impressive increases.
Chrysler's sales jumped 27 percent compared to 2010 levels, driven by what the Great American Group's report said were new products, improved marketing and a boost in popularity of current models. Hyundai sales ballooned 22 percent, due to an increase in supply.
Next month at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Chrysler will unveil a new version of its 300 series. Hyundai will introduce the 2012 Veloster, an all-new brand for 2012. The company will also reveal a new model of the Elantra.
Marchlik said he wasn't surprised with either of those two brands' big numbers. For example, he mentioned Hyundai's increased presence in the rental car market as a reason its brand has become more attractive to consumers.
If you rent a car, you'll see Hyundai all over the place, Marchlik said.
The good news in the auto industry follows the pattern throughout many of the industries that support it.
In the tire market, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company reported record third-quarter results, as sales flew up 19 percent to more than $1 billion. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company also reported record revenues.
The metal stamping market, in which companies manufacture metal parts such as quarter panels, bumpers and trim pieces, is slowly turning around with the auto industry, according to a November report from IBIS World. And the plastic injection molding industry, responsible for production of door handles, dashboards and steering wheels, has seen a similar fortune.
We've been seeing glimpses of this in all varieties of industries that are involved with the automotive side, Marchlik said. It's nice to see some figures where, on a unit basis, they're doing better. It's been building for a while, and we're really starting to see it now.
Another unfortunate factor in the U.S. sales uptick: the lingering effects of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Marchlik said it has slowed production of Japanese companies both overseas and at their U.S. plants. Toyota's plants in Kentucky and San Antonio, Texas, have only just started to rebound from that lull, he said, because even the routine shipping of parts became difficult.
That disruption fed the growth of manufacturers here in the U.S., Marchlik said.
Still, despite the positive signs, Marchlik remained tempered in his expectations as to whether these increases would become a trend.
The factors he mentioned above, the ones that have led to much unrest throughout the global economy, still need to clear up to precipitate more consumer confidence.
If you look [at] what's going on with Europe and what's going on in the news in general, all those things have to be cleared up, Marchlik said. There are so many other factors that are going to affect it. But it's certainly encouraging. It helps jobs, and it helps the economy. We need more of this type of news.
Also noticed in the study's research: Consumers are increasingly buying larger vehicles like SUVs and full-size pickups again and shifting away from smaller cars. The report said that October sales for the Ford F-Series, Chevy Silverado, Dodge Ram and GMC Sierra all improved, likely due to a decrease in crude oil prices from their peak of $109.53 per barrel in April.