Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai posted higher U.S. sales in November behind stronger light-truck demand, a signal the industry is heading into December, a key month for volume, with some renewed momentum after October's pause.
At Toyota Motor, sales last month rose 9.2 percent. Volume increased 8.4 percent to a November record of 177,764 at the Toyota division and 14 percent at Lexus. Overall, Toyota Motor's light-truck deliveries rose 11 percent while car demand jumped 6.2 percent.
Honda Motor deliveries jumped 11 percent—it's second double-digit gain of the year—behind a 12 percent increase at the Honda division and a 3.1 percent rise in Acura volume. Honda Motor's car sales rose 2.2 percent while light-truck demand surged 18 percent.
An expanded crossover lineup and 19 percent increase in retail deliveries drove Hyundai to another U.S. sales gain in November with volume rising 6.2 percent to 60,601.
The brand's sales have increased 15 out of the last 16 months.
Hyundai said its retail gains last month were led by four core crossovers: Santa Fe (up 26 percent), Tucson (up 31 percent), and Kona (up 39 percent), and demand for the new three-row Palisade crossover, with more than 5,000 retail units sold, a 21 percent increase over October. The entry-level Venue crossover made its showroom debut with 290 deliveries last month.
Hyundai said fleet shipments fell 33 percent in November, representing 15 percent of total volume.
Overall, industry sales are forecast to rise slightly in November, according to J.D. Power-LMC and ALG forecasts, helped by an extra sales day and weekend, heavy holiday promotions and rising incentives that reached record levels during the month.
General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles report U.S. sales results on a quarterly basis; Tesla releases global deliveries once a quarter.
Cox Automotive expects deliveries to drop slightly, though strong fleet sales could result in an overall gain.
"GM fleet activity, and likely some retail, was significantly lower in October by tens of thousands of units as factory closures disrupted deliveries," said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox Automotive. "The question for the market (in November) is whether these sales were simply delayed, replaced or canceled."
Industry sales slipped 1.8 percent in October for a 1.6 percent decline through 10 months, the Automotive News data center estimates. Higher fleet deliveries have offset a decline in retail volume in 2019.
The seasonally adjusted, annualized rate of sales is forecast to come in at 16.9 million to 17.5 million, a rebound from October's 16.55 million pace hampered by a 40-day strike at GM. The SAAR tallied 17.5 million in November 2019. The SAAR topped 17 million five of the first 10 months this year.
J.D. Power and LMC estimate average incentive spending was on pace to reach $4,538 per vehicle last month, an increase of more than 12 percent from November 2018 and the first time discounts topped $4,500.
ALG estimates average November incentives rose 1.2 percent to $3,759, with the biggest discounts among major auto makers offered by the Detroit 3, Daimler, BMW and Nissan. Many Honda dealers dangled red-tag discounts on older new vehicles and Buick offered 20 percent off MSRP.
The increase in incentive spending is being driven by record levels of older-model vehicles still lingering on dealer lots, analysts say.
Discount spending on 2020 model-year vehicles was on pace to reach $3,723 in November, an increase of nearly 13 percent from a year ago, J.D. Power and LMC said.