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On the radar: Motor vehicle sales back on track in November

Sales of motor vehicles rose to 17.1 million units (SAAR) in November, back on track after falling to 16.5 million units in October when the strike at GM depleted availability of some models.

Sales of passenger cars were up to 4.482 million units in November from 4.342 million units in October. Light trucks — which includes minivans, SUVS, and crossovers — were up to 12.609 million after 12.187 million units. Passenger cars remained at 26% of the market, the same as in October. Light trucks held on to the record high share of 74% of the market. The preference for vehicles in the light trucks category reflects that over time, automakers have responded to consumers’ tastes with improved performance, better equipment, and a range of sizes that traditional owners of passenger vehicles find attractive. Adding to that is a long period of relatively low and stable prices for motor fuels that makes the cost of ownership more affordable.

Sales of domestically produced motor vehicles — no matter whether owned by a foreign or US company — were at 13.3 million units in November after 12.7 million in October.

The rebound in November should help boost the dollar value of motor vehicle sales in the retail sales report when that data is released on Friday, November 13 at 8:30 ET. In combination with solid consumer holiday spending, it should help raise expectations for growth in the fourth quarter GDP numbers.

Sales of heavy trucks improved to 561,000 units in November after 527,000 in the prior month. Unless purchases of vehicles for businesses pick up significantly in December, this aspect of investment in equipment is going to remain soft for fourth quarter GDP.

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