November New Car Sales Dip amid Fewer Selling Days, but Recovery Goes On

Photo credit: David Zalubowski via AP
Photo credit: David Zalubowski via AP

From Car and Driver

  • November new-vehicle sales saw an overall decline year over year, but much of it was attributable to the low number of selling days in November.

  • Toyota and Hyundai both saw sales decline based on volume, but when adjusted for the daily selling rate, the automakers saw their sales increase in November as compared to last year.

  • Despite the negative data, the auto industry is continuing its improvement from lows in April as a result of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

November new-vehicle sales numbers are rolling in, and at first glance, the results would suggest that the consistent recovery we've seen since sales bottomed out in April has ended. Compared with November 2019, Toyota saw sales drop 1 percent, Hyundai had sales fall 9 percent, and Mazda's sales were down 10.8 percent.


Without adjusting for number of selling days, J.D. Power projects, November sales fell 14.6 percent year over year. Yet, November 2020 had three fewer selling days—for just 23 in total—than November of last year, along with one less weekend. Adjusting for those factors, J.D. Power estimated that November sales dropped just 3.5 percent.

"November 2020 is a prime example of why accounting for selling day differences is important in measuring comparable sales performance," Thomas King, president of the data and analytics division at J.D. Power, said in a note. "After two consecutive months of year-over-year retail sales gains, a quirk in the November sales calendar will result in new-vehicle retail sales appearing to fall 12 percent."

Toyota’s sales fell in November, but on a daily-selling-rate basis—which takes into account the discrepancy of selling days in November—Toyota’s sales were up 12.6 percent as compared to last year. Toyota's trucks and SUVs showed particular strength with the divisions seeing sales jump by 14.1 and 12.6 percent, respectively, based on daily selling rate. Just based on volume, truck sales grew 1 percent while SUV sales fell 0.6 percent. The Highlander, 4Runner, and Tacoma showed particular strength, as well as the Camry among the car division.

Ford, which returned to releasing monthly sales figures in October, saw sales drop 20.9 percent in November as compared to last year. Ford's formidable trucks division also took a 20.9 percent drop in sales, with F-150 sales falling 45.9 percent; the automaker faulted low inventories and the transition to the new F-150 as the reasons why sales fell. Ford SUVs fell by 16.1 percent, but the Explorer's sales grew by 21.9 percent, a sign that Ford's most popular SUV has recovered since its launch back in early 2019.

Hyundai's sales followed a similar trajectory as Toyota's: the Korean automaker saw its sales climb 4 percent on a daily-selling-rate basis. Based solely on volume, the Kona, Palisade, and Sonata all had sales jump in November as compared to last year. The Kona’s sales grew by 43 percent, the Palisade’s by 22 percent, and the Sonata's by 39 percent.

Honda's sales fell by 23.4 percent in November, but on a daily selling rate basis, fell by 13.4 percent. Honda's trucks division showed more strength than the cars division, falling by 21 percent and 26.9 percent, respectively. Despite the shortened month, the Passport and Pilot showed only small declines, as well as the Acura ILX and MDX.

Transaction-Price Rise Helped Automakers

Overall, although sales did fall in the month of November, automakers benefited from a year-over-year increase in the average transaction price of new vehicles. Average prices rose 1.3 percent as compared to last year, according to an estimate from Kelley Blue Book, with the largest price increases seen among Fiat Chrysler and General Motors vehicles.

"While the sales results illustrate the continued strength of consumer demand, that strength is further reinforced by transaction prices hitting another record high, even as manufacturers and retailers continue to remain disciplined on new-vehicle incentives and discounts," King added.

Mazda, which saw sales fall in November, posted an increase of 0.1 percent in sales on a daily-selling-rate basis; that increase in sales is bolstered by the CX-30, which was new last year and posted limited sales in November 2019. Mazda's two most popular models, the Mazda 3 and the CX-5, saw sales drop 17.5 and 1.7 percent based on daily selling rate last month. Based on volume, Subaru saw sales drop 11.4 percent in November but had strong sales of its Crosstrek and Outback. The Crosstrek had sales increase 23.7 percent and the Outback 3.5 percent.

Most monthly reporters have released their November sales results, while others, including General Motors, Nissan, Fiat Chrysler, and most European brands, only report quarterly sales.

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