U.S. auto sales drop 6 percent despite discounts, GM off 1.7 percent

November 1, 2016 9:43 AM EDT

Automobiles are shown for sale at a car dealership in Carlsbad, California, U.S. May 2, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake


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By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - U.S. auto sales fell an estimated 6 percent in October despite increased consumer discounts on many popular models, as the trend toward pickup trucks and SUVs continued, automakers and WardsAuto reported on Tuesday.

WardsAuto, an auto industry publication, showed sales at 17.9 million on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, including an estimate of sales by No. 2 U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co (NYSE: F), which will report later this week.

General Motors Co (NYSE: GM) October sales fell a less-than-forecast 1.7 percent. Sales of its smaller pickups and big SUVs surged while sedan sales fell.

Judy Wheeler, U.S. vice president of Nissan brand sales for Nissan Motor Co <7201.T> said favorable economic factors point to strong sales in the remainder of 2016. This year is likely to end slightly below last year's record vehicle sales, she said, which analysts said was the peak of a recovery from the 2008-2009 economic crisis.

TrueCar Inc said October incentives industrywide rose nearly 16 percent from a year earlier, to about $3,600 per new vehicle sold.

Among reasons for the October sales declines were "budget" buyers putting off new purchases or opting for used vehicles, said Michelle Krebs, analyst with online sales site Autotrader.com.

Automakers also said pent-up demand from the recession has been satisfied.

Comparisons to last October were pressured because of two fewer selling days from a year earlier.

Ford has not said on which day it will report sales. Industry analysts expected a drop of between 10 percent and 12 percent.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's (NYSE: FCAU) sales slid 10 percent, including a rare decrease for its Jeep SUV brand, which declined 7 percent.

Until a few years ago Honda Motor Co <7267.T> predominantly sold sedan and hatchback cars but last month it sold 5,000 more trucks and SUVs than cars. Honda's U.S. sales fell 4.4 percent.

Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T>, the third-largest manufacturer in the U.S. market by sales, showed October sales down 8.7 percent.

Nissan sales fell 2.2 percent, though sales of its SUVs and pickup trucks rose 13 percent.

GM's two full-size pickup trucks, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, collectively fell 7.6 percent.

GM's Chevrolet Tahoe, Suburban and GMC Yukon large SUVs collectively gained 69 percent versus a year ago.

Sales were helped by discounts on the 2016 model lineup but at the relatively high prices the big SUVs command, GM is still reaping significant profits on them, said Alec Gutierrez, analyst with Kelley Blue Book, an industry consultancy.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Andrew Hay and Meredith Mazzilli)



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