October 2013 Auto Sales: Winners and Losers

By | November 01, 2013
Last month threw the auto industry a giant curveball with the shutdown of the U.S. government. Overall, October sales were slightly below expected, dipping to an annual rate of 15.3 million vehicles, according to Reuters. While consumer confidence may have dwindled in October, many automakers managed to make considerable gains during the final month before the holiday sales rush. Meanwhile, other contenders who typically post strong sales floundered. Here is a look at the winners and losers for October 2013.
Winner: Maserati (+186%)

Maserati managed to triple its sales in North America last month, showing strong growth. The automaker reached 623 units, up 186 percent in the U.S. Year to date, Maserati has been able to increase sales 29 percent and has already surpassed its yearly sales from 2012. Maserati attributes its success to the addition of the all-wheel drive Quattroporte S Q4, which has been attracting consumers from cold weather states. Also adding to sales is Maserati's rapidly expanding dealer network of 77 locations across the continent.

Winner: Lincoln (+38%)
Now here is a surprise: Sales at the struggling Lincoln brand have skyrocketed. The brand has typically underperformed Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and other key rivals as it struggles to create a consistent image. But this month, the MKZ midsize sedan lured in 2,909 buyers, up 80 percent from the previous year. This model has reached record sales for six of the last seven months, but an aggressive TV ad strategy that launched earlier this month may have helped spur sales further. Still, Lincoln will have to continue its recent success to catch up, since overall year-to-date sales are still down 3 percent.
Winner: Subaru (+32%)
Subaru is also up by a significant amount. Thanks to its strong October sales, it has already surpassed total sales for last year with two months to spare. The redesigned Forester SUV attracted many buyers, up 137 percent from last year. Even bigger gains went to the XV Crosstrek, which is becoming a major player in the popular small crossover segment. We will wait to see how Subaru's sales are affected with the introduction of the XV Crosstrek Hybrid in December. Winner: Buick (+31%)  
Buick also surprised us this month. This brand posted the biggest gains of any GM label. It was up 31 percent followed by GMC, which gained 16 percent; Chevrolet, which increased 15 percent; and Cadillac, up 10 percent.
Winner: Mercedes-Benz (+25.4%)
Mercedes-Benz retains its lead over BMW this year with a total of 245,125 sales so far. It performed well last month, rising over a quarter due to the rising demand for a number of its models. Once again, the sales "star" was the compact C-Class, followed by the E-Class. The third most popular model is the all-new CLA-Class, an entry level compact car that starts at less than $30,000. Sales of its BlueTEC diesel models were also solid, up 60 percent.

Loser: Volkswagen (-18%)

Volkswagen has had a string of bad sales months despite huge increases last year. Volkswagen's North American head Jonathan Browning said the U.S. government shutdown had some effects on sales for the first half of the month. However, many also attribute the sales drop to a lineup of outdated models. The only cars to post sales gains were the Volkswagen GTI and Beetle. Despite the setback, Volkswagen said it is still on track to sell 400,000 vehicles by the end of the year.
Loser: Smart (-48.6%)
Smart is continuing to have a hard time in the U.S. market. Only 513 cars were sold in the U.S. last month, down from nearly 1,000 the same month a year ago. For the year, Smart is down over 10 percent. And we can see why Smart is struggling: We haven't been very impressed with the Fortwo in our road tests.  
Loser: Kia (-6.4%) This one comes as a disappointment. Kia is introducing seven new redesigned or all new models this year, but its sales are down through the first ten months. Kia sold fewer Fortes, Optimas, Sorentos, and Sedonas last month than during the previous October. Sales of the Soul and Sportage remained strong. Kia is hoping to spark interest with new models such as the 2015 K900 luxury sedan that will debut at the L.A. Auto Show this month.