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US: October Auto Sales Increase - 2001-11-05

Americans love a bargain. Despite terrorist attacks and anthrax scares, no-interest loans on new cars and trucks fueled U.S. auto sales figures in October that, in some cases, broke all-time records. In the days following the September 11 attacks, the major carmakers put zero-percent financing deals in place to lure buyers back to their showrooms. Those deals were so successful that General Motors and Ford posted record sales for trucks and passenger cars respectively.

General Motors saw an overall increase in October of 31 percent, with a 47 percent rise in truck sales. GM car sales were boosted by 15 percent. At Ford, overall sales were up 36 percent. Car sales rose by just over 40 percent and Ford trucks were up 34 percent. Their F-150 pickup truck and Focus small car set monthly records and their Explorer sport utility vehicle set a record for October.

Chrysler, as a group, was up five percent. Their car sales fell 1.5 percent, but trucks were higher by 7.2 percent. Even manufacturers who did not offer no-interest loans shared in the good times. The Korean brands saw the greatest increases. Hyundai sales jumped 85 percent and Kia enjoyed a 79 percent rise.

Japanese makers got in on the action, with Toyota showing a rise of more than 27 percent in October, while Nissan was up seven percent, and Subaru increased their year-to-year October sales by more than 12 percent. Mitsubishi had its best October ever in the United States, with a 17.6 per cent increase.

Among German brands, Volkswagen saw a 10.7 percent rise. But Mercedes-Benz dropped by three-tenths of a percent, although their c-class vehicles jumped by more than 56 percent.

While most carmakers are happy with their current sales, the no-interest financing is cutting sharply into their profits. Also, some analysts are worried that the present buying binge is bringing bargain hunters who would have purchased vehicles four or six months in the future. And they say that could result in a major slowdown in the car business next year.