Auto sales in the United States remained relatively stable in November with BMW and General Motors showing single-digit declines, Toyota a small increase, Ford with flat sales, but Chrysler a drop of 25 percent.
"We are seeing relative gains for the month of November," said Gary Dilts, senior vice president of automotive forecasting for J.D. Power & Associates in Troy, Mich. "Credit has loosened up. We are starting to see some leasing return. But paradise hasn't broken out. It's going to be slow grind."
The auto companies "have gone through a period of working down inventory, shutting down plants and now turning some of them back on," said Bruce Yandle, dean emeritus of Clemson University's College of Business and Behavioral Science. "Chrysler seems to be still hunting for the bottom. But the others appear to have balanced inventory with sales. It's a good sign, but it's at a low level."
BMW Group, which has a plant in South Carolina, also reported a November U.S. sales decline of 7.6 percent although the sales of its sports activity vehicles increased 11.5 percent. The X5 sports activity vehicle soared 41 percent during the month while the advanced diesel model accounted for a quarter of all the X5 sales during the month.
The X5 and X6 sports activity coupe, which experienced an increase in sales of 7.8 percent, are produced by BMW Manufacturing Co. at its Greer facility. The X3 SAV sales plummeted 64.2 percent in November. Production of the first generation of that vehicle is phasing out and production will be moved to the Greer facility next year.
Sales of BMW brand vehicles increased 3.2 percent to 15,709 in November compared with 15,217 a year ago. The Mini brand, however, sank 43.6 percent for the month.
"November gave us some reason for optimism as it's the second time in the last three months" that the BMW brand sales "showed a gain compared to the same month last year," said Jim O'Donnell, president of BMW of North America. "Overall, we believe that the premium segment is on its way back even though in t he early part of 2010, it will be a bit bumpy and uneven."
Chrysler said it sold only 63,560 vehicles last month, a decline of 25 percent, and it announced an array of sales incentives including zero percent financing and cash rebates designed to draw buyers into its showrooms.