The grille of a Fiat automobile. Bill Pugliano, Getty Images

Fiat Chrysler Sales Drop 13% as US Auto Demand Seen Slipping

The worse-than-expected performance for Fiat Chrysler comes even as manufacturers crank up incentives heading into the end of the year to clear outgoing models from dealer lots.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s U.S. sales fell more than expected last month, driven by a dramatic drop in deliveries to fleet customers.

The Italian-American automaker said sales dropped 13% in October, trailing the 12% average estimate among analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Deliveries to fleet buyers, which include rental car companies and are typically discounted, plunged 43%.

The worse-than-expected performance for Fiat Chrysler comes even as manufacturers crank up incentives heading into the end of the year to clear outgoing models from dealer lots. Continued demand to replace cars and trucks damaged by hurricanes — particularly in Texas and Florida — also supported industry sales.

“Some of the strength can be attributed to replacement demand that continues in Texas and Florida, but perhaps more importantly, higher incentive spend is playing a role,” Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said in an email ahead of the sales results. “This is an indicator that new-vehicle demand is still contracting, and production cuts could be on the horizon to prevent oversupplies.”

Industrywide, October sales probably ran at about a 17.6 million annualized pace. That would be 2017’s second-best month, behind only September, but still down from last year’s rate. 

Among the biggest automakers, only Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co. were expected to report increases in October sales. Volkswagen AG, the world’s biggest automaker, may report a rise in combined sales for its VW and Audi brands as it continues to try to put its diesel emissions-cheating scandal in the past.

By Jamie Butters

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