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Ford Leads Truck Boom as US Auto Sales Seen Beating Estimates

Nov. 1, 2017
People are back to work and construction activity is up, which is good for truck sales.

U.S. automakers saw booming demand for their big-ticket pickup models last month, led by Ford Motor Co.’s F-Series truck line, as General Motors Co. predicted a surprise uptick in total industry sales.

Ford F-Series deliveries surged 16% for their best October since 2004, and the automaker’s total U.S. sales beat analysts’ estimates. Demand also jumped for GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s Ram pickup models.

The strong showing for trucks is a positive indicator both for carmaker profits and the U.S. economy. Companies added more workers than forecast to U.S. payrolls last month as employment in the construction industry -- a sector closely tied to pickup sales -- climbed to the highest in more than a decade. Automakers also are benefiting from consumers in Texas, the nation’s top truck market, continuing to replace vehicles damaged by Hurricane Harvey.

“We did see continued hurricane replacement at the beginning of the month,” Michelle Krebs, an analyst at car-shopping website Autotrader, said by phone. “The economic factors are also in trucks’ favor. People are back to work and construction activity is up, which is good for truck sales.”

GM predicted the industry sold vehicles at an annualized rate of 18 million last month, better than the highest analyst estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. Analysts had estimated October industry sales probably ran at about a 17.6 million annualized pace, which would be the second-best month this year but still down from October 2016.

“We are heading into the fourth quarter with good momentum, thanks to a strong U.S. economy and very strong pickup and crossover sales,” Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of GM’s sales operations, said in a statement. “Small business optimism has also stayed very high since last fall, and that bodes well for pickup and van sales.”

Nissan Motor Co. posted a surprise gain in total U.S. sales last month, as deliveries for its Titan truck model surged 29%. Toyota Motor Corp. reported a smaller total sales increase than analysts were projecting, though deliveries of the full-size Tundra model rose 5.1%.

By Jamie Butters and Keith Naughton

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