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Most major auto markets experience decline in November sales

New vehicle sales in most major auto markets, including the U.S. and China, were down on a year-over-year basis in November, marred by regulatory changes, a trade war and a slowing economy.

Japan was the only major auto market that did not see a decline, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis.

US new vehicle sales drop in November

Most automakers posted a decline in U.S. new vehicle sales for November as SUVs and trucks continued to fare better than cars.

Karl Brauer, executive publisher at Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book said in a statement that the market continues to abandon cars, with "no end in sight," as buyers are mostly looking at trucks and SUVs.

"Generally speaking cars — and brands that depend heavily on cars — don't have a good story to tell," Brauer said, adding that this drove Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. to announce plans to reduce car production.

An S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis found that U.S. sales of new vehicles for the month hit a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 5.19 million units, coming in below the November 2017 figure of 6.03 million units.

"Car buyers got a bit of relief this month thanks to Black Friday deals, but an average interest rate above 6 percent is still a tough pill to swallow, especially for shoppers who might be coming back to the market after a number of years," Edmunds' manager of industry analysis, Jeremy Acevedo, said in a research statement.

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV posted a 17% year-over-year gain in sales led by its Jeep and Ram brands, while several other automakers posted declines. The company sold 181,310 vehicles during the month, up from 154,919 vehicles sold in November 2017.

Total sales of Fiat Chrysler's Jeep brand rose 12% to 73,784 vehicles in November. The company's Ram brand notched its best November sales ever with 57,970 units sold.

At Ford, U.S. sales in November declined 6.9% on a year-over-year basis, with a major decline in car sales. The company sold 196,303 vehicles in November, compared with 210,771 in November 2017. Ford's car sales decline 19.5% on the year. The company also posted a 4.9% decline in SUV sales.

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Japanese automaker Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s U.S. sales dropped 9.5% year over year to 120,534, with declines in both car and truck sales. Rival Toyota Motor Corp.'s total vehicle sales in the U.S. slid 0.6% for November on a volume basis and a daily selling rate basis. The automaker sold 190,423 vehicles during the month.

At Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., sales decreased by 18.7% year over year to 110,513 units.

Emissions test continue to weigh on EU auto sales

Automakers are still reeling from the effect of the new emissions test in Europe as sales continue to drop, data from European Automobile Manufacturers Association, or ACEA shows.

New car registrations, or sales, slid 8.1% in November to 1.16 million units, down from 1.26 million units in November 2017, according to ACEA data for the European Union and the European Free Trade Association countries of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

The ACEA noted that ahead of the introduction of the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure, or WLTP, in September, car registrations jumped by 31.2% in August, which led to a drop in demand in the following months.

The WLTP came into force Sept. 1. The new methodology for measuring exhaust pipe emissions tests was developed by experts from the European Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

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Researcher LMC Automotive said in a research statement that European markets have been slow to recover from the disruption caused by WLTP earlier in the year.

"We cannot rule out the possibility that the disappointing sales are still at least partly a result of delays experienced by some models in receiving approval under WLTP," LMC Automotive said.

The market continued to contract in most EU countries in November. All five major European markets saw demand fall.

Germany posted a 9.9% year-over-year decline in November, while France saw registrations drop 4.7%. The U.K. registered a 3% decline in sales.

Commenting on U.K.'s sales, LMC Automotive said that "both consumer and business confidence are low due to Brexit-related uncertainty, and therefore any great resurgence in the market seems far-fetched for the time being."

The European Free Trade Association countries also saw their sales decline. Car sales fell 29.7% in Iceland and declined 10.4% in Norway.

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Daimler AG's sales increased by 3.1% in the European Union and the European Free Trade Association region.

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Meanwhile, Volkswagen AG's sales slumped 11.3% to 275,004 units, as sales at its Audi brand slid 40.9%. Sales of Volkswagen's Porsche brand were down 61.8% year over year.

Fiat Chrysler's registrations dropped 8% to 68,720 vehicles. The company's Alfa Romeo brand recorded a decrease of 47.4% in registrations.

Sales at France's Renault SA dropped 15.9% in November. The company sold 117,269 units during the month.

Volkswagen's market share in Europe's new passenger-car market narrowed to 23.7% in November, as the market share of Peugeot maker PSA Group increased to 16.2% on a year-over-year basis. They are the two largest brands in Europe by market share, according to ACEA.

Japan auto sales rise; China reports a slump

Japan auto sales increased from a year earlier as Toyota sold the most vehicles during the month.

Sales rose to 357,307 units from 332,714 vehicles in the year-ago period, according to data from the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

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Toyota sold 121,301 units in Japan, up from 118,421 vehicles in November 2017. Honda sold 57,246 units in November, less than the 58,701 units it sold in the year-ago period.

Elsewhere, China's passenger-car sales dropped 16.06% year over year to 2,173,500 units in November amid slowing economic growth and U.S.-China trade dispute. China's economy grew 6.5% in the third quarter of 2018, below the 6.8% growth during the first half of the year, according to the World Bank.

China's finance ministry Dec. 14 said it will suspend its retaliatory additional tariffs on U.S. car imports for three months after U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a 90-day trade negotiation period earlier this month.