Japanese automakers helped lift U.S. light-vehicle sales 17 percent last month, topping forecasts and propelling the annualized selling rate to 16.1 million, the industry’s best showing since late 2007.
Sales benefited from robust Labor Day holiday volume, which included August this year, as well as rising demand from individual customers and continued robust deliveries of fuel-efficient cars and large pickups.
Honda Motor Co. sales rose 27 percent, Toyota Motor Corp. volume jumped 23 percent and Nissan Motor Co. advanced 22 percent from a year earlier. At Subaru, deliveries rose 45 percent — topping 40,000 units in a month for the first time.
General Motors’ sales rose 15 percent, while Chrysler Group and Ford Motor each gained 12 percent.
Toyota said retail sales to individual customers accounted for about 90 percent of the industry’s sales volume for the second month in a row.
GM’s retail sales — those to individual customers — increased 22 percent while fleet shipments dropped 8 percent.
Sales advanced 38 percent at Cadillac, 37 percent at Buick, 14 percent at GMC.
At Ford, car and truck volume rose 18 percent, offsetting a decline in crossover deliveries. Ford’s small car deliveries climbed 30 percent and F-series pickup sales rose 22 percent to 71,115 units.
Sales rose 13 percent at the Ford division and 1 percent at Lincoln.
Ford said its retail sales were also especially strong last month, advancing 20 percent. Retail deliveries of cars were up 15 percent, utilities up 16 percent and trucks up 30 percent.
For the second month in a row, Toyota Motor outsold Ford Motor, and American Honda outsold Chrysler Group.
At Toyota, sales jumped 24 percent at the Toyota brand and 23 percent at Lexus.
Sales of the Camry rose 22 percent to nearly 45,000 units while deliveries of the Prius lineup rose 30 percent to an August record of 27,358, Toyota said.
Honda said three of its four core models — CR-V, Accord and Civic — each posted sales in excess of 34,000 units, helping American Honda set an August sales record of 166,432.
Nissan said it also set an August record with 120,498 sales. Volume at the Nissan brand rose 24 percent to a record 108,614; at Infiniti, deliveries advanced 7 percent to 11,884.
Retail sales at the Nissan brand also set a monthly record with more than 100,000 deliveries.
Robust retail volume and demand for cars and large pickups also propelled Chrysler as it posted its 41st consecutive monthly gain.
The Ram brand, with sales up 29 percent, and Dodge, with a 12 percent increase, led the gains.
Overall, Chrysler’s truck sales rose 12 percent last month, with Ram pickup demand surging 31 percent to 33,009 and Jeep volume rising 8 percent.
Chrysler said its car sales rose 11 percent, helped by the Dodge Charger and Dart, and record monthly sales of nearly 4,200 at the Fiat brand.
The average transaction price of a Chrysler Group vehicle sold in August was a record $30,317, reflecting strong retail sales of the Ram pickup and Jeep lineup, TrueCar estimated. Ford Motor, Honda Motor, Nissan Motor and Volkswagen Group also set monthly high marks for average transaction prices in August, TrueCar said.
Among other automakers, sales rose 46 percent at the BMW brand, 26 percent at Mazda, 24 percent at Mitsubishi, 22 percent at Audi, 15 percent at Mercedes-Benz, and 4 percent at Kia, while volume slipped 2 percent at the Volkswagen brand and 13 percent at Volvo.
Jaguar Land Rover said August sales surged 40 percent to 6,661, with Jaguar volume rising 67 percent to 1,723 and Land Rover deliveries advancing 32 percent. August marked the best retail sales month ever for Land Rover and Jaguar’s best retail month since 2005, the company said.
Jaguar is benefiting from the May introduction of the F-Type convertible.
The strong Labor Day holiday sales were spurred by deals on remaining 2013 models and a few 2014 models.
U.S. light-vehicle sales continue to be driven by pent-up demand as consumers replace aging vehicles. Attractive finance and leasing offers, the steadily improving economy, rising housing and construction activity, and modest employment growth are also aiding demand.
“Historically low interest rates as well as very attractive lease specials fueled by high resale values are enabling consumers to buy more expensive vehicles while still keeping payments at affordable levels,” said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for TrueCar. “It’s a good day at the office for the manufacturers when the sales continue to grow double digits while transaction prices reach record highs.”
TrueCar estimated the average transaction price of a new light-vehicle sold in August was a record $31,252, eclipsing the average transaction price of $31,228 set in December 2012.
Crossovers, large pickups, compact cars and luxury cars set the sales pace in August. Overall, light truck sales rose 19 percent to 749,351 units and car deliveries climbed 15 percent to 751,943.
Among major automakers, Ford Motor and Honda Motor have gained market share this year; Hyundai-Kia and VW Group have lost ground; and GM, Toyota, Chrysler Group and Nissan have maintained share through August.
The steady rise in sales this year has left some automakers and dealers short of certain models, and curbed sales volume at some automakers.
Hyundai’s August sales advanced 8 percent to 66,101 despite limited supplies of high-volume models such as the Elantra compact, Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik said via Twitter.
Inventory shortages came to a head in August, traditionally a strong sales month driven by end-of-model-year clearance sales.
In a survey by RBC Capital Markets, 19 percent of dealers said inventory was too low during the month of August. That compares with 9 percent in July and 4 percent in June.
Sales of the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Impala, Honda Odyssey and CR-V, Range Rover, Dodge Charger, Jeep Wrangler, and Ford Explorer have been limited by especially tight supplies in certain regions of the country, dealers and automakers say.
Brands that started August with the lowest stockpile of new models were Subaru, Land Rover, Audi, Hyundai, Lexus, Kia, and BMW, according to the Automotive News Data Center. Brands with the largest supply of new vehicles were Lincoln, Fiat, Cadillac, Buick and Ram.
Ford said it planned to boost fourth quarter North American output 7 percent to 785,000 light vehicles.
Even with tight supplies, Subaru reported record monthly sales of 41,061, a gain of 45 percent, helped by new and redesigned models such as the Forester and XV Crosstrek.