Eight Down, Four To Go

I watch the auto sales nationally on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. It tells you a lot about the economy and consumer confidence. The August year-to-date numbers are always of interest to me. Two-thirds of the year is over and coming off the summer sales season, it is a little easier to predict what kind of year it will end up being.

August was a challenging month for the industry, and it would not have surprised anyone to see a sales decrease from August of 2010, but the resilient auto industry put together an 8% increase in spite of severe shortages of some of the most popular imports made, in particular Toyota, Honda, and Subaru. Nissan was shorter in supply by far than usual, but not in as bad a shape as the other three.

I spoke with one large Honda dealer who normally stocks 400 new Hondas. He started August with 18 new Hondas total in inventory. He ended August with 25. He sold 165 in the month. This is a typical story at Honda dealerships across the country. They get a load of Hondas in and they are gone in hours. All this of course is due to the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March of this year.

As the smoke cleared on the August numbers, Chrysler, General Motors, and Nissan led the surge. Chrysler came up 31% over August of 2010 with a huge increase in Jeep sales. GM ended up 18% overall with a push from GMC and a slight increase with Cadillac, which reverses a trend, and Nissan posted a 19% increase in spite of Infiniti being down.

No surprise here based purely on inventory shortages, but Honda ended August down 24% but due to a good start to this year, is only down 6% for the first 8 months. Toyota was down 13% for the month but is only down 8% year-to-date, and Subaru fell 6% for August but remains ahead for the year.

Others that were up for the month of August were Hyundai which was up 16% overall, including a huge 27% surge by Kia. Mazda got a 15% boost from 0% financing across the board on all their vehicles, BMW sales were flat from a year ago, and VW and Volvo both showed nice increases over a year ago.

It should be noted too that the entire East coast of the United States lost the last weekend of the month due to hurricane Irene. The regions hardest hit up and down the coast are thought to contribute 15% of the total sales in the entire country. This makes the overall increase even more impressive.

America bought 1,072,379 new vehicles in August of 2011 and that brings the year-to-date total to just under 8,500,000 for 2011 so far. Personally, I still think the 2011 total for the year will be north of 13 million, but most analysts are still predicting just over 12 million. As more Toyotas and Hondas become available, I think we will see a surge with those brands. We know Ford is upping production in the 4th quarter, and GM will most likely stay aggressive with incentives on trucks and SUVs.

This increase comes too at a time when overall incentive spending was down in August versus July of this year by a substantial 6%. This further fuels my thoughts that the rebound of the auto industry is in full swing and 2011 will end up being a very good year.


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