Roll Call: National Auto Sales Results for September

auto sales balloon

Don’t you just LOVE the media?  I was very busy on Monday as the sales reports from the automakers started rolling in, but I listen to the radio most of the day at my office, and the doom and gloom was rolling in:  AUTO SALES DOWN FOR THE SECOND STRAIGHT MONTH.  Really?  This September, Americans bought 1,434,483 new vehicles.  Last September, which is what sales are compared to, the numbers came in at 1,444,195, a drop of 0.7%.  From news reports, I thought the drop must have been 10% or more, but I digress.

As the sales numbers rolled in, Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Honda posted declines while Toyota and Nissan advanced.  Overall, although vehicle deliveries fell 0.7 percent last month, they remain ahead 0.3 percent for the year, the biggest sales year in history.

Nissan Motor Co. rebounded from an August drop with a 4.9 percent gain. Ford Motor Co. echoed its August setback with an 8.1 percent fall. Toyota Motor Corp. ended a four-month skid, while General Motors volume was down for a sixth straight month. Fiat Chrysler’s 0.9 percent decrease included a rare slip at Jeep.

Ford Motor’s retail sales slipped 4 percent and fleet deliveries dropped 21 percent last month.  At GM, deliveries slipped 0.6 percent in September, with volume up 14 percent at Buick and 3.1 percent at Cadillac, but off 0.3 percent at Chevrolet and 8.7 percent at GMC. Honda Motor Co. volume dipped 0.1 percent, with record truck sales for the month offset by weaker car demand. GM’s retail volume rose 0.3 percent.

Sales rose 1.5 percent to 197,260 at Toyota, with volume up 1.4 percent at the Toyota division and 2 percent at Lexus. Nissan’s deliveries advanced 4.9 percent to 127,797 in September on higher discounts and demand for trucks, SUVs and crossovers.

Volume increased 4.3 percent at the Nissan Division and 12 percent at Infiniti. The company said overall sales of Nissan brand crossovers, trucks and SUVs rose 20 percent to 56,703, a September record.

September sales rose 4.1 percent at Hyundai but slipped slightly at Kia.

At the troubled Volkswagen Group, the VW brand’s skid continued for the 11th straight month, with sales off 7.8 percent in September. Audi deliveries rose 1.6 percent, extending the luxury brand’s monthly year over year gains to 83 straight months.

Deliveries rose 3.5 percent at Subaru and 1.6 percent at Volvo, while sales slipped 2.8 percent at Mazda and 4.8 percent at Mitsubishi.

Subaru’s U.S. sales for the nine-month period have increased 4.2 percent to 446,887 vehicles. “With September sales exceeding 50,000 vehicles for the third month in a row, Subaru is in a great position to achieve its eighth consecutive all-time sales record in 2016,” Subaru of America President Tom Doll said.

After a six-year run of U.S. sales gains, some analysts and automakers believe sales have peaked. Other executives and analysts — citing low interest rates, easy credit terms, steady job growth and high consumer confidence — say there is more room to run.

Sales this year have been inflated somewhat by bigger discounts offered to customers.

Incentives reached a record of $3,923 per vehicle last month, according to J.D. Power. The previous record of $3,753 was set in December 2008, the month that the U.S. government first issued emergency funding to General Motors in preparation for its eventual bankruptcy filing.

TrueCar estimates industry incentives averaged $3,387 last month, or 7.8 percent higher than September 2015 and up slightly from August. The biggest spikes were in deals among mass-market automakers at Ford, FCA, Subaru and Volkswagen Group.

Overall, light trucks continue to drive the market, while car demand remains weaker, analysts say.

Average transaction prices remain high, allowing automakers to generate hefty profits in North America, but ever-increasing incentives, as demand wanes, raise concerns about the industry’s ability to react to higher interest rates or other threats to demand.

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