Hurricane Harvey cuts swath through auto sales – USA TODAY
Hurricane Harvey tore through auto sales for August, a factor that helps explain the 1.9% drop compared with the same month last year.
Most automakers saw declines, Autodata reported. Hyundai was socked hardest, down 24.6% and Fiat Chrysler was off 10.6%. General Motors, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo posted gains for the month.
Although the industry was already operating at a lower pace than last year, the hurricane put a last-minute damper on auto sales as some dealerships on the Texas Gulf Coast were brought to a standstill. The region engulfed by the hurricane represents about 30% to 40% of Texas sales, which account for up to 9% of sales in the U.S., according to Barclays.
Still, the auto industry is looking ahead to the remaining months of the year when sales could be boosted by drivers who need to replace swamped cars and trucks. As many as one million vehicles were destroyed by the storm’s flooding, according to early estimates.
Kelley Blue Book slightly boosted its outlook for sales for the year, expecting buyers to start arriving at dealerships with checks from their insurance companies. Its analysts believe the industry is now on track to top 17 million new vehicles sold for the third straight year.
Automakers say they saw the same snapback in sales after past disasters that resulted in fleets of water-damaged vehicles that had to be replaced. In the case of Houston, the biggest beneficiaries will be to makers of pickup trucks and SUVs, the most popular vehicles there.
“Houston is the fourth biggest market in the U.S. and it’s …one that the Ford brand is very strong in,” said Mark LaNeve, a Ford vice president. “A lot of that has to do with a very rich truck mix.”
Nissan and its Infiniti luxury division are diverting more new vehicles to its 56 Houston-area dealerships, which are in various stages of recovery, said Judy Wheeler, Nissan’s U.S. sales chief. “We are prepared to do whatever they need us to do,” to help with the recovery, she said.
For the month, multiple major automakers managed sales increases, including General Motors’ 7.5% uptick and Toyota’s 6.8% increase.
Ford sales fell 2.1%, which was better than expected. But Nissan sales tumbled 13.1%, badly missing analyst forecasts. Wheeler described it as “not the easiest month.”
Aside from the Harvey upheaval, the boom in sales of crossovers, sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks might finally be tapering off. Although sales of those larger vehicles remain stronger than struggling passenger cars, their momentum appears to be slowing, according to analysts.
Here’s how the major automakers fared in August.
Kelley Blue Book forecast: 4.1%
Actual results: 7.5%
GM said it would offer a $1,000 new-vehicle discount to people living in areas ravaged by Harvey. The company said eligible buyers in Texas and Louisiana can get the offer through Oct. 2.
For August, GM sold 275,552 vehicles. Chevrolet was up 11.4%, and GMC rose 12.4%. But Buick fell 22.5%, and Cadillac declined 8.1%.
Harvey’s effect was not immediately clear. “There was certainly some negative impact on sales, but we really can’t quantify the extent of the impact,” GM spokesman Dan Flores said in an email.
Kelley Blue Book forecast: -5.3%
Actual results: -2.1%
Ford fared better than expected for the month as sales of pickup trucks and vans led the way with a 9.3% increase. That included strong sales of the F-series pickup, the most popular vehicle in the U.S., which rose 15% to 77,007 units.
That helped offset an 11.3% decrease in SUVs and crossovers and an 8.6% decrease in car sales.
Overall, Ford sold 201,189 vehicles for the month.
Kelley Blue Book forecast: -5.5%
Actual results: -10.6%
Fiat Chrysler sold 176,033 vehicles for the month. That included a 15.4% decrease for the Jeep brand, its most popular lineup, to 73,191 units.
The Chrysler brand tumbled 32.6% as the brand phases out passenger cars. Dodge was down 1.7%, Ram fell 2.5% and Fiat fell 22.5%.
Kelley Blue Book forecast: 4.2%
Actual results: 6.8%
The Toyota brand was up 8%, while the luxury Lexus brand was down 0.4%. Overall, the company sold 227,625 vehicles for the month.
The company’s SUVs, crossovers and pickups were a bright spot, rising 19.2%. But car sales fell 7.2%.
Kelley Blue Book forecast: -0.5%
Actual results: -13.1%
The Japanese automaker’s namesake brand performed poorly for the month, falling 14.8%. The luxury Infiniti lineup increased 5.2%.
Overall, Nissan sold 108,326 units for the month. Even the automaker’s red-hot Rogue crossover had a tough month, falling 9.5% to 29,844 units.
Kelley Blue Book forecast: 4.3%
Actual results: Not yet available
Kelley Blue Book forecast: -6.5%
Actual results: Not yet available
Kelley Blue Book forecast: 2.2%
Actual results: The company’s namesake Volkswagen brand reported a 9% increase to 32,015 sales. TheThe company’s Audi luxury brand posted a 2.8% sales increase to 19,811 units.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @Bomey.