Chrysler, GM, Nissan sales soar; Ford down – USA TODAY

Posted: Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Chrysler and General Motors reported that September sales of their cars and trucks soared 19% and 19.4% respectively, as the two Detroit automakers’ performance easily outpaced the expected overall industry sales increase for the month.

Ford, meanwhile, said its sales fell 2.7% from the month a year ago. Ford attributed its decline to trimming fleet sales and a planned pull-back on sales of its 2014 F-150 pickup as it prepares to introduce the 2015 aluminum F-150. GM is trying to take advantage of that opening as sales of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup jumped 54% to 50,176. Overall sales of the F-150 were down 1% from a year ago.

“GM’s truck month could not have been more perfectly timed,” Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at Edmunds.com said by email. “With Ford F-150 production on the shelf, GM had an easier path to showcase Silverado to truck shoppers.”

Among other among the six biggest automakers in U.S sales, Nissan Group also beat the industry expectations as sales soared 18.5% from a year ago to 102,955. Toyota reported that sales for its Toyota, Scion and Lexus brands increased 1.7% from a year ago to 167,279. And American Honda posted a 12% gain to 118,223, notably including an 18.8% jump for its struggling Acura premium brand to 13,832.

“Auto sales remained strong in September and rounded out an excellent third quarter, the best for the industry since 2006,” said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager. “SUVs and crossovers continue to be the industry’s hot spots, and (Toyota’s) RAV4 and 4Runner both saw double-digits gains.”

In September, all automakers continued to benefit from rising demand for new cars and trucks driven by a stable economy, falling gas prices, low interest rates and a favorable loan environment for consumers. Industry forecasters predict automakers will report a 10% increase in U.S. auto sales in September compared with the same month a year ago.

Chrysler continues to outperform the industry mostly due to gains from its Ram pickup brand and its new Grand Cherokee.

The automaker’s sales in September increased 47% for Jeep, 35% for Ram, 14% for Chrysler and 6% for Fiat compared with the same month a year ago. Dodge sales declined 9%.

“Continued consumer demand for our new Chrysler 200 midsize sedan, our Jeep models and the Ram pickup truck helped Chrysler Group achieve a 19% sales increase in September and our 54th-consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth,” Reid Bigland, Chrysler’s head of U.S. sales, said in a statement.

GM’s performance was driven in large part by demand for its crossovers, its new full-size SUVs and its pickups. By brand, Chevrolet was up 20% including the big gain for the Silverado, though also the Cruze compact car was up 45%. GMC was up 28% from a year ago – with the redesigned, full-size 2015 Yukon SUV up 93.5%. Buick gained 12%, led by the Enclave crossover, up 36%.

Cadillac continued to struggle, however, with sales flat from a year ago and all models showing declines except the new 2015 Escalade big SUV, up 136.6%, and its long ESV version, up 93.7%.

“General Motors’ strong sales in September were punctuated by expected increases across the SUV and truck categories. Perhaps more surprising is the automaker’s ongoing growth in areas like small and midsize cars,” saidKarl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “The Malibu, Cruze and Sonic all were up in September, even as those categories lose share to the small and midsize SUV categories. Add in the high transaction prices GM is garnering for its large SUVs … and you’ve got a company seeing broad success without an undue reliance on specific vehicle types or aggressive incentives.”

At Ford, sales also declined for three of its top-selling cars and crossovers: Fiesta, Focus and Escape declined 17%, 8% and 3.9% respectively. That was driven by Ford’s decision to cut fleet sales this year, said John Felice, Ford’s vice president of U.S. marketing and sales. Ford’s fleet sales declined 14% in September, 40% for sales to daily rental companies.

But the Fusion midsize sedan was up 9% to 29,452. And a good launch so far for the new Lincoln drove the brand to a 12% gain to 7,257.

“Fusion is selling strong, with five straight months of record performance and California driving more than 20% of our retail growth this year – more than any other state,” said Felice in a statement. “Lincoln produced its best sales results in seven years with the recent introduction of our all-new Lincoln MKC.”

Caldwell said the industry also is benefiting from an increase in leasing deals. “September sales are consistent with the strength we’ve seen most of this year,” she wrote in a recent report. “Buyers have been able to secure low financing deals and have responded to lease offers in record numbers. These are behaviors that bode well for the continued strength of new car sales.”

Automakers also are selling cars at higher prices than ever before, said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power.

The average new-vehicle retail transaction price in September is $30,100, the highest ever for the month and exceeding September 2013 by nearly $450, according to J.D. Power.

More details and reports:

• Nissan Group’s Nissan brand drove the sales gain with 22.2% growth to 95,118. The Infiniti luxury brand’s weakness continued with sales of 7,837, down 13.3%.

“Nissan’s refreshed core models like Altima, Rogue, Sentra and Versa continue to drive growth for our brand,” said Fred Diaz, Nissan U.S. sales head, noting that a redone Murano midsize crossover goes into production next month.

Among Nissan leaders, the Rogue small crossover grew 51.8% from a year ago and the Sentra compact sedan was up 61%.

• Hyundai said its sales rose 1.65% from a year ago to 56,010, led by strong growth for the three-row Santa Fe crossover (up 35.7%), two-row Santa Fe Sport ( up 34.5%) and compact Tuscon crossover (26%). Also gaining were the sporty Veloster coupe, up 22.4%, while sales of the refreshed 2015 Sonata midsize sedan were up about 7%.

• American Honda;s Honda brand sales were up 11.2% to 104,391 with broad-based increases across the lineup. The brand’s refreshed 2015 CR-V is going on sale today, but the outgoing 2014 model had a sales gain in the month of 10.6% to 23,722. And the new-generation Fit is off to a strong launch with sales up 66.5% vs. a year ago of 6,628. The volume-selling Accord midsize sedan followed its August sales jump with another strong month, up 30.9% to 32,956.

While the Acura premium brand’s RDX and MDX crossovers continue to drive sales, the new TLX sedan is reviving Acura’s car business with sales of 3,884, second only to the MDX in volume.

“With the MDX and RDX as the best one-two punch in the luxury SUV segment, the TLX is proving to be the knockout punch we’ve been looking for in the luxury sedan arena,” said Mike Accavitti, Acura general manager.

• The Toyota brand’s sales were flat vs. last year at 145,427, while Lexus rose 11.9% for 21,852.

The flagship Toyota Camry declined 10.6% to 28,507 — letting Honda’s Accord take bragging rights for best-selling car in America for another month — while the redesigned Corolla was down 11.7% to 20,530. A 12.3% overall decline in sales of Toyota and Scion cars was offset by a 17.4% jump in sales of Toyota crossovers, SUVs and trucks.

Lexus cars rose 15.8%, while its crossovers were up 7.1%.

• Volkswagen of America’s VW brand continued to decline, with the month’s sales plummeting 18.5% to 25,996 – led by a 23% drop for its volume Jetta compact and a 7.8% slide for the Passat midsize sedan. The redone 2015, however, is off to a good start with sales up 93% from a year ago to 1,887 and its GTi performance model up 47.6% to 1,600.

• VW’s premium Audi brand, continues to be hot, with sales up 14.2% from a year ago to 14,917, a 45th consecutive monthly U.S. sales record for the brand. Notable in the report is that sales of its new A3 line of entry vehicles sold 2,340 in the month and the just-on-sale in September Q3 entry crossover sold 1,092.

• Kia reported a sales gain of 6.9% to 40,628, putting it just a few behind VW Group in total U.S. sales.

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