A tale of two Augusts

Stand back just a smidge and it’s hard to see much difference between U.S. car sales last month and a year earlier.

For the record, that’s 1,262,189 this August and 1,250,117 last year. The difference is up less than one percent – actually 0.9656 percent, or 430 sales short of a full percent. But because it’s this year and we’re all hungry for good news, let’s call it a percent.

But, man oh man, this 1.3 million feels so much better than last year’s 1.3 million!

What a difference a year makes. A year ago, that level of sales, a 15.5 percent fall from August 2007, sounded awful.

This year, 1.3 million sales calls for a celebration. Wahoo!

Obviously the difference is which direction you’re going. In 2008, August was the moment the industry realized it was actually going over the cliff. This year, August is the first full stage on the climb out of the pit.

Sure a SAAR of 13.7 million is a long cry from the 16 and 17 million selling rates of most of the decade. But compared to February’s 9.1 million SAAR, it looks pretty good.