From heroes to zeros: Sales pace hits 4-year high in month of extremes
Sales totaled 1,188,899 light vehicles for the month, almost 100,000 more than most forecasters had expected. The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate rose to 14.9 million.
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U.S. auto sales got hot in September with a 13 percent gain that unexpectedly pushed the monthly selling pace higher than for any month since the industry's 2008 collapse.
Sales totaled 1,188,899 light vehicles for the month, almost 100,000 more than most forecasters had expected. The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate rose to 14.9 million. That's higher than the cash-for-clunkers 14.6 million SAAR in August 2009 and the best since the near-15 million mark in March 2008.
Automaker executives expect a solid end to the year.
"In the fourth quarter we expect it to be strong 14.3 [million] or so for the year, maybe a notch above that," said Toyota Division General Manager Bill Fay. "Not quite as strong as this month, but we expect good sustained sales this quarter."
Ford sales boss Ken Czubay said: "The industry is on plan, Ford is on plan and we're looking forward to a really good fourth quarter."
Heroes and zeros
But September results were all or nothing among the major players.
At one extreme: a 42 percent gain at Toyota Motor Sales, which topped big advances at Volkswagen Group and American Honda.
At the other: the slow- or no-growth trio of General Motors, Ford Motor and Nissan North America. GM was up 2 percent while Ford fell less than a percent and Nissan was off 1 percent.
Among the highlights:
Toyota Motor Sales' 42 percent surge further narrowed the gap with Ford Motor. Sales of 171,910 Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles were only 2,544 behind the total for Ford and Lincoln. A year earlier, Toyota was more than 50,000 behind the U.S. industry's second-best selling automaker.
The Toyota brand also finished closer to No. 2 brand Chevrolet. Toyota's 144,781 sales were just 5,020 behind Chevy in September, a gain of almost 40,000 units in a year.
Cars hot, trucks not
Industry car sales jumped 23 percent to 606,797 in September while light trucks climbed just 4 percent to 582,102. A year earlier, trucks led 561,423 to 492,347.
September sales shook up the top 10 U.S. brands. Honda overtook Nissan to move up to No. 4, behind Ford and the aforementioned Chevrolet and Toyota. Kia passed Dodge for the No. 7 spot. And Volkswagen rose a notch, dumping GMC out of the top 10, both for the month and year to date.
Share winners and losers
U.S. market share is highly volatile through nine months -- for the second year in a row. In 2011, Toyota and Honda lost share because global production fell after natural disasters in Japan and Thailand. This year, the two automakers are restocked.
Through the first three quarters, Toyota Motor Sales is up 1.9 share points at 14.4 percent and American Honda 0.8 at 9.8 percent while GM is down 1.9 to an 18.1 percent share and Ford Motor is 1.3 points lower at 16.8 percent.
But there is other movement among the top eight automakers. Chrysler has gained 0.9 of a share point at 11.5 percent and Volkswagen Group of America a half point. Nissan North American is down 0.2 of a point at 7.9 percent and capacity-constrained Hyundai-Kia Automotive is a tenth of a point lower at 8.9 percent.
You can reach Jesse Snyder at firstname.lastname@example.org.