It was the best September ever for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. -- good for the Toyota, Scion and Lexus brands, good for cars and trucks.
The Japanese automakers U.S. sales soared 25 percent in September from a year ago to 222,950 vehicles. Toyotas U.S. sales for the month still trailed those of General Motors and Ford Motor Co.
Among the other top six automakers, Ford Motors U.S. sales rose in September while GM, DaimlerChrysler, American Honda Motor Co. and Nissan North America Inc. posted declines.
The sales comparisons in September for the domestic makes of Ford, GM and the Chrysler group are being made against a slow September 2005, when dealer inventories were depleted and shoppers were scarce after a summer of employee pricing deals.
Overall, U.S. auto sales in September were up 2.0 percent from a year ago to 1,354,700 vehicles. But for the year to date, U.S. auto sales were down 3.7 percent from the same period last year to 12,710,930.
GM held a 24.6 percent market share in September, down from 25.9 percent a year ago. Ford Motors share for the month was 17.5 percent, up from 17.1 percent last year, and Toyota Motor Sales share was 16.4 percent, up from 13.4 percent in September 2005.
For the year so far, GM holds a 24.7 percent share of the market, down from 26.8 percent for the same period last year. Ford Motors share stands at 17.9 percent, down from 18.8 percent a year ago, and Toyota Motor Sales share stands at 15.2 percent, up from 13.0 percent at this point last year.
Heres a look at the top six automakers:
GMs U.S. sales in September were down 3.1 percent from a year earlier to 334,025 -- a drop the automakers executives attributed to a cutback in fleet sales. GM said its retail sales grew by 1,385 vehicles from September 2005.
For the year to date, GMs U.S. sales are down 11.3 percent to 3,139,881.
At the same time, GM took 20,000 units out of the fourth-quarter production plans for North America that it set in September. GM now plans to build 1.1 million vehicles in North America in the fourth quarter, down 13.3 percent from the same period last year.
Ford Motors U.S. sales rose 4.6 percent in September -- the first monthly gain the automaker has posted since January.
The automaker said sales of light trucks fell 5 percent in September compared with a year ago, and car sales rose 5 percent. It noted that sales of the Ford Mustang in September were the best for the month in 20 years, up 31 percent.
For the year to date, Ford Motors U.S. sales are down 8.6 percent to 2,273,934.
Toyota Motor Sales
It was hard to find a dent in Toyotas armor in September -- the Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands all set monthly records. Sales of the Prius hybrid set a September record at 10,492 vehicles.
For the year to date, Toyotas U.S. sales are up 12.5 percent to 1,928,496.
September U.S. sales for the Chrysler group dropped 3.8 percent, despite a month of gains for the automakers minivans. Among its newest entries, the automaker posted sales of 8,243 for the Dodge Caliber sedan; 3,680 for the Jeep Compass; and 734 for the Chrysler Aspen SUV.
The Chrysler group said it is offering 0 percent financing for 60 months on most of its 2006 models, or cash rebates up to $6,000. The program is set to end Oct. 31 and excludes the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum and Charger.
Mercedes-Benz USA LLC said its U.S. sales set a record in September, despite declines in sales of the C-class and E-class sedans. Sales of the S-class sedan jumped 126.4 percent to 2,357 with the arrival of a redesigned model.
Total DaimlerChrysler U.S. sales in September reached 188,784, down 2.3 percent from September 2005. For the year to date, the automakers U.S. sales are down 7.3 percent to 1,805,172.
American Honda Motor
September was a record-setting month for U.S. sales of light trucks at American Honda.
But that could not overcome a 10,000-unit drop in car sales for the month. Sales of the Honda Accord were down 6,125 from September 2005, and Honda Civic sales were down 3,834 -- a total of 9,959 cars.
American Hondas U.S. sales totaled 116,226 in September, down 4.1 percent from a year ago. For the year to date, the automakers U.S. sales are up 4.3 percent to 1,160,510.
Nissan North America
Nissan North Americas U.S. sales dropped 5.6 percent in September from a year ago -- the eighth monthly loss it has posted this year.
Strong sales of the Nissan Murano crossover were not enough to compensate for drops throughout most of the automaker's lineup.
Murano sales were up 14.8 percent to 6,093 -- the best September sales for the crossover. Nissan also rang up 4,729 sales of the Versa small car and small sales gains for the Nissan Frontier pickup, Armada SUV and Infiniti FX crossover.
For the year to date, Nissans U.S. sales are down 7.1 percent to 776,364.
September U.S. sales for BMW of North America were down 7.1 percent from a year ago to 23,330. The automaker was hit by a dropoff in sales of its crossovers -- the X3 and the X5, which is being replaced by a redesigned model this fall.
For the year to date, BMWs U.S. sales are up 1.8 percent to 230,084.
September was a good month for Japanese automakers Subaru, Suzuki and Mitsubishi, all of which reported gains.
U.S. sales for Mitsubishi Motors North America rose 13.6 percent from a year ago to 10,287 vehicles in September. The gain was fueled by the Eclipse coupe and Lancer sedan, which together accounted for nearly half of the automakers sales for the month.
American Suzuki Motor Corp. credits the Grand Vitara SUV and Forenza cars for leading its gain in U.S. sales. The automakers sales rose 11.3 percent in September from a year ago to 7,940. For the year to date, American Suzukis U.S. sales are up 28.1 percent to 81,323 vehicles.
Subaru of Americas U.S. sales totaled 16,128 in September, up 0.2 percent from September 2005. After nine months of this year, the automakers U.S. sales are up 2.8 percent from a year ago, to 148,886 vehicles.
Slight gain expected
Analysts had expected September sales to show a partial recovery for the segment of the market's hardest hit amid the downturn: mid-sized SUVs and full-sized trucks.
After climbing above $3 a gallon over this summer, gasoline prices in the United States tumbled in September, dropping to near $2.30 on average, down about 16 percent over the month.
Both the Chrysler group and Ford Motor also offered aggressive discounts on unsold 2006 pickups and SUVs in September to clear inventory.
The downturn in the market for light trucks hit the Detroit 3 especially hard because those vehicles are more profitable for manufacturers than passenger cars, which typically sell for less.
In addition, the Detroit-based automakers rely on light trucks for well over half of their total U.S. sales.
Reuters contributed to this report
You may e-mail Dale Jewett at [email protected]