Ford Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. posted their biggest U.S. sales declines in years last month in an industry that is showing further signs of running out of steam.
Ford was dragged down by a 9.4 percent drop at its namesake division, while Nissan recorded its sharpest monthly decline in more than three years. Sales at General Motors and Toyota Motor Corp. dropped for the sixth time in 2016. Fiat Chrysler chalked up another gain aided mainly by the strength of Jeep.
Overall sales fell 3.5 percent, and the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate came in at 16.97 million, the third-lowest total of the year.
The results point to the difficulties the industry will have stretching its streak of consecutive sales gains to a century high of seven years.
"It wasn't exactly a blockbuster month in August, so that puts extra pressure on the industry to step up its game in September, especially this coming Labor Day weekend," said Jessica Caldwell, an analysts at Edmunds.com. "We're at a critical time where dealers need to clear out 2016 inventory to make room for 2017s."
August marks the third month this year that volume has declined, the most monthly drops in any year since recession-wracked 2009, when volume slumped in eight individual months.
August had the same number of selling days as in 2015 -- 26 -- but featured one fewer weekend this year, contributing to the decline in volume most analysts expected.
The month's 16.97 million SAAR compares with 17.79 million in August 2015 and 17.86 million in July.
“Coming off the strongest SAAR of the year at 17.9 million units in July, the industry took a bit of a step back in August,” said Bill Fay, general manager of the Toyota division.
Ford's sales fell 8.8 percent to 213,411 with retail volume off 8 percent and fleet shipments dropping 10 percent. A 7 percent rise at Lincoln offset some of the decline at the bigger Ford division. The results marked Ford's biggest monthly setback since August of 2010.
GM said August sales dropped 5.2 percent to 256,429 cars and light trucks. Deliveries slipped 3.9 percent at Chevrolet, 14 percent at GMC and 2.7 percent at Buick. Sales rose 3.9 percent at Cadillac.
At Toyota Motor Corp., volume dropped 5 percent to 213,125 cars and light trucks last month. Honda Motor Co. deliveries dipped 3.8 percent.
Sales fell 7.9 percent at Kia, 2.7 percent Mini, 13 percent at Mazda, 12 percent at Mitsubishi and 9.1 percent at the VW brand, where U.S. volume has slid every month beginning with November as the company struggles to move past violations of U.S. diesel emissions rules.
The Hyundai brand's volume rose by just three units over August 2015.
Subaru posted record U.S. sales of 60,418 in August, the first time the brand has topped the 60,000 mark in a month, for a gain of 15 percent over August 2015. Thomas J. Doll, president and COO of Subaru of America, described the August results -- which shattered the brand's previous monthly sales record in December 2015 (56,274) -- as "epic."
Nissan posted a 6.5 percent decline in August U.S. sales, with demand falling 6.9 percent at the Nissan division and 1.8 percent at Infiniti.
It was only the second time this year that deliveries at the Nissan group, one of the hottest automakers in the U.S. this year, with sales up 7.3 percent through July, have dropped.