U.S. auto sales fell in the third quarter, but September increases at General Motors, Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai -- driven by strong truck demand -- provided fresh signs that the market continues to rebound after being battered by the coronavirus.
Overall, volume dropped 9.5 percent in the last quarter and remains off 18 percent for the year.
GM said sales improved “sequentially” each month since mid-year. In a rare disclosure of monthly results, the automaker said September volume rose from year-earlier levels. Toyota Motor chalked up a 16 percent September gain, while Hyundai rose 5.5 percent for its second advance in three months.
September numbers were boosted, however, by the same reporting quirks that scarred August’s figures. There were two more selling days last month than in the year-earlier period. And Labor Day weekend sales were counted in September this year instead of the previous month.
The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for September came in at 16.51 million, the highest figure since the pandemic hit in March and well above forecasts, Motor Intelligence said.
The SAAR tallied 15.2 million in August and 17.3 million in Sept. 2019 and has inched up every month since bottoming out at 8.74 million in April.
"Industry and GM sales rebounded significantly in September, finishing the month with year-over-year sales increases," GM, the nation's No. 1 seller, said in a statement.
Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas, citing strength in the September tally and strong light-truck demand, raised his 2020 sales forecast to 14.5 million from 14 million units.