Auto sales soared in September

Carmakers report large gains on strong demand for trucks and SUVs.

By Kim Peterson Oct 3, 2011 1:51PM
Updated 4:30 p.m. ET

Image: Auto sales (© Image100/Jupiterimages)The auto industry enjoyed a spectacular month in September, reporting sales gains nearly across the board.

The sales momentum was solid enough to make the auto sector a beacon of light in an otherwise gloomy economy. Truck sales were especially strong -- another good sign for the economy because of the role trucks play in small business and construction.

"The automotive factors are more important than the economic factors," one industry consultant told Bloomberg. "The long-term demand remains."

The seasonally adjusted annual rate for light vehicles came in at 13.1 million units for September -- a bit higher than analysts expected -- according to industry tracking firm Autodata. That's up from 11.8 million in September of 2010, and a big leap from the 12.1 million seen in August and 12.2 million in July. In fact, the September rate is the fastest seen since April.

Total industry unit deliveries rose 9.9% from September of 2010 but fell 1.7% from August of this year.

Chrysler reported the largest U.S. sales increase, at 27% over September 2010. General Motors (GM) and Ford (F) saw gains of 20% and 9%, respectively. All three automakers beat analyst estimates for the month. Even the Japanese auto companies that were hurt the hardest in the March earthquake and tsunami are recovering. Car sales rose in Japan for the first time since the disaster.

GM said its truck sales rose 34% and car sales rose 12% to 207,145 units. "All of the factors that say this is a good time to buy a new vehicle outweigh the bad news that appears to be slowing down the broader economic recovery," said sales vice president Don Johnson.

Some of GM's best-selling vehicles last month included the Chevrolet Cruze, the GMC Terrain and Yukon, and the Buick Regal. Analysts had expected a 19% increase for the automaker. Still, GM shares fell more than 2% Monday to close at $19.73.

Ford was just behind its cross-town rival, with sales of 175,199 in September. Nearly 55,000 of those autos were of the F-Series pickup, and 20,000 were for the Ford Escape. The Fusion midsize sedan saw sales of nearly 20,000. Ford shares were also down Monday, however, falling 3% to close at $9.37.

Chrysler had its best September sales since 2007, with 127,334 vehicles sold, and its 27% gain beat the 20% that analysts were expecting. "There is no double-dip downturn going on around here," said Reid Bigland, the head of U.S. sales. Again, trucks were the star, with the Ram seeing a 42% sales increase.

Nissan's 25% gain in September to 92,964 units beat the 18% analysts were expecting. The automaker set a September record for car sales, with the Altima selling 24,356 units.

Volkswagen's (VLKAY)
sales rose 36% to 27,036, fueled by new versions of the Passat and Beetle out in September. The Jetta remained its strongest seller, with 15,000 units moving off the lot -- a 40% increase from September of last year. But Volkswagen's ADR shares closed down 6% Monday to $23.31.

Toyota (TM) and Honda (HMC) returned to full production in September after the Japanese earthquake but still saw a drop in sales for the month. Toyota reported a 17.5% drop in sales to 121,451 -- a lower drop than the 15% analysts were expecting -- and fell to fourth place overall behind Chrysler.

Honda's sales drop was 8% -- worse than the 6.1% analysts were expecting -- to 89,532 vehicles. Its top-selling model was the CR-V, and the Pilot and Odyssey also performed well.

"We're in a lot better position now than we were even 30 or 60 days ago," an American Honda executive told The New York Times. "Inventory is improving every day." Toyota's shares closed down nearly 2% Monday to $66.97, and Honda's closed down more than 1% to $28.74.

9Comments
Oct 3, 2011 3:03PM
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Ernie not necessarily, people like myself who have a few bucks to burn are in fact buying, as I was one of the many who purchase a ford escape recently to rid ourselves of an aging pontiac GP with over 175K miles on it, the mileage while not significantly better than the GP is still better and I get a new car out of the deal. BTW just a note no plastic was used in my transaction unless you include the bic pen used to sign my name.
Oct 3, 2011 2:38PM
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AH YES, ONCE AGAIN THE LAND OF OPPOSITE POLARITY IN THE CHAOTIC ECONOMY OF THE USA.  HOUSING AND HOUSING CONSTRUCTION STILL WAY DOWN, NO ONE'S BUYING FARMS IN ANY NUMBER-SO WHY DO AMERICA'S HILLBOBS STILL BUY BATTLESHIP SIZE PU TRUCKS?  I GUESS BECAUSE THE LAST ONE "JEST PLAIN WORE OUT". U.S. CONSUMERS ARE SHEDDING SOME OF THEIR FEAR OF BUYING HIGH TICKET VEHICLES AND OTHER APPLIANCES AND BECOMING MORE AND MORE LEVERAGED.  CREDIT CARD COMPANIES NOTING INCREASES IN " PLASTIC" PURCHASING.  AGAIN, AS IN PRE 2008, MR. AND MRS. JQ PUBLIC WANT TO RESUME BUYING THE STUFF THEY HAD STOPPED BUYING AND BEGIN LIVING THE 6 FIGURE LIFESTYLE ON $47,500.00 PER YEAR.
Oct 3, 2011 3:34PM
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can someone explain why the auto stocks are plummeting while the auto sales are sky rocketing?

(oh yes! congratulations chrysler, keep up the good work!!)

Oct 3, 2011 3:42PM
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Maybe zero down, no interest loans given to anyone who can stagger through the door.  Somebody, somewhere is going to wind up picking up the tab.  I wonder who that will be?
Oct 3, 2011 3:59PM
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H'mmmmm no mention of the year'ly purge of the rental car fleets that are typically restocked during the month of Sept.
Oct 3, 2011 4:46PM
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You would have thought that with auto sales souring it would have pushed up the stock market. I guess people are now buying cars to live in. There own mobile car/home. If they can't make the payments they can live in it and keep moving.
Oct 3, 2011 4:27PM
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I think people are a lot smarter with their money, now. Buying a newer vehicle does help the economy and the person buying the new vehicle. I doubt there will be a large % of new vehicles reposessed.

Spend, baby, spend! Just do it wisely...!Thumbs up No one's gonna live forever.

Oct 3, 2011 8:48PM
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Zeke.....I really doubt YOU or MYSELF will be picking up the tab??

What are you trying to get at, and discover for the rest of us?? Sarcastic

 

Fosz...and Shrimp The Auto sector is only a small part of the DOW, and by appearance only; I don't think traders looked "at any good news" today.....They just wanted to sell it down. vvvvvvvvvvvvvSad

And I guess you have to compare Chrysler's sales or 27% gain YOY to WHAT??

Strangerly the gas pinching and bitching Americans are buying what ??

Yeah, I think many were TRUCKS,,,that makes plenty of sense.

Maybe they think gas is going back to $1.99 a gallon??   Sick

Oct 3, 2011 3:53PM
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Did anyone see that article about the new 2014 Vette yesterday? GM should also look forward to new sales gains from that car along.
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