Auto sales rise on high demand

Car and truck sales in the US beat analyst expectations for August. Higher gas prices pushed more buyers into dealerships in search of fuel-efficient models.

By Kim Peterson Sep 4, 2012 3:35PM
The auto industry, continuing a winning streak that has lasted all year, reported better-than-expected August sales Tuesday on strong demand.

Most automakers reported double-digit sales jumps from a year earlier. Higher gas prices spurred many buyers to trade their cars in for more energy efficient models. Others simply wanted to replace their aging junkers; cars on U.S. roads are 11 years old on average.

The industry is on pace for annual sales of 14.5 million vehicles, according to tracking firm Autodata. That's better than the rate of 14.2 million analysts were expecting, Reuters reports, and the highest rate since the "cash for clunkers" program triggered sales in August 2009.

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Total unit deliveries rose 20% from a year earlier and 11% from July 2012.

General Motors (GM) saw sales spike 10%, easily beating the 3% gain analysts expected. Ford (F) saw a 13% sales rise, beating the 8.5% analysts expected. And Chrysler sales rose 14%, more than the 9.9% analysts wanted to see.

Shareholders were not as impressed. GM shares fell less than 1% Tuesday afternoon to $21.26, but Ford shares rose 1% to $9.44.

Already, auto sales are on track for the best year since 2007. "Auto sales have remained one of the few bright spots in the overall economic picture and we expect sales to continue to support the economy in the months ahead," said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst of automotive insights, at Kelley Blue Book.

Ford executives said rising gas prices were a powerful motivator. "As fuel prices rose again during August, we saw growing numbers of people gravitate toward our fuel-efficient vehicles cars, utilities and trucks," said sales executive Ken Czubay.

Here's how the individual automakers fared:

Vehicles sold: 240,520
Change from a year earlier: 10% gain
Of note: Cadillac resurgence? Sales up 11% for that brand.

Vehicles sold: 197,249
Change from a year earlier: 13% gain
Of note: Fourth-quarter production will likely rise 7% to 725,000 vehicles.

Toyota (TM)
Vehicles sold: 188,520
Change from a year earlier: 40.2% gain
Of note: Toyota was hit hard a year ago by the earthquake-related damage in Japan.

Vehicles sold: 148,472
Change from a year earlier: 14% gain
Of note: Fiat models alone saw a 34% sales spike

Honda (HMC)
Vehicles sold: 131,321
Change from a year earlier: 59.5% gain
Of note: Massive sales increases for the Accord, Civic and CR-V.

Vehicles sold: 98,515
Change from a year earlier: 7.6% gain
Of note: The Infiniti line saw sales rise nearly 24%.

Vehicles sold: 61,099
Change from a year earlier: 4% gain
Of note: Best-selling Sonata saw sales dip 5%, but Elantra sales rose 19%.

Volkswagen (VLKAY)
Vehicles sold: 41,011
Change from a year earlier: 62.5% gain
Of note: Best August U.S. sales since 1973.

Sep 4, 2012 4:39PM
Just more people getting low interest to lure them into something they really can't afford.  The Obumer plan!
Sep 4, 2012 4:44PM
Construction for the same time was down. So, people cannot get credit houses so they are buying cars.
Sep 4, 2012 4:44PM
Just trying to keep that unsustainable land of happy motoring humming along the road to collapse!!!
Sep 4, 2012 6:57PM
35% of GM came from fleet sales.  The rest came from by funding sales to those wth low credit rating.  Another subprime bubble.   
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