Chrysler Group reported total U.S. sales for August 2009 of 93,222 units, an increase of 5% compared with a lackluster July, and a decrease of 15% compared with the same period in 2008.
Retail sales for August were 68,958 units. The company finished the month with 100,238 units in inventory, representing a 28-day supply, an abnormally low inventory level in a business where 60 days is the norm. Inventory is down 74% versus August 2008, when it totaled 380,560 units.
Overall, industry figures for August are projected to come in at more than 14 million for a seasonally adjusted annual selling rate (SAAR), far above the running rate of under 10 million for each previous month of 2009, which caused all automakers to trim production.
Like other automakers, Chrysler, it appears, was caught short with an inadequate supply of small cars — or more troubling for taxpayer owners, lack of consumer demand for the cars it has and will have for the next year — just as demand for fuel efficient cars surged due to federal government financed incentives under the CARS program, aka Clunkers.
However, its Jeep brand posted strong sales of the Grand Cherokee sport utility vehicle, up 62%, which resulted in the lowest year-to-date decline among the Group’s ailing brands,which was a -33% drop. The biggest loser in the same period was flagship Chrysler itself, off -51%, followed by Dodge at -37%.
“Chrysler Group had another strong sales month in August with the majority of Chrysler Group nameplates posting year-over-year or month-over-month sales improvements,” said Peter Fong, President and Chief Executive Officer for the Chrysler Brand and “Lead Executive” for the new Sales Organization at Chrysler Group LLC in a statement.
Chrysler said the federal CARS program gave a boost to the industry in August, and as a result, it is increasing production by more than 50,000 units.
It was not immediately clear how the increase was figured since the company shut down virtually all of its production when it filed for bankruptcy last May, and only partially resumed it after Fiat took effective control in June after the court approved its U.S. Treasury backed sale.
The company has stopped holding sales conference calls for analysts and journalists, and is not releasing financial results thus far, even though U.S. and Canadian taxpayers financed its reorganization. The long-term viability of the company remains in question in the minds of many analysts.