New vehicle sales boomed in September with General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen all reporting double-digit gains as the regions of the U.S. battered by storms at the end of the summer began to recover and sales of compact crossover vehicles soared.
GM posted a 12% year-over-year increase in total sales in September, including a 17% increase at Chevrolet and an 9% increase at GMC.
“Our new crossovers from Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac have been very well received and Chevrolet had an outstanding month with the Silverado and Colorado,” said Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of Sales Operations. “We are entering the fourth quarter with strong momentum, great products and a healthy economy.”
GM Chief Economist Mustafa Mohatarem said all the key U.S. economic indicators point toward continued economic growth and stability. In addition, regions devastated by the recent hurricanes will continue to recover, spurring new and used vehicle sales.
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“The overall strength of the U.S. economy is the main force driving the market,” he said. “With the U.S. economy strengthening, retail sales should remain strong for the foreseeable future.”
Toyota Motor North America reported September sales of 226,632 units to surpass Ford Motor Co. in total U.S. sales. Toyota Division posted sales of 200,436 units, up 16.9% on a volume basis while its luxury brand, Lexus, saw sales jump 1.5% on a volume basis in June to 26,196 units.
“The auto industry showed renewed strength in September, bringing optimism for a third consecutive year with sales topping 17 million new vehicles,” said Jack Hollis, group vice president and general manager, Toyota Division.
September was the first full month of sales of the all-new 2018 Camry, which outsold last year’s total by double digits. Toyota division light trucks continue to lead the company’s U.S. sales, with September marking a string of eight consecutive monthly sales records, and nine consecutive monthly best-ever sales records for Highlander and RAV4.
The RAV4, with more than 42,000 units sold this month, has surpassed the 40,000-unit mark for three consecutive months. While Toyota notched a strong September result, the back-to-school month was good for Ford too as its sales increased 8.7%.
“Our September sales were strong across the board, including retail, commercial and government. We’re pleased to say recovery in Houston and Florida is moving quickly, with all of our dealers in the area now back up. We couldn’t be happier with the tireless effort from our dealers, employees and the countless first responders who are moving so quickly,” said Mark LaNeve, Ford U.S. vice president marketing, sales and service.
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Nissan Group reported sales increased 9.5% as the Nissan Division sales set a September record while Infiniti sales went up 12%. Nissan Rogue set a September sales record with 38,969 units, up 47%, Nissan reported. Sales of Armada SUV sales also set a September increased 160% and Titan pickup sales increased 52%.
Not every maker was able to revel in the news of a sales increase last month as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V reported 10% decrease compared with year-ago sales. In September, FCA’s retail sales of 146,904 units were up 0.3% compared with the same month in 2016, representing 84% of total sales.
In line with FCA’s strategy to reduce sales to the daily rental segment, the company’s fleet sales of 27,362 units shrank 41% year over year. The largest planned volume reduction in September fleet sales came from the Jeep brand, which reduced its fleet sales number by 67% year over year. Fleet sales represented 16% of total FCA U.S. September sales.
Volkswagen of America Inc. reported a 33.2% increase compared with September 2016. With 252,456 units delivered year-to-date in 2017, the company is reporting an increase of 9.2% in year-over-year sales as it recovers from the diesel engine scandal. Volkswagen’s sales jump is also tied to a shift to offer more family-friendly SUVs, such as the new Atlas and updated Tiguan, in its line-up. Audi also posted a solid gain of 9.6%
Kelley Blue Book estimated the average transaction price or for light vehicles in the United States was $34,861 in September 2017. The price of new cars increased by $144 (up 0.4%) from September 2016, while remaining flat from last month, Kelley reported.
“Transaction prices were up very slightly in September, reflecting the industry’s trend of slowing demand for new vehicles,” said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “Despite pullbacks in vehicle production this year, incentives are still rising and averaging nearly 11% of transaction prices.
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“In addition, with average prices nearly $35,000, we expect new-car affordability to continue to be a challenge, especially as more consumers stretch their loan terms out to 84 months” to keep payments lower.