Some Automakers Post Stronger-than-Expected US Sales in August

In spite of Hurricane Irene’s lingering effects on the East Coast, including power outages and flooding, and a continued slowing of the US economy, which has hurt consumer sentiment, August US light-vehicle sales totals from a number of automakers were slightly stronger than anticipated.

All three Detroit-based automakers posted sales increases from August of last year, which had one less selling day. Both General Motors (+13.5%) and Fiat-Chrysler Group (+25.6%) deliveries were up in double digits, and Ford Motor Co.’s sales improved in the high single digits (+6.9%).

GMC, Jeep, Lincoln Outpace Industry

GMC (+35.1%) was the sales leader in terms of percentage gains among General Motors’ core brands, and sales of the Chevrolet Cruze compact passed the 20,000-unit sales mark for a fifth consecutive month, which likely made it one of the 10 best sellers in the US market. Chrysler’s Jeep brand sales increased by nearly 52% from last year as the automaker’s brands were helped by a 90-day-postponed-payment incentive on some models. Ford Motor Company said both Ford Explorer and Fiesta deliveries were strong, while Lincoln brand deliveries were up in double digits (+19.8%) from a year ago. Ford F-Series totals slipped slightly on a selling-day-adjusted basis*, although more than 48,000 large Ford pickup trucks were delivered and 41% were equipped with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine, according to Ford.

Among the major Asian automakers, Nissan Group seems to be recovering faster than its Japanese rivals as it posted a double-digit climb (+19% unadjusted) in sales from August 2010. The automaker’s Nissan Altima was a strong seller in August. Honda and Toyota Groups continued to be hampered by inventory shortfalls related to production setbacks from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Toyota reported a 16% sales decline from a year ago on a selling-day-adjusted basis. However, a company official said the automaker’s supply outlook continues to improve, as North American production will return to normal levels this month and as production ramps up on the redesigned 2012 Camry. Although Lexus sales fell 10.6% from a year ago, the luxury division’s car deliveries improved.

Honda Group also posted a double-digit sales decline (-27.2%) in August on a selling-day-adjusted basis. A Honda representative said production plans for most models were back to 100% by late August at North American plants. The new Honda CR-Z posted a small sales gain in August.

Hyundai and Kia continued to post higher sales than in the previous year, although year-over-year gains for Hyundai (+5%) were not nearly as strong as Kia’s increase (+22%). Kia set an August sales record.

Smaller Gains Posted by European Automakers

Among the European automakers, Volkswagen Group (+6.2%) posted a smaller gain than in past recent months due to challenges from the hurricane in the last weekend of the month, and BMW Group, which posted a small decline (-4%) from a year ago, said it lost sales related to the bad weather in the Northeast. Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz sales were nearly flat with last year on a selling-day-adjusted basis.

Among the independents, Suzuki sales were up by more than one-fourth (+26.6%) from a year ago, while Subaru (-9.9%) deliveries were down in light of inventory shortages related to production setbacks following the Japan crisis. Legacy sales improved, however.

*August 2011 had 26 selling days, while August 2010 had 25.

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