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Ford sales rise 40 percent, Chrysler up 61 percent as industry rebounds

Fri, 01 Oct 2010 00:00:00 -0700

Ford Motor Co. posted a 40 percent increase in U.S. sales last month and Chrysler Group soared 61 percent as the industry showed signs of rebounding from an August slump.

General Motors Co. said its sales rose 11 percent from September 2009 levels, when inventories were depleted after the U.S. cash for clunkers incentives. Among Asian automakers, Toyota Motor rose 17 percent, American Honda advanced 26 percent, Nissan North America gained 34 percent and Hyundai-Kia jumped 44 percent.

Of the first 14 companies to report, only one--Suzuki--recorded a decline last month. The results support projections that September's totals may be among the strongest so far this year.

“It's a solid month, another step in a stable, somewhat painful recovery,” said analyst Jesse Toprak of TrueCar.com. “We're still missing a catalyst to boost the selling rate past 12 million, but this may be a healthier way to recover.”

September sales were projected to reach a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 11.7 million vehicles, according to nine analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

August sales had fallen 21 percent--the year's only drop--as the industry fought comparisons to a year-earlier month that was boosted by the clunkers program.

Similarly, last month's performance was aided by comparison to September 2009, after clunkers drained sales as well as vehicle stocks. It was the third-weakest month in the weakest auto market in nearly three decades.

“It's a bit deceptive because last September was so poor after the cash-for-clunkers program ended,” said Gerald Meyers, a professor at the University of Michigan Business School and a former chief of American Motors Corp. “It seems as if auto sales in the U.S. have bottomed out and are headed up from here.”

23 out of 24

Ford's increase was the automaker's highest monthly percentage increase since February's 43 percent gain. Sales boss Ken Czubay said September would mark Ford's 23rd increase in U.S. market share in the past 24 months.

September's increase lifted GM sales through nine months to 6 percent above year-earlier levels. It was the eighth monthly gain for GM so far this year, following a 25 percent August decline.

Among GM's four surviving brands, GMC led the increase with a 42 percent gain. The automaker said Buick rose 36 percent, Chevrolet was up 18.5 percent and Cadillac advanced 11 percent.

The September gain helped GM transition from holdover 2010 models to new 2011 vehicles, said GM's Johnson.

“Our plan is working,” he said in a statement. “With key products like our heavy-duty pickups, Buick Regal and the Cadillac CTS Coupe launching now, and expanded capacity for the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain hitting dealer lots, we're ready to run.”

Slow return

Chrysler said its sales increased to 100,077. Deliveries of its namesake brand rose 92 percent, helped by the Town & Country minivan and Sebring sedan. The Dodge brand increased 71 percent, Jeep climbed 65 percent, and Ram gained 22 percent.

“Chrysler is benefitting from stable gas prices and the highly visible launch of the redesigned Grand Cherokee,” Ivan Drury, an analyst for Edmunds.com. “As long as consumers are not worried about high fuel costs Chrysler should be able to maintain a decent sales pace, since 71 percent of Chrysler sales are trucks.”

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of consumer sentiment fell to 68.2 last month from 68.9 in August. The drop was smaller than analysts estimated, evidence that the largest part of the economy may be stabilizing.

“We believe the economic recovery in the second half will be slower than the first half,” GM's Johnson said. “We do expect modest employment growth. Consumers are starting to spend, albeit cautiously.”

Nissan sold 74,205 Nissan and Infiniti vehicles. Car deliveries expanded 36 percent, led by a 65 percent jump for Altima sedans.

“This year has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride,” said Al Castignetti, vice president of U.S. sales. Sales should keep improving for the rest of 2010, particularly as light-truck demand remains strong, he said.

Automakers decreased sales incentives and discounts by an average of 2 percent from last year, which may have kept sales from gaining more, according to TrueCar.

Ford was the only U.S. automaker to raise incentive spending, TrueCar said. Ford's average discounts rose 7.4 percent from last year to $2,797 per vehicle, while Chrysler decreased incentive spending by 23 percent to $3,787 and GM cut incentives by 11 percent to $3,403.

Honda's incentive spending rose 68 percent to an average of $2,166, according to TrueCar. Toyota boosted discounts by 38 percent to $1,870, and Nissan increased them 10 percent to $2,980.

September had 25 selling days, the same as a year earlier.




By Automotive News