September 2011 Car Sales: The Needle Creeps Higher

October 3, 2011

Monthly sales numbers for September 2011 are being reported today by car makers, and the slight progress made in August seems to be continuing with upticks at all the major brands except for the two most affected by the Japanese earthquake earlier this year.

According to market analysts at J.D. Power, September retail new-vehicle sales could check in at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 10.3 million unit, which would be the first time the SAAR was above 10 million units since April. With fleet sales counted in, the SAAR could reach 12.9 million units.

On the year, Power predicts total sales of 12.9 million units, with 10.2 million coming from retail customers.

Some early winners like the Ford Explorer and Chevy Cruze are repeating their success from months past. Are other vehicles failing to launch, or picking up late-in-life strength? The results, by automaker:  

General Motors: General Motors (NYSE: GM) says it sold 207,145 vehicles in September, up 20 percent over September 2010. Chevrolet sales rose 21.5 percent, with the Cruze topping the 200,000-unit mark in its first year on sale. GMC sold 27.7 percent more vehicles than it did in September of 2010; Buick's sales rose 5.6 percent, and Cadillac was up a slim 1.0 percent.

Ford: Ford (NYSE: F) reported a company-wide increase in sales of 9 percent, with utility vehicles climbing 35 percent and trucks up 15 percent. Total sales were 175,199 units. Ford-brand sales were up 14 percent--the Explorer, up 204 percent--which means a big drop at Lincoln not yet broken out in the numbers.

Chrysler: Chrysler Group LLC says it sold 127,334 vehicles in September, a 27-percent increase over September 2010. Chrysler brand sales rose 36 percent; Ram was up 42 percent, Jeep climbed 24 percent, and Dodge sales rose 10 percent. Fiat has moved 13,861 units so far this year, well off initial targets.

Toyota / Lexus: Toyota says its sales of 121,451 units represented a decrease of 17.5 percent over September 2010. Toyota-brand vehicles accounted for 106,456 of those sales, down 18.2 percent; Lexus was off 11.5 percent at 14,995 units, but Scion was up 7.7 percent at 3,838 sales in September.

Honda / Acura:Honda began to see its sales slump soften, as production returned to normal after the March 11 earthquake in Japan. In September, Honda sold 89,532 vehicles, a drop of only 8.0 percent; for the year it's off 6.2 percent. Acura sales of 10,010 represented a decline of 6.6 percent; on the year, Acura is off 7.9 percent.

Nissan / Infiniti: Nissan reported sales of 84,485 vehicles, a 28.2-percent rise over last year's September; the Versa subcompact was up 68 percent. Infiniti was up 2.1 percent at 8,479 units.

Hyundai: With sales up 20 percent on the year, Hyundai set a September sales record last month by moving 52,051 vehicles--a 12-percent increase over the same period in 2010.

Kia: Kia's sales boom means the automaker has passed its previous sales record in just the first nine months of this year. September 2011 sales totaled 35,609 units, up 18.4 percent. Kia is up 37.1 percent for the year.

BMW / MINI: BMW sales rose 11.4 percent in September, for a total of 25,749 vehicles, and a 14.2-percent rise on the year. MINI kicked in another 3,999 units, for a drop of 18.1 percent, but a year-to-date increase of 20.4 percent.

Volkswagen: Volkswagen reported 27,036 units sold in September 2011, a 35.6-percent increase over September 2010. The 2012 VW Passat sold more than 3000 copies in its first month on sale; the Jetta continues to power huge growth in the compact class, with sales up 55.5 percent from the same period in 2010. Year-to-date sales are up 22.2 percent.

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