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September Auto Sales Surge Past Estimates, Buoyed By Lenders

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2013 Dodge Journey

2013 Dodge Journey

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For yet another month, auto sales proved to be one of the U.S. economy's bright spots, complementing the news this past week that house prices are on an upward trend.

September auto sales were about 13 percent higher than year-ago levels, at a seasonally adjusted level of 14.8 or 14.9 million units, according to analysts, and well ahead of the 14.5-million rate that's been predicted.

Among the Detroit automakers, Chrysler fared best, reporting its best September since 2007--with several models that haven't been completely redesigned in several years--like its Dodge Journey--surging to record levels. Overall General Motors [NYSE: GM] sales were up 1.5 percent from September of last year, while Ford Motor Co. [NYSE: F] saw year-ago levels. Ford did however see major gains in small-car sales, which should put its portfolio in especially good shape whenever construction and pickup sales do significantly strengthen.

Toyota stood out as particularly strong in September, with sales up nearly 42 percent from last September, and Honda showed combined Honda and Acura sales up nearly 32 percent from last September. Both automakers last year weren't completely recovered from production interruptions related to last year's natural disasters in Japan. Kia, Hyundai, Subaru, VW, and Audi continued their seemingly unstoppable upward trajectories. Meanwhile, Nissan was down slightly in September, versus last year.

The auto marked as a whole remains far off its 17-million peak in 2005, although it's well above 2009, when seasonally adjusted sales dipped well below the ten-million mark and they finished at 10.4 million. 

More Americans are likely able to get an auto loan this year, and that may have something to do with the auto-market bubble, and why it's happening even when the economy hasn't bounced back. Last month Experian Automotive noted that subprime auto loans for the second quarter of 2012 had exceeded pre-recession levels. Interest rates have also fallen, and Americans who have held on to their current vehicles for far longer than usual are facing a need (or want) to replace them. Consumer confidence is up as well, with news of some feeble growth in the U.S. economy.

Meanwhile, the economic conditions for automakers themselves are looking better than they have in years--especially when these gains have been posted during a time when most companies have been waning themselves off market incentives. The average new-vehicle incentives remain at $2,468, but that's $176 less than last year, according to TrueCar, and transaction rates remain higher, on average.

Follow below to see our own compiled list of September 2012 figures, as reported by the automakers:

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