It's the tail end of summer, but the car industry hasn't lost its heat just yet--numbers are trending upward for most manufacturers, and economic indicators are looking good.
The largest volume car makers, including General Motors, Ford, Toyota, and Chrysler, are all seeing strong sales gains, most reporting their best sales months in five years.
Some highlights of August's sales report: Toyota gained 18.4 percent, GM climbed 14.7 percent, and Ford rose 12.7 percent. Follow the link to Green Car Reports for a detailed look at the plug-in electric car market's August performance.
Economic environment still favorable
Low interest rates encourage buying by reducing the cost of the debt used to purchase a car. As Kelley Blue Book's Karl Brauer told The Car Connection last month, "[Rates] have finally moved up, but are still at near-historic lows. The upswing is so recent we haven't yet seen the real impact."
Transaction prices have risen 0.7 percent year-on-year, but fallen 0.4 percent month-to-month, now at an industry average of $31,657, according to Kelley Blue Book. Brauer noted that the gains aren't uniform, however. "Consumers are spending top dollar for some of the latest and greatest models, while other brands are forced to cut prices in order to move vehicles off dealership lots," said Brauer.
Those rates have continued their slight climb in August, but the effect, if any, is still small, as sales numbers are up across the board. The national average rate for a 60-month new car loan is now 2.53 percent according to Bankrate.com. Average mortgage rates are up to 4.54 percent for a 30-year fixed, a slight rise from last month.
Last month saw the auto industry make more sales than it had since the 2007-2008 industry depression. For August, the trend looks to extend July's rise, with General Motors, Ford, Toyota, and Chrysler all reporting their best months since the industry collapse.
Will the industry continuing picking up pace, or is the apparent return to pre-crash sales levels just a low-rate-fueled blip? For August at least, the numbers are in and the tally speaks for itself:
General Motors: GM [NYSE:GM] sold a total of 275,847 cars in August, a gain of 14.7 percent compared to last year, seeing double-digit rises across all of its brands. Cadillac led the way with a 37.8-percent climb to 20,255 vehicles delivered; Buick was close behind at 36.9-percent gain year-on-year and 24,650 vehicles delivered. GMC grew 14.2 percent compared to August 2012, selling a total of 43,202 vehicles; Chevrolet rose 10.4 percent to 187,740. For August, 19.9 percent of GM's total sales went to fleet customers, a drop of 4.9 percent against 2012. Year-to-date, GM is up 9.8 percent against 2012 on total sales of 1,930,264.
Ford: Ford Motor Co. [NYSE:F] saw its highest monthly sales since August, 2006, rising 20 percent in retail sales and 12 percent overall to a total of 221,270 vehicles across its Ford and Lincoln brands. Trucks led the gains, up 18.4 percent against August 2012, while cars rose 17.5 percent, and SUVs fell 0.2 percent. Lincoln sold 8,192 vehicles in August, a gain of 0.6 percent. Ford's F-Series pickups sales rose a whopping 22.2 percent to 71,115 units sold in August. The Fiesta subcompact continues its strong percentage rise, up 61.5 percent to 6,744 vehicles sold. Ford's only sales declines in August came from the Mustang (down 8.2 percent), the Escape (down 5.2 percent), the Edge (down 0.6 percent), the Expedition (down 1.3 percent), and the E-Series vans (down 5.7 percent).
Toyota / Lexus / Scion: The Toyota Motor Company [NYSE:TM] group reported total sales of 231,537 vehicles in August, a daily sales-rate rise of 18.4 percent against August 2012, and a raw volume increase of 22.8 percent. Toyota's division group vice president and general manager, Bill Fay, said, "The auto industry continues to be a bright spot in the economic recovery. August capped a great summer for new vehicle sales, and it was Toyota's best month in more than five years."
Chrysler: Chrysler Group LLC posted its best sales since 2007 this month, marking the company's 41st consecutive month of year-on-year gains. Total gains of 12 percent brought the group sales tally to 165,552 units. The Dodge brand accounted for 52,858 of those sales; Jeep followed with 46,239; Ram Trucks sold 33,587 vehicles; the Chrysler brand moved 28,678 units; and Fiat accounted for 4,190. Of the group's brands, Ram saw the biggest gain, up 29 percent against August 2012. Dodge rose 12 percent, Jeep was up 8 percent, Chrysler gained 2 percent, and Fiat was up 1 percent. The Dodge Durango saw the largest percentage gain (117 percent), while the Ram pickup, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler, Chrysler Town & Country, and Dodge Caravan were the top five volume models for Chrysler.
Nissan / Infiniti: Nissan Motor Company's [NASDAQ:NSANY] total sales of 120,498 vehicles amounted to a 22.3 percent gain for Nissan, a new record for August. The Nissan brand sold 108,614 of those vehicles, a 24.3 percent gain. Infiniti sales of 11,884 rose 6.5 percent compared to August 2012. The Nissan LEAF saw its best sales month since its launch, moving 2,420 electric cars, a gain of 253.3 percent. The Altima rose 19.7 percent to 30,976; Sentra sales grew 18.7 percent to 12,605; Pathfinder sold 8,859 examples, up 258.4 percent; Rogue gained 36.8 percent for 17,273 units sold. Infiniti's best sellers include the QX60, up 27.2 percent to 3,026 vehicles sold; the new Q50 sedan, selling 2,434 units; and the QX80, up 19.4 percent to 1,225 units.
Honda / Acura: American Honda Motor Co. [NYSE:HMC] posted record August results with a total of 166,432 vehicles sold, a 26.7 percent rise against last August. Acura sales accounted for 17,051 of that total. Leading models for the Honda brand were the CR-V, setting a new all-time sales record with a 45.1 percent gain to 34,654 units, and the Accord and Civic, both topping 38,000 units; the Odyssey and Crosstour were the only Honda models to decrease in sales, 16.3 percent and 21.0 percent respectively. Acura's best-seller was the MDX, moving 6,499 units, a 12.9 percent increase over August 2012. Acura's biggest loser was the TL, down 32.9 percent to 2,227 units.