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August Sales: GM Up, Ford Down


 

 

Sales of new vehicles did better than expected in August despite troubled credit markets and the unfolding housing slump.

The seasonally adjusted sales rate of 16.27 million was well ahead of July, when the adjusted rate dropped to 15.28 million units.

American carmakers continued to lose ground even though General Motors reported a 5.3-percent increase in passenger-vehicle sales in part due to strong sales to rental fleets, which increased 24 percent, according to Paul Ballew, GM’s general director of global sales analysis.

Toyota reported a 2.8-percent dip in sales that was linked, in part, to shortages of small, fuel-efficient vehicles imported from Japan.

Ford, which has now slipped behind Toyota in total sales this year, reported its sales dropped 14 percent last month. Chrysler reported a six-percent decline. Both Ford, which is now third in total sales, and Chrysler, number four, reported deep cuts in rental fleet sales last month.

Meanwhile, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mitsubishi, and Suzuki all reported modest sales increases for August. For Nissan, the Altima continued to do well with consumers; Mitsubishi was aided by a 58-percent jump in sales of the new Lancer.

European luxury makers including Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Porsche, and BMW also reported sales increases as they managed to shrug off the declining value of the dollar, which has made it more expensive for them to export vehicles to the U.S. MINI, in fact, reported a 19.3-percent increase in sales during August.

Subaru said its sales declined, as did Volkswagen.

 

Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, Ford’s chief economist, said it is apparent consumers have become more cautious. Consumer sentiment has declined and there is evidence that middle-income households — those making less than $75,000 annually — have dropped out of the market.

“It appears we are in the phase of the cycle where the consumers stop and take stock and weigh their options,” she said.

Moreover, the age of the U.S. car fleet is now older than ever, indicating more and more consumers are delaying purchases of new vehicles.


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