September Auto Sales Surge Past Estimates, Buoyed By Lenders

October 2, 2012
2013 Dodge Journey

2013 Dodge Journey

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:


2013 Chevrolet Spark

2013 Chevrolet Spark

General Motors: GM (NYSE: GM) has reported sales of 210,245 vehicles in September 2012; that's up 1.5 percent compared to September of 2011, and the strongest September since 2008. Passenger cars were at the leading edge of the surge, with minicar, small, and compact cars together posting a 97-percent gain. Truck sales were down 20 percent versus the same month last year, mainly due to a reduction in fleet deliveries. Cadillac was the only division to see sales down slightly (1.3 percent) versus September 2011, while Buick was up 7.9 percent. All of GM stands up 3.2 percent year-to-date.

Ford: Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) posted total sales that were unchanged versus September of last year, although retail sales were up four percent. Small-car sales surged for Ford--to a decade high--thanks to strong combined sales of the Focus C-Max, and Fiesta (24,628, altogether). Focus sales alone were up 91 percent compared to last September, and the new Escape posted the nameplate's best September ever, at 23,148 units. Total utility-vehicle sales were up nine percent, while total truck sales were down eight percent--although the F-Series had its best September in five years.

Toyota / Lexus / Scion: Total Toyota Motor Sales results (including Toyota, Lexus, and Scion) were up 41.5 percent in September, compared to September 2011. The Toyota Division powered through with a 42.3-percent gain from last September, to 151,524 units--led by Camry and Camry Hybrid (34,252 combined). Lexus finished the month 35.7 percent higher than September 2011, at 12,020 units, while Scion actually posted the highest-percentage gains, up 75.7 percent versus last September, to 75.7 percent. Lexus and Toyota hybrid models, including the Toyota Prius family, finished at 26,747 combined--up nearly 121 percent.

Chrysler: Chrysler posted its best September in five years, with sales up 12 percent versus the same month last year; the automaker also finished its third quarter with sales up 13 percent versus year-ago levels. This was Chrysler's 30th consecutive month of sales gains, with Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, and Fiat all up. The Jeep brand had its best September since 2006, with sales up ten percent, while Dodge and Chrysler were both at their highest September levels since 2007 (up 18 percent and five percent, respectively). Sales of the Dodge Journey were up 41 percent, while Dodge Grand Caravan ended the month 32 percent higher than last year and the Jeep Grand Cherokee was up 19 percent. And it was a record month for the Chrysler 200.

Honda / Acura: Thanks in part to the all-new 2013 Accord, which was already hitting dealerships in the later half of the month, American Honda (Honda and Acura combined) posted an increase of 30.9 percent versus September of last year, to 117,211 units. Even considering that the '13 Accord reached dealerships about halfway through the month, it led in sales, up 56.6 percent to 29,182. Civic was up 57 percent and CR-V up nearly 14 percent versus last September. On the Acura side, sales were up to 14,366--43.5 percent higher than September 2011.

Nissan / Infiniti: Nissan North America sales were down 1.1 percent in September, versus year-ago levels, 91.907 units. Breaking it down by brand, Nissan sales fell 2.4 percent, while Infiniti was up 11.4 percent. While deliveries of the Altima were picking up pace and the Sentra sales fell, with a new 2013 model on the way, the Rogue crossover has a new September record, at 12,106, and the Pathfinder was up 38.7 percent from a year ago. And sales of the Nissan Leaf were at their highest level of any month for the past year, at 984 units. Infiniti September sales were at their best since 2007, and have now had five months of double-digit increases.


2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

Hyundai: Hyundai posted a record 60,025 sales in September; that's up 15 percent versus September of last year, and up 10 percent for the first nine months of 2012 compared with the same period in 2011. The Elantra family, likely buoyed by new coupe and hatchback variants, saw sales up 27 percent versus last September; Tucson sales were also up 27 percent. Veloster sales were a strong 3,020 for the month. Accent, Sonata, and Genesis sales were down slightly. 

Kia:  Kia had its 25th consecutive month of record sales, with 48,105 units--35.1 percent higher than September 2011. Those numbers were led by Optima and Sorento, and at 14,301 for the month, the Optima was up 131 percent versus last September.

Volkswagen: The brand posted its best September since 1972, with 36,339 units sold, representing a 37.2-percent gain year-to-date. It was the best September ever for the Passat and Tiguan, while September Beetle sales were at their best since 2003. VW noted that diesel TDI models accounted for 23.9 percent of its U.S. sales in September.

Subaru: September sales for Subaru of America were up 32 percent over last September, to 27,683, with Outback and Legacy models up 39 and 31 percent, respectively. The redesigned Impreza has also helped boost year-to-date sales, which are reported at 245,463 (25 percent over 2011 levels); Subaru anticipates that it may break 300,000 for calendar-year 2012.

Mercedes-Benz: Mercedes-Benz USA posted a record month, with 25,980 vehicles sold in September, up 8.7 percent from September 2011. That included a 14.7-percent boost in Mercedes-Benz C-Class sales, at 7,872, while the C-Class, E-CLass, and M-Class remained top performers.

BMW / MINI: BMW and MINI combined reported sales up 3.5 percent from September 2011, to 25,749 vehicles. Year-to-date sales remain up 7.1 percent for the first nine months of 2012, versus the same period in 2011, with the MINI brand posting the steepest percent gains.


The 2013 Mazda3 took the lead, achieving its best September ever, at 14,031 sales, or a 57.1-percent increase from last September. The automaker sold 4,468 CX-5 models in September, while brand totals for the month were up to 24,135--9.5 percent higher than last September.

Audi: Audi sold 12,302 vehicles in September, representing a 26.5-percent gain over September of 2011. Year-to-date, the brand has already hit 100,694--18.5 percent higher than last year. And September 2012 stands as the third-best month for U.S. sales in Audi of America history

Volvo: Volvo was one of the few automakers to report a decrease in sales--of 1.3 percent, versus September 2011. Its year-to-date sales are also down one percent.

Jaguar / Land Rover: Jaguar Land Rover had its best September since 2007, with 4,640 sales, up 20 percent from September 2011 levels. Land Rover sales were up 33 percent, to 3,636, while Jaguar was down ten percent, to 1,004. The Range Rover Sport continued to be the strongest-selling model in either lineup, at 1,514 units sold in September, up 23 percent from September 2011.

Mitsubishi: Mitsubishi sold just 4,806 vehicles in September, which is down 17.2 percent from September 2011. Sales of the Outlander Sport were up 49 percent year-over-year and helped balance losses from the discontinuation of the Galant sedan.

Porsche: Porsche sold 2,736 vehicles this September, a 26-percent increase over last September; and year-to-date, the brand remains 10.4 percent above 2011 levels, at 25,015. 

Suzuki: Not yet available at the time of posting.


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