Things had been plugging along pretty well. Not great, mind you, but decent. The spring was looking hopeful; June fell back a bit; but then we saw a mild comeback in July. Which is why the August drop-off caught industry watchers by surprise. The annual sales rate, 10.8 million units, was the slowest since February and a sharp comedown from July's pace of 11.6 million units.
It was no surprise, however, to see August sales come in far below last year's figure. Although 2010 has been trending ahead of 2009's abysmal totals, August of 2009 was the peak of the Cash-for-Clunkers frenzy. Smaller, more fuel-efficient models experienced the most extreme spike. Because year-ago sales were so distorted, it wouldn't make much sense to compare August 2010 totals with those of August 2009. So instead, in our rundown of the strong and the weak, we will compare the most recent month's sales with those of the month prior, to get a sense of where things are going in this suddenly slower summer.
AUGUST 2010 SALES, AND PERCENT INCREASE/DECREASE VERSUS JULY
GENERAL MOTORS -7% (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC only)
With sales in August of only 205 Hummers, 43 Saturns, and 7 Pontiacs, GM sales are pretty much officially representative of the health of its four continuing divisions. All of them, unfortunately, skidded in August. GM might point to a decrease in fleet sales, but with 28% of its cars headed to fleets, GM's fleet percentage was still the second highest in the industry in August.
All Buick models declined, except for the new Regal. Buick sold one more Regal in August than in July.
Cadillac's total would have been worse had the DTS not suddenly powered ahead with a 57% gain. Cadillac's two hottest vehicles, the CTS and the SRX, both dropped by a quarter.
The Equinox (+7%) and the Impala (+19%) were the only two Chevys in the plus column for August. Of the rest, the Cobalt (-23%) had the best excuse, a selldown ahead of the arrival of the new Cruze in September.
Like its Chevrolet counterpart, the GMC Terrain (+11%) kept the momentum going in August, and the Canyon squeaked out a 4% gain. All other GMCs were down.