The August new-car market was little changed from July's, despite the stock market swoon and the hurricane that closed out the month in the Northeast. Industry-wide, sales were up 8% over last year, while the seasonally adjusted full-year sales rate remained just on the high side of 12 million units. The latter figure was the bit worse than last month; the former stat a bit better. Unemployment and economic anxiety remain high. The Japanese -- particularly Toyota and Honda, as well as Infiniti and Subaru -- continue to suffer shortages of some models. That has been helping the domestics and the Koreans, all of which outpaced the industry with their sales growth in August.
Eventually, those supply issues will be rectified, which will give the affected players a boost in the coming months. But the economy overall hardly looks ready to take off, so may keep a lid on any real dramatic growth.
SALES RESULTS FOR AUGUST 2011, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS AUGUST 2010
GENERAL MOTORS +18% (continuing nameplates only)
General Motors did better in August than in July, as all four divisions increased sales over last year. In a reverse of last month, GM says that retail sales grew much faster than fleet sales.
The Cruze had another huge month, enough to keep it in the top five nameplates. Other heroes were the Equinox (+58%), the Traverse (+44%), and the Suburban (+60%), all part of a good month for trucks.
The growing Regal lineup more than doubled sales again in August. The Enclave grew modestly (+17%) while the LaCrosse treaded water. Things would have been better were it not for the departing Lucerne (-48%).
Cadillac was able to reverse a recent downtrend, mostly on the strength of the CTS (+39%).
GMC was General Motors' big winner in August, with the Canyon (+141%) leading the charge and the Terrain (+88%) following behind.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +16% (Ford and Lincoln)
In a repeat of last month, Ford's increase was mostly due to its SUVs, both the new (the Explorer) and the old (the Escape). Once again, cars were the next most improved and trucks crept up just a bit.
Explorer sales continue to grow by leaps and bounds, but what's more surprising is Ford's ability to push the aged Escape (more than 20,000 of them) out of dealerships. Overall, sales of SUVs -- with help even from dilettantes like the Flex (+24%) and the Expedition (+42%) -- increased by nearly half. Small cars, however, had their own positive story, as Ford claimed that the Fiesta (+76%) and the Focus are its fastest-turning models (although the Focus was off by 9% due to short supply).
Lincoln's jump in August wasn't quite as good as its July increase, but was pretty good nonetheless. The same was true of the performance of Lincoln's biggest-volume model, the MKZ (+50%). The soon-to-be-departed Town Car was the next most improved (+45%).
CHRYSLER GROUP +31%
Chrysler had another big month in August, and was able to squeak past Toyota. Trucks were stronger than cars, not surprising given the fact that Jeep once again was the biggest-gaining division.
The 200 continues to sell at twice the rate of the Sebring and has become the bestselling Chrysler, passing the Town & Country (-7%). Eminem for CEO!
The Grand Caravan swung from negative last month to positive (+32%), but the addition of the Durango had more to do with Dodge's increase. The Journey (+34%) and the Avenger (+38%) were also up, but the other cars all were down.
Like many other pickups, Ram sales crept ahead in August.
What a difference a face makes -- the restyled Compass (+131%) was once again the most improved Jeep model. The Grand Cherokee continues to accelerate (+77%), but all Jeep models did better than last year.
The Fiat 500 had its best month yet in August.