On the heels of a healthy summer for new-car sales, things actually improved in September, as the annualized sales rate bumped up against the 15-million-unit mark. Industry observers are crediting an improving overall economy, low interest rates, freer bank lending, and rising demand driven by an aging U.S. fleet.
Sales were up 13% over last September. Once again, Toyota and Honda posted outsized percentage increases, because they were laid low by tsunami-related supply problems in 2011; they were joined by the Volkswagen Group and the Koreans. Several of the automakers reporting small increases or flat sales, including GM, Ford, and Nissan, were working against inflated totals last year.
SEPTEMBER 2012 SALES RESULTS, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS SEPTEMBER 2011.
GENERAL MOTORS +2%
General Motors lagged behind the industry average increase, but it was coming off an inflated year-ago total.
Small cars were the big news at Chevrolet, starting with the Cruze (+43%), which was far and away the division's bestselling car, as well as the top-selling small car in America. The Sonic also continues to do well, and the Spark is off to a respectable start. The Volt again came close to 3000 units, four times the volume of last September. The truck story was not a happy one for the Silverado (-17%), the Tahoe (-47%), the Suburban (-38%), or the Traverse (-28%). The Colorado, though, continues to scoop up Ford Ranger buyers.
After swooning last month, sales of the Canyon bounced back in September, and the compact pickup recorded GMC's largest sales increase for the month (+21%). The increase for the Acadia (+17%) had a bigger impact, volume-wise, and helped negate lower totals for GMC's big SUVs.
The Regal continues to drop dramatically (-45%). Good thing Buick added more than 4000 units with the Verano.
The ATS dipped a tire into the market in September (selling 611 units). That and the XTS (2506 sales) weren't enough to overcome a slipping CTS (-34%) and weakness with the big 'utes.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +0%
Like General Motors, Ford was not able to improve upon a quite good last September.
The F-series may have barely moved the needle versus last year (+1%), but it still sold some 55,000 units, nearly 20,000 more than the next-closest nameplate. The Escape (+15%) was once again America's bestselling SUV. And the Focus (+91%) saw a big jump. Dragging down results were the Fusion (-37%), which is in the midst of a model changeover, the departed Crown Victoria, and a waning Edge (-8%).
Lincoln slipped back into the negative column in September, mostly due to the loss of the Town Car. Of the continuing models, the biggest movers were the MKS (-34%), the MKZ (+33%), and the MKT (+31%).
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES +42%
Toyota made a big jump over its depressed, year-ago figures, and came close to overtaking Ford in the process.
The Camry (+38%) remained the number-one passenger car, and the number three nameplate overall. The Corolla/Matrix (+43%) continues to hang tough despite its advanced age. The Prius doubled last September's figure, and the RAV4 (+80%), the Highlander (+45%), and the Tacoma (+49%) were also up big over 2011.
Lexus sales increased by more than a third but the division wasn't able to hold on to first place in the luxury derby. The new GS, the ES, and the RX continue to power the brand's gains. The CT (-17%) and the IS (-12%) are a drag, but the loss of the HS barely registers.
Scion wasn't able to double sales again but its 76% gain isn't too shabby. The addition of the FR-S and the iQ provided a lot of that impetus, but the three other models all were up by 25% or better.