After a torrid summer of new-car sales, things simmered down a bit in September. Whether September actually broke the long string of year-over-year monthly sales increases depends on how you look at the data. In absolute numbers, sales were down 4% overall. However, there were fewer selling days this year than last. If one looks at the annualized sales pace, we find this September’s rate of 15.3 million units to be better than September 2012’s 14.8 million figure. No matter which way you look at the this-year-versus-last-year scenario, this does constitute a slowdown compared to the summer. Sales fell to their slowest pace since April. The rest of the fall should tell us whether September’s slowdown was mostly just a calendar anomaly abetted by model-year changeover inventory issues, or whether it signals the sating of the public’s pent-up demand for new cars.
SEPTEMBER 2013 SALES RESULTS, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS SEPTEMBER 2012.
GENERAL MOTORS -11%
General Motors’ positive spin on September was that retail sales were down only 6%, while most of the decline was in fleet sales. Also, only two of the four divisions were down. Still, GM came uncomfortably close to losing its sales crown to Ford.
The Encore and its 3206 units was the only thing that kept Buick in positive territory. All other models declined, none more so than the problem child Regal (-29%).
The ATS was Cadillac’s best-selling sedan in September, while the CTS (-22%) was off during its model changeover. The SRX (-6%) continues to be the brand’s biggest-volume model overall.
Other than the big vans, the fleet-only Captive Sport, and the Tahoe, it was all negative numbers for Chevrolet. None hurt more than the Silverado (-11%), which saw a dip attributed to a faster-than-expected selldown of the old model combined with a relatively slow production ramp-up of the new one.
No GMC models outpaced their September 2012 totals. GMC’s biggest decliners were the big SUVs, which will be replaced early next year.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +6%
Ford was one of the few automakers to beat its year-ago total, a performance that pushed it past Toyota to retake second place overall. In fact, Ford came within 3000 units of General Motors. The less-good news is that Ford had heavy incentives on its F-series pickup, which must battle against new versions of the Silverado/Sierra, the Ram, and the Tundra.
Ford’s increase came from the F-series (+10%), the Fiesta (+29%), the C-Max (which doubled), and the Fusion (+62% over a particularly weak year-ago total). The Escape was off slightly, but was still the country’s top selling SUV. Those models had to overcome weakness in the Focus (-15%) and the Edge (-21%).
Modest gains for the MKS and MKZ couldn’t overcome losses for the crossovers and the Navigator.
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES -4%
Toyota’s overall sales dip exactly mirrored that of the industry overall, but that was probably little solace as Ford pushed the company back into third place. And while the Camry remained the bestselling passenger car, it too dropped one notch among all nameplates, falling from second place to third, behind the F-Series and the Silverado.
Toyota division did slightly better than the company overall. The Camry (-7%) was again the bestselling passenger car; the new Avalon is running at three times previous volume; the all-but-forgotten Yaris more than doubled; and the RAV4 (+16%) enjoyed a nice increase. The bad news was that the Prius (-16%) fell off the top ten list, and the sinking Venza was down by nearly half.
The new IS (+42%) continues to rebuild its volume, but the new ES (-26%) had its first down month. Luckily, the brand’s biggest-volume product, the not-so-new RX, was up 8% over September ‘12.
The FR-S (+9%) was the only Scion up from last year. All other models were down by double digits, ranging from -24% (the tC) to -58% (the iQ).