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).
CHRYSLER GROUP +1%
A 1% increase isn’t great, but it allowed Chrysler to keep its streak of year-over-year monthly sales increases alive. It also pushed Chrysler past American Honda and into fourth place among all carmakers.
Some uncharacteristic consistency for the Chrysler division: The 2% increase exactly matched August’s, and the same two models were up—the 300 and the Town & Country—while the 200 again was down.
The Dart was up by half, easily outselling the Avenger (-42%) and the Journey (-9%) to become the third highest-volume Dodge. The Charger jumped (+49%), cementing its number-two spot, while the bestselling Grand Caravan declined (-19%).
Jeep division continues to suffer the loss of the Liberty, with its successor, the Cherokee, delayed. Other Jeeps were up, but not enough.
The big Ram pickup was a bright spot at Chrysler, as it climbed all the way up to number four on the sales charts, bested only by the F-Series, the Silverado, and the Camry.
A troubling month for Fiat, with the brand’s first big monthly decline. And it would have been twice as bad without the addition of the 500L.
AMERICAN HONDA -10%
It was not a great September at Honda, with the company getting passed by Chrysler, the Civic falling behind the new Corolla, and Acura continuing to falter.
The Accord (-14%) was the second-bestselling passenger car; the Civic (+7%) lost its number-one spot among small cars to the new Corolla. The CR-V (-4%) slipped behind the Ford Escape in the SUV derby, but remained on the top ten list—in the #9 spot—overall.
A bad month for Acura saw the TL fall by two-thirds, the TSX (-23%), and the new ILX (-22%) were also down significantly. The new RLX found only 311 buyers (two-thirds the August total), while the SUVs—increasingly the heart of the brand—treaded water.
Hyundai pointed to model-changeover supply constraints in explaining the results for the Santa Fe (-10%), the Tucson (-38%), and the Sonata (-20%). What about the Veloster (-25%)? That must be slacking demand. There were no such problems, however, with the Azera (up by two-thirds), the revised Equus (+16%), or the Elantra (+8%).
All Kias dropped compared to year-ago September figures, with declines ranging from 15% (Rio) to 50% (Sedona minivan). The big-volume models were in between: Optima (-19%), Sorento (-22%), and Soul (-22%). The new Cadenza only added two-thirds as many additional sales as it did in August.
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA -6%
Nissan trailed the overall market but not by much.
The new Pathfinder (+73%) continues to be the happiest story at Nissan, although we also note that the newly lower-priced Leaf doubled—and outsold the Volt. In less-happy news, there was the Altima (-13%), the Murano (-22%), and the Sentra (-17%).
The arrival of the Q50 masked other problems at Infiniti. All other models were down, most alarmingly the FX/QX70 (-80%) and the M (-26%).
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP -6%
The VW Group’s upmarket brands all defied the downturn, but not so the mainstay Volkswagen division.
The Beetle (+36%) is still running ahead of last year, and was joined this month by the Tiguan (+9%). Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ended for VW. The Passat (-17%) was off significantly, while news of an upcoming new Golf appears to be really hurting sales of the existing model (-35%). All other VWs were down as well.
Big increases for the A4 (+29%), the Q5 (+45%), and the Q7 (+32%) pushed Audi ahead. And the new A3 will soon add even more volume.
The Panamera (-22%) was the only Porsche down in September, and its drop puts it behind the 911. The Cayenne, though, remains comfortably out in front.
We’re getting tired of saying this, but we doubt Subaru is tired of hearing it: Once again, Subaru has notched the biggest gain of all carmakers. Credit the new Forester (+75%) as well as the addition this model year of the XV Crosstrek. We do detect some weakening, however, in the Legacy (-31%) and the Outback (-23%).
The 7-series suddenly increased fourfold, while the X3 dropped by nearly half. Other models had far more tempered ups and downs. Overall, though, it was a good month for the division.
The Countryman was down (-41%) but other Minis were up (+42%).
Smart returned to being a drain on results, but Daimler was in the black nonetheless.
The addition of the CLA (2310 units) was the biggest factor aiding the cause of the three-pointed star, with help from the E-class (+17%), the M-class (+30%), and the GL (+20%).
After a couple of monthly increases, Smart fell sharply in September.
We can understand the new Mazda6 doubling in sales, and the still-hot CX-5 up 41%, but the Mazda2 up 153%? Against that were declines for the top-volume Mazda3 (-38%) and the aging CX-9 (-24%).
All Volvos were down in September.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER +1%
A surge for the XF (+47%) did more than the addition of the new F-type to push Jaguar sales ahead.
Land Rover -7%
The bestselling Range Rover Sport was off (-21%) with dealers running low during the model changeover. It appears that some customers were steered into either an Evoque (+26%) or a big Range Rover (+23%).
The new Outlander did better (+64%), but the Outlander Sport (-19%) and the Lancer (-18%) were down. Oh, and 20 iMiEVs were sold.
TOP 10 BESTSELLING NAMEPLATES IN SEPTEMBER 2013
1. Ford F-series 60,456
2. Chevrolet Silverado 32,506
3. Toyota Camry 31,871
4. Dodge Ram 28,145
5. Honda Accord 25,176
6. Toyota Corolla/Matrix 23,251
7. Honda Civic 22,983
8. Ford Escape 22,607
9. Honda CR-V 21,439
10. Nissan Altima 21,221