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US Auto Sales Fall in September: Will 2016 Tally Top 2015?

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U.S. light-vehicle sales dropped 0.7% year over year to 1.43 million units in Sep 2016, per Autodata. This is the fourth of the nine reported months this year in which sales declined. Moreover, sales on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (“SAAR”) basis fell to 17.74 million units in the month from 18.04 million units in Sep 2015. Nevertheless, SAAR for September was higher than 16.97 million units in Aug 2016. Product segments like light trucks continued to record strong sales.

General Motors Company (GM - Free Report) was the leader in terms of sales volume for Sep 2016. Among the six major American and Japanese automakers, only Toyota Motor Corporation (TM - Free Report) and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (NSANY - Free Report) recorded year-over-year sales improvement last month.

Now, let us take a look at the U.S. sales figures reported by individual automakers.

U.S. Automakers

General Motors recorded 249,795 vehicle sales in September, marking a 0.6% year-over-year decrease. Retail sales improved 0.3% to 204,449 units.

Ford Motor Co. (F - Free Report) reported a 7.7% decrease in U.S. sales from the year-ago period to 204,447 vehicles in Sep 2016. Sales volume of the Lincoln brand vehicles advanced 1.3% year over year to 8,797 units in the month. Sales of the Ford brand declined 8.1% year over year to 195,650 vehicles.

FCA US LLC – controlled by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU - Free Report) – recorded a 1% year-over-year fall in sales to 192,883 vehicles in Sep 2016.

Japanese Automakers

Toyota’s sales improved 1.5% year over year to 197,260 units in Sep 2016. Sales at the Toyota division increased 1.4% to 171,459 units. Lexus’ sales moved up 2% to 25,801 units.

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. (HMC - Free Report) recorded a 0.1% year-over-year drop in sales to 133,655 vehicles in the month. Sales in the Honda Division improved 1.5% to a September record of 120,842 units. However, sales at the Acura Division fell 12.9% to 12,813 vehicles.

Nissan reported a 4.9% year-over-year rise in sales to 127,797 vehicles in September. Sales in the Nissan division increased 4.3% to 116,384 units, while sales at the Infiniti Division surged 11.7% to 11,413 units.


Many analysts believe that U.S. auto sales are reaching a plateau. In the nine months ended Sep 2016, sales inched up a mere 0.3%. This, combined with the declining sales in the last two months, makes it uncertain if 2016 volumes will be able to surpass the record levels of 2015.

Even if the 2016 tally falls short of 2015, volumes will still be very high, making it a good year for the auto industry.

High employment levels, rising personal income, low fuel prices and easy availability of credit are some factors that have been driving sales. Moreover, the high average age of cars on the U.S. roads should continue to boost replacement demand for cars. However, the pressure to maintain the attractive incentives and deals may strain the margins for automakers.

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Auto-Tires-Trucks Sector Price Index

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