Steel Markets

Auto Sales See Slippery September

Written by Sandy Williams

U.S. auto sales slipped in September as leading Asian automakers Toyota and Honda reported double-digit declines. Toyota sales fell 16.5 percent and Honda, after a record August, saw sales drop 14.1 percent. Nissan reported a 17.6 percent plunge in sales.

ToyotaHighlanderSubaru ended an amazing 93-month run of sales increases with a 9.4 percent drop in September. Subaru blamed lower volumes on “low days’ supply and three fewer selling days compared to September 2018.”  The timing of Labor Day on Sept. 2 put part of the Labor Day weekend sales into August.

The Detroit Big Three no longer report monthly, but quarterly reports came out on Wednesday. Ford reported a 4.9 percent decline in Q3 2019 compared to Q3 2018. Truck sales were up 8.8 percent for the quarter, but SUV sales slipped 10.5 percent and cars, on  a phase-out track, were down 29.5 percent.

FCA U.S. announced quarterly sales records for its Jeep Wrangler, Ram, and Dodge Challenger. Sales for the third quarter of 2019 totaled 545,034, a zero percent change from Q3 2018.

“Lower interest rates, a stable economy and consumer enthusiasm bolster our belief that new vehicle sales in the U.S. are heading for a strong finish,” said Reid Bigland, head of FCA U.S. Sales.

General Motors reported delivery of 738,638 vehicles in the third quarter, an increase of 6.3 percent compared to Q3 2018. Inventory at the end of September was 759,633 units. GM is in the third week of a strike by United Auto Workers that has stopped production of vehicles in the U.S., as well as in Canada and Mexico.

Despite an unsatisfying sales month for U.S. automakers, WardsAuto estimated the seasonally adjusted annual rate to be 17.2 million units in September, still a strong showing although slightly below the September 2018 rate of 17.3 million. Analyst comments remained relatively upbeat.

“As the global sales outlook continues to weaken, light-vehicle demand in the U.S. remains robust,” said Jeff Schuster, head of global vehicle forecasts at LMC Automotive. “This is despite the headwinds and uncertainty caused by rising tensions with Iran, the UAW strike at GM and ongoing trade concerns.”

“All year long we’ve been talking about high prices and rising interest rates keeping shoppers on the sidelines, but in the third quarter those pressures eased up just enough to get consumers back in a buying mood. If this momentum continues, we expect a solid finish to the year,” said Jeremy Acevedo, Edmunds’ senior manager of industry analysis.

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