The Detroit Three posted strong sales in August continuing a yearlong trend as the slowly recovering auto market continues to outpace the stalled U.S. Economy. Market leader General Motors Company sold 240,530 vehicles, a 10% increase in an industry that grew by a surprising – at least to analysts – 20%. This was the strongest August since 2007. Number Two Ford Motor increased sales by 13% to 196,749. Chrysler Group managed a 14% increase at 148,472, its best performance since 2007.
Coming at the opening of the Democratic Presidential convention, the ongoing recovery of the job and wealth creating Detroit companies will be political fodder for the Administration in the face of Mitt Romney’s well established “let ‘em die stance” even though his firm Bain capital accepted a federal bailout as Rolling Stone magazine has just revealed.
Low interest loans helped sales as the Federal Reserve continues to print money, and there was a notable lack of market propping fleet sales among the Detroit nameplates. Based on preliminary estimates, it looks like the seasonally adjusted annual selling rate or SAAR is running at more than 14.5 million light trucks and cars with almost 12.5 million of those profitable retail sales. August was the retail sales month in more than four-and-a-half years.
The real gains, though, were reaped by the Japanese Three, who are now fully recovered from last year’s natural disasters which cut production, and who are benefiting from decades-long reputations for high quality, fuel-efficient cars as U.S. gasoline prices continue to average close to $4 a gallon. Small vehicle sales increased by almost 50% compared to last August.
Toyota posted sales of 188,520, led by the Camry (36,720), Corolla (24,311) and Prius (21,111), which continues to dominate the hybrid market. This performance was good enough to maintain Toyota in third place ahead of Chrysler on the sales charts, and within a chip shot of displacing Ford Motor from its second place position. To keep the pressure on Ford and it s momentum going, debt free Toyota announced 0% financing on Camry in September, which also continues on Corolla, Avalon, Tundra, Venza, RAV4, Highlander and Sienna.
Ford missed the upturn in the market this year, having drastically cut jobs and production in North America, and is now scrambling to catch up. Its imported Fusion (21,690) and U.S. made Focus (19,073) were competitive, but the real star of the Ford lineup remains the F-Series at 58,201, a 20% increase compared to Chrysler’s Ram (25,205 +19%) and Chevrolet Silverado (38,295 +4%). The new Escape compact SUV was also popular at 28,188 besting the Honda CR-V (23,877) and Toyota RAV4 (15,685).
American Honda had August 2012 U.S. sales of 131,321 units, an increase of 59.5% compared with August 2011. The Honda brand at had its best August in two years at 115,675. Accord had its second best sales month of the year at 34,848 units, up 89%; Civic sales were up 106% with 24,897 units sold.
Nissan North America the junior member of the Japanese Three in the U.S., reported August U.S. sales of 98,515 units versus 91,541 units a year earlier, up 7.6%. Nissan Division sales increased 5.9% for the month at 87,360 units. It was all Altima (25,889) and Sentra (10,623), with the Leaf EV dropping to 685 units or -50% year-over-year. The compact crossover Rogue set an August record on sales of 12,626, up 10% from last year.
Volkswagen also benefited from the resurgence of cars sales with its best August since 1973 at 41,011 units sold.
Sales of Infiniti vehicles were up 23.6% over the prior year, to 11,155 units.The luxury car leader Lexus sold 24,237 followed closely by Acura at 15,645. Mercedes-Benz at 23,444 just topped rival BMW at 22,576. Cadillac at 14,704 and Lincoln at 8,141 remain far behind in sales and reputation.