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U.S. Auto Sales Tumble in September

Auto sales in the U.S. fell by 23% in September, according to newly released data from the U.S. Commerce Department. Hardest-hit were General Motors and Chrysler, whose sales fell by 45% and 42%, respectively, year over year.

Industry analysts attribute the slowdown to a number of factors, including the end of the popular Clash for Clunkers program as well as low inventories and weak consumer confidence. Automakers got a big lift in July and August from clunkers, which spurred sales of nearly 700,000 new vehicles.

On the annualized basis, industry-wide U.S. auto sales dropped to 9.2 million vehicles in September, the weakest sales rate since April. Following is a breakdown of month-over-month sales decreases by manufacturer:

General Motors, GM: 45%
Chrysler: 42%
Ford: 37.2%
Honda Motor: 23.3%
Toyota Motor: 13%

One of the few exceptions was Hyundai, which reported a 27% rise in sales from a year earlier. The South Korean manufacturer cited brisk activity related to its Elantra and Santa Fe models in particular.

Positive Take-Aways

Despite the high double-digit sales declines, manufacturers are pointing to some positive trends. In Ford’s case, the decline in revenues followed two straight months of rising sales. Two of Ford's vehicles—the Focus and Escape—were top sellers in the clunkers program.

While sales at GM were down 45% year over year and 36% month-over-month, the company says the fourth quarter looks brighter. “We have the Cadillac SRX, Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain hitting dealerships right now, generating significant buyer interest, and we’re selling many of our launch vehicles as soon as they hit dealers’ lots,” said Mark LaNeve, vice president, U.S. sales
“As expected, the market returned to pre-Cash for Clunkers levels in September, but we believe that our four core brands—Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, and Cadillac—are well positioned with new products to generate enthusiasm with our 60-Day Satisfaction Guarantee and ‘May the Best Car Win’ marketing campaigns. We’re gearing-up fourth quarter production to replenish depleted dealer stocks and improve availability of our vehicles for customers.”

There were several product highlights in September for GM’s core brands:

  • Buick car sales, led by LaCrosse and Lucerne, increased 50% compared with August. Total Buick sales increased 10%.
  • The luxury segments started to show improvement as Cadillac car truck and total sales all increased compared with the previous month, led by SRX (up 105%), CTS (up 35%), DTS (up 174%) and STS (up 29%). Escalade sales increased 28%.
  • Chevrolet launch products continue to perform strongly in the market. There were 6,900 Traverse, 6,800 Equinox and 8,000 Camaro sales recorded in September.
  • GMC Terrain sales continue to build launch momentum with a 183% increase from the previous month.
  • A total of 1,011 GM hybrid vehicles were delivered in the month. So far, in 2009, GM has delivered 12,555 hybrid vehicles.

Source: U.S. Commerce Department, ABC News,, General Motors 

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