U.S. Auto Sales Mark Slow Recovery

Light vehicle sales in the U.S. during September rose 25.5% to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 11.8 million units, signaling a slow recovery in the industry. Stable gasoline prices and strong sales at Ford Motor (F) and Chrysler were the contributing factors behind the sales growth.

U.S. Automakers

Sales at General Motors (MTLQQ) grew 10.5% to 173,155 vehicles, driven by higher sales of its Buick, Chevrolet and GMC brands. The combined sales of GM’s four brands – Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac – went up 22% to 172,969 units. The automaker is still disposing of inventory from its discontinued brands, Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer. Sales of these brands fell 99% from the year-ago level.

Sales at Ford, comprising Lincoln and Mercury brands, surged 46% to 160,873 units. The automaker’s sales were strongly driven by new Ford Edge and new Lincoln MKX crossovers. Sales of Ford Edge sprang up 186% to 12,815 units while sales of Lincoln MKX jumped 76% to 2,658 units.

Sales at Chrysler (including the Jeep, Dodge and Ram brands) leapt 61% to 100,077 units. All the brands performed exceptionally well, especially Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge. Sales increased 92% to 17,348 units for Chrysler brand, 65% to 28,603 units for the Jeep brand and 71% to 36,272 for the Dodge brand. Meanwhile, sales of Ram brands rose 22% to 17,854 units.

Japanese Automakers

Sales at Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) grew 16.8% to 147,162 vehicles. The Toyota division reported a 20.5% rise in sales to 130,214 vehicles, while the Lexus division saw a 5.5% dip in sales to 16,948 units.

Sales at Honda Motor Co. (HMC) escalated 26.1% to 97,361 vehicles, led by a 48% rise in sales of the Acura brand to 10,720 units. Meanwhile, sales of the Honda brand rose 24% to 86,641 vehicles.

Sales at Nissan Motor (NSANY) appreciated 34% to 74,205 vehicles. Nissan Division sales went up 35.1% to 65,900 units while sales of Infiniti vehicles gained 25.6% to 8,305 units.

Other Automakers

Sales at Daimler AG (DDAIF), including Mercedes-Benz (cars, light trucks and Sprinter) and smart vehicles, improved 18.5% to 21,088 units. Sales of Mercedes-Benz cars and trucks rose 16.9% to 19,862 units, driven mainly by strong sales of 9th generation E-class. Sales of the Smart fortwo minicars declined 48.2% to 422 units.

Sales at Volkswagen AG, including Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini vehicles, increased 14% to 28,249 units.

Sales at South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. (HYMLF) jumped 48% to 46,556 units, led by increased sales of Sonata sedans and Tucson sport-utility vehicle. Hyundai’s sister company, Kia Motors America, recorded a 39% rise in sales driven by impressive sales of the Sorento crossover.

New models and Labor Day promotions helped sales in September a great deal. However, buyers remained cautious, given the effects of the lingering economic downturn. They are still concerned about housing prices and employment prospects that hold them back from buying new cars.

Automakers have predicted a gradual recovery for the rest of the year. Full-year industry sales are projected to be 11.5 million–12 million units, an improvement from the historic low of 10.4 million units last year.

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