September was a successful month for the U.S. auto industry. The month’s numbers came as a surprise to many analysts, who expected high unemployment numbers and weak consumer confidence to keep shoppers off lots. Hyundai’s sales were up 11.8 percent, Kia was up 18.4 percent, and Nissan saw sales rise 28.2 percent from a year ago. Honda and Toyota were exceptions to the good news with sales falling 8.2 and 18.2 percent, respectively. September was the first month that the Japanese automakers had their plants at full capacity following March’s earthquake. Inventory levels are expected to grow through the end of the year.
“Automotive sales are emerging as a bright spot in an otherwise bleak economy,” said AIADA President Cody Lusk. “Dealers are using low interest rates and great incentives to get Americans in the new cars they want and need.”
Internationals Experience Solid Sales
International brands sold 547,156 vehicles and occupied 51.9 percent of the September U.S. auto market, up slightly from 51.5 percent in August. Asian brands sold 445,891 vehicles in September and held 42.3 percent of the market, down from 42.6 percent in August. European brands performed well, logging a 9.6 percent share of the market, up from 8.9 percent in August and selling 101,265 units. Domestic brands accounted for 48.1 percent of the market, dropping from 48.5 percent in August, and sold 506,566 vehicles.
Five of the top ten selling vehicles in September were international brands, up from four in August and three in July. The Toyota Camry remains the top selling car in America, and is expected to hold that position as Toyota unveiled the redesigned 2012 model in September, with dealership deliveries beginning late in the month. At number seven, the Honda CR-V rebounded into the top ten for the first time since February of this year. Hyundai’s popular Sonata occupied the tenth spot, down from number seven last month. Seven of the top ten models experienced an average 27.4 percent year-over-year sales improvement.
The SUV segment sold 329,993 units in September, down from 342,638 in August. However, it remained the top-selling segment with sales up 13.7 percent from September 2010. The midsize segment followed in second place with sales of 240,860 units. Also of note, the luxury car segment sold 81,824 units, logging an 8.7 percent improvement over September 2010. Asian nameplates sold 264,138 cars and 181,753 trucks, while European brands sold 73,886 cars and 27,379 trucks. Domestic brands sold 149,215 cars and 357,351 trucks.
Overall sales, including domestic brands and unadjusted for business days, were up nearly 10 percent from September 2010 and 10.4 percent year to date. Sales were up 2 percent from August. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for light vehicle sales in September was estimated by AutoData Corp. at 13.1 million units, the highest since April 2011.
See below for a complete breakdown of September 2011 monthly and year-to-date sales by international nameplate.