U.S. Auto Sales on the Rise for the First Time in 2017

Market Watch 10/04/17

The U.S. auto market saw an impressive sales bounce in September, led by international brands that outperformed their domestic counterparts with sales up 7.6 percent from a year ago and down just 0.4 percent for the year-to-date.

Brands like Honda (up 7.4 percent from last September), Toyota (up 16.9 percent), and Volkswagen (up 33.2 percent) lead the charge. Most sales improvements were driven by light trucks, which rose 12.4 percent as a segment from last September, while cars continued to lag, down 3.3 percent from a year ago.

“September’s sales exceeded even some of the industry’s most optimistic expectations,” said AIADA President Cody Lusk. “A combination of post-hurricane vehicle replacement and excellent incentives kept dealerships busy last month. We have every reason to feel positive heading into the final quarter of 2017.”

International Brands Rebound in September

International brands occupied 55.7 percent of the U.S. auto market in September – up from 55.5 percent in August and 55 percent in September 2016. In total, they sold 848,906 vehicles for the month, up from 822,952 last month and 788,943 units a year ago.

Asian brands finished the month with sales up 7 percent over September 2016 after selling 708,049 units and a 46.5 percent share of the market. The figure was up from the 686,824 vehicles they sold in August when they held 46.3 percent of the U.S. auto market and 661,544 they sold in September 2016 when they occupied 46.1 percent of the market.

European brands climbed 10.6 percent over last September to finish the month with sales of 140,857 units and a 9.2 percent market share. Sales last September totaled 127,399 vehicles and 8.9 percent of the U.S. auto market. European brands also performed better month-over-month, improving on their August sales totals of 136,128 vehicles and 9.2 percent market share.

Domestic brands logged 44.3 percent of the U.S. auto market with sales of 674,961 vehicles. Sales were up 4.4 percent over last September when they occupied 45 percent of the market and sold 646,750 vehicles. They also demonstrated a bounce from August’s 44.5 percent market share and sales of 660,378 units.

Trucks, SUVs, and a Few Cars Make Up Top 10 List

Trucks and SUVs continue to be a draw for U.S. shoppers heading toward the end of the year. Six of the month’s top-ten-selling vehicles fell into the category, with the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, and Ram pickups taking the first three slots. The Toyota RAV4 saw sales improve 44 percent over last September, finishing the month in fourth place overall and taking the title of most popular SUV. In fifth, the Nissan Rogue saw sales jump 47.3 percent, while the Honda CR-V finished the month in eighth with sales down 2.9 percent from last September.

Although cars remain less of a focus for shoppers, some models continue to perform well in the U.S. market. The Honda Civic finished the month in fifth place as the most popular car with American shoppers; sales for the compact were up 25.8 percent from September 2016. The Toyota Camry also saw a sales leap of 13.1 percent and finished the month in seventh place. The Toyota Corolla finished in eighth place, falling by less than 1 percent, while the Honda Accord finished in tenth place with sales up 9.5 percent.

North American Manufacturing Units Supply Vehicles for U.S. Market

The importance of North American manufacturing units was highlighted as international brands continued to lead the U.S. auto market in September. These North American production units – many of which are located in the U.S. and employ thousands of American workers – churned out 536,475 units for the U.S. auto market in September. These included 241,705 Asian cars, 253,408 Asian trucks, 22,057 European cars, and 19,305 European trucks. 

Outlook

AutoData Corp. reports that the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for September soared to 18.57 million units – the highest since July 2015 – versus 17.72 million units a year ago and just 16.14 million units last month. Unadjusted for business days, sales of all brands were up 6.1 percent from last September, marking the first rise in month-over-month sales for the year. Sales were still down 1.8 percent year-to-date. Industrywide, 1,523,867 vehicles were sold in September compared to 1,483,330 sold in August and 1,435,693 units sold a year ago. 

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