2020 Auto News Auto Sales USA automobiles

U.S. New Car Sales Show Signs of Life in September

Some automakers report substantive sales increases.

Subaru set a sales record in September amid the economic slowdown brought on by the pandemic, which has continued to hobble sales across the industry, as evidenced by General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. each reporting a 10% drop in sales for the third quarter.

Subaru of America Inc., which unlike some of its competitors reports monthly sales totals, said it sold 60,103 vehicle sales for September 2020, a 16% increase compared with September 2019.

However, following 11 consecutive years of sales records, Subaru reported year-to-date sales of 436,560, a 17% decrease compared to the same period in 2019. September marked the first month of 60,000+ vehicle sales for the automaker since December 2019.

Toyota Motor North America, which also reports sales totals each month, said September 2020 sales totaled 197,124 units, an increase of 16.2% on a volume basis. Toyota Division sales for the month were up 14.3% on a volume basis, and Lexus Division sales were up 31.3%. For the full year TMNA sales are down 18 percent.

Sales of hybrid models accounted for more than 16% of total TMNA sales in September. Toyota’s passenger car sales are proving resilient despite the popularity of trucks and SUVs with the sales of increasing 4.3% in September and sales of Lexus passenger cars growing 31.3 percent.

Hyundai Motor America reported total September sales of 54,790 units, a 5% increase compared with September 2019. Retail sales were up 21%. Hyundai fleet sales were down 67% and represented 5% of total volume. Hyundai anticipates outperforming the retail sales industry average again in September, something it has accomplished every month in 2020.

Despite the influx of strong results, there were plenty of makers that struggled, including at least two of the Detroit-area automakers that report sales quarterly.

General Motors reported that it delivered 665,192 vehicles in the third quarter of 2020, a decrease in total vehicle sales of about 10% compared to a year ago. In a sign of a recovering industry, sales improved sequentially each month within the quarter. Industry and GM sales rebounded significantly in September, finishing the month with year-over-year sales increases.

For the first nine months of 2020, GM sales are down 17.4 percent.

Kurt McNeil, GM vice president, U.S. Sales Operations, noted, “Industry-wide, dealers are selling a high mix of large pickups as the summer comes to an end. Our strong large pickup and all-new full-size SUV line-ups from Chevrolet and GMC are selling extremely fast.”

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. reported a 10% drop in sales in the third quarter compared with the same time period a year earlier – as strong retail sales offset much of the ongoing softness in fleet purchases. Third-quarter total sales finished 38% higher than the second-quarter results as FCA sold 140,265 more vehicles.

“The results reflect the hard work our dealers have done throughout the third quarter as they worked through the COVID-19 restrictions while still improving our sales over the prior months,” U.S. Head of Sales Jeff Kommor said. “Jeep and Ram are hot and we continue to prioritize deliveries to our dealers who are asking us to ship as many vehicles as we can build.”

The Nissan Group reported total sales for the July-September quarter of 221,150 units, a decrease of 32.4% from the prior year.

“From an industry perspective, consumer confidence in the market is rising and the tools that Nissan has put into place to assist customers to shop and purchase remotely have been paying off,” said David Kershaw, division vice president, Nissan Sales & Regional Operations, Nissan North America. “Retail sales continued to improve in the third quarter as we decrease rental fleet volume and focus on steadily building a quality, sustainable business.”

Due to increases in average down payments and average transaction prices for new vehicles, Edmunds, the car buying help service, said that average loan terms and monthly payments decreased slightly in the third quarter compared to the second quarter. The average annual percentage rate (APR) for new vehicles saw a small increase, hitting 4.6% in Q3 compared to 4.2% in Q2.

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