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Light-vehicle sales continue rebound

Sept. 26, 2011
The retail sales rate for new light vehicles have taken a healthy bounce in September, reflecting a year-long strengthening trend in sales U.S. automakers, especially where light trucks are concerned

The retail sales rate for new light vehicles have taken a healthy bounce in September, reflecting a year-long strengthening trend in sales U.S. automakers, especially where light trucks are concerned.

According to data tracked by J.D. Power and Associates, September new-vehicle retail sales are projected to reach 842,400 units, representing a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 10.3 million units – the first time the retail selling rate has crossed the 10-million unit threshold since April.

Total light-vehicle sales in September are expected to come in at 1,038,700 units, which is 9% higher than in September 2010, the firm noted, with fleet sales expected to be down 1% compared with last September, but accounting for 19% of total sales.

Light truck sales in particular are staying strong in 2011, despite the broader slow down occurring in the U.S. and global economy, with a healthy uptick this August adding to an already strong year-over-year sales numbers.

Ford Motor Co. said its truck sales in August totaled 67,282 units, up 5% versus the same month in 2010, with year-to-date sales totaling 509,544 units, up 8% over last year.

Ford added that sales of its F-Series trucks topped 48,795 units in August, up 2% versus the same month a year ago, with sales of F-150 pickups equipped with its new V6 engines outselling traditional V8s in August, with V6s accounting for 57% of F-150 retail sales. Year-to-date, F-Series sales totaled 361,978 units, up 7%.

The company also noted that its new fuel sipping 3.5L EcoBoost V6 engine, in particular, is doing well, accounting for 41% of F-150 retail sales, with the 3.7L V6 accounting for 16%.

Chrysler noted Ram Trucks sales overall increased 7% in August, with both the Ram light- and heavy-duty pickup trucks posting sales gains during August compared with the same month in 2010. Year-to-date, Ram Truck sales are up 22% over 2010, with 163,401 units sold total compared to 133,698 at same point in 2010.

General Motors today reported total vehicle sales of 218,479 units in August, an 18% jump over the same month in 2010, with truck sales increasing 18% overall. GM said sales of its Chevrolet Silverado pickup were up 8.1% to 36,832 units in August, and up 7.3% year-to-date to 252,738 units versus 2010. Sales of it GMC Sierra pickups were up 13.8% to 13,244 units in August, and up 18% year-to-date over 2010, totaling 93,438 units, GM added.

J.D. Power noted that these strong sales volumes are helping beef up North American light-vehicle production rates. Through August 2011, the firm said light-vehicle production in North America has increased to 8.5 million units, up 8% from the same period in 2010.

In particular, Detroit’s “Big Three” – Ford, Chrysler, and GM – have increased production by 16% year-to-date, while the Japanese manufacturers cut build rates by 8%, largely due to parts shortages from the earthquake and resulting tsunami that struck that nation back in March.

Given the relative strength of new light vehicle sales in September, J.D. Power is maintaining its forecast for total light-vehicle sales of 12.6 million units for 2011, a 9% increase from 2010, and 14.1 million units for 2012 – though the firm stressed that “a high level of uncertainty” remains concerning those projections.

“The uncertain global [economic] environment – specifically the debt troubles in Europe – continues to be the major source of downside risk in the U.S. economy and automotive markets,” emphasized John Humphrey, senior vp-automotive operations at J.D. Power.

“Until a level of stability is reached globally and consumer confidence is returned, the U.S. automotive selling pace is not expected to return to pre-recession levels,” he explained.

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