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Vehicle sales up 10 per cent in US
US car market outpaces economic recovery on way to 13 million sales this year
5 Oct 2011
DRAMAS in the US economy and fears of GFC embers reigniting in a double-dip recession appear to be having little effect on the automotive industry there, which is up 10 per cent year-to-date, putting it on track to hit 13 million sales by the end of 2011.
Strong truck and SUV sales offset slower passenger car growth, enabling each of the Detroit Three to contribute double-digit sales gains to the end of September – which was the fastest-growing month since April.
Fiat-rejuvenated Chrysler led with a 23 per cent surge, while General Motors and Ford posted increases of 16.1 per cent and 11.4 per cent respectively, comfortably beating the market average.
GM leads the YTD sales charts on 1,902,172 sales, followed by Ford with 1,603,998 and Toyota, which sold 1,194,524 vehicles, staving off an advancing Chrysler (1,009,411) which in September knocked the Japanese giant to fourth position in the monthly sales race for the second consecutive month.
Both Toyota and Honda were clearly still reeling from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, down 9.3 per cent and 6.2 per cent respectively YTD, with sales plummeting 17.9 per cent for Toyota in Q3 and 20.8 per cent for Honda.
However compatriots Nissan and Mazda apparently swerved the problems, with YTD sales up 14.9 per cent (774,079 units) and 9.5 per cent (191,315) respectively.
What’s more, Mazda reported its best-ever September, with 25,521 sales representing a stonking 37.4 per cent leap, while Nissan had its best September in 26 years, selling 65,900 units – up 26.3 per cent.
From top: Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, new Toyota Camry.
Despite the economic conditions, Chrysler has enjoyed an impressive year-and-a-half of continuous growth in the US – including 27 per cent growth in September – and is booming under Fiat stewardship, and Dodge brand president and CEO and head of US sales Reid Bigland attributes the success to a strong product line-up.
“Strong products equal strong sales,” he said. “September was also our 18th-consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth and we have now gained more retail market share than anyone else in the country. There is no double dip downturn going on around here”.
South Korean brand Kia has enjoyed 13 consecutive months of growth in the US and 2011 is shaping up to be great year for the company. With a whole quarter still to go, it has already beaten last year’s record-breaking full-year sales figure, having shifted 367,405 vehicles YTD (up 37.1 per cent).
Kia Motors America group president Byung Mo Ahm said “significant increases in consumer awareness, perception and consideration of the brand” contributed to its success, a result of its “diverse and exciting lineup”.
There were also champagne corks popping at parent company Hyundai, which has just set an all-time September sales record and is up 20.2 per cent with 492,914 units YTD – although it registered a more modest 10.3 per cent growth for Q3.
Volkswagen, for which more than a fifth of its 81,334 VW-branded sales in Q3 (up 22 per cent) were for diesel-powered vehicles, is also up a healthy 22.2 per cent YTD having experienced a mammoth 35.6 per cent jump in sales last month after a comparatively slow-growing August.
The predicted 13 million sales in the US represents a significant increase over 2010’s result of 11.5 million, which was in turn 11 per cent up on 2009 – but there is still a long way to go before a return to the pre-GFC levels that exceeded 16 million.
US motorists are clearly ignoring the economic doom and gloom and buying new vehicles, possibly prompted by a stabilising of fuel prices, the attraction of fuel-efficient new models that hedge against future spikes or simply that leases entered into before the GFC have expired and people are replacing old cars.
GM vice president for US sales operations said: “For GM, all of the factors that say this is a good time to buy a new vehicle outweigh the bad news that appears to be slowing down the broader economic recovery.”
Bob Carter, general manager of US sales for quake-ravaged Toyota is optimistic for the fourth quarter and proud to have managed 121,451 sales in September (a 17.5 per cent drop) despite a claimed 40 per cent reduction in stock availability.
He believes the performance is “tribute to the efficiency of our distribution system and our dealers”.
Mr Carter said production in North America and Japan has returned to normal levels, and that timing of the new Camry sedan “couldn’t be better”.
“The worst is behind us and we expect to exceed year-ago sales levels beginning in October with continued growth throughout the fourth quarter.”
Toyota’s sentiment was echoed by Honda, whose US factories are now up to full production, with increased sales of the CR-V and Pilot SUVs, plus the Odyssey people-carrier starting to show.
American Honda executive vice president of sales John Mendel said “truckloads” of Hondas started arriving at the end of September, meaning “shoppers can now feel more confident that they will find what they want at their local Honda dealer".
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