FCA sales up 1.7%; Ford up 5.4%; GM down 0.7%

Michael Martinez and Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

Detroit’s three automakers on Tuesday reported better-than-expected August sales as SUVs and trucks continued to drive the market.

Ford Motor Co. said its August sales rose 5.4 percent on continued strong demand for its new products, particularly SUVs like the Edge and Explorer. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported a 1.7 percent year-over-year increase in a month some analysts had predicted would end the automaker’s streak of monthly sales gains dating back to March 2010. And General Motors Co. said its August sales of 270,480 fell 0.7 percent — better than some analysts had predicted — as the automaker continues to pull back on sales to rental fleets.

Many analysts expected a drop in sales since Labor Day is late this year, and the sales from the holiday weekend will fall under September’s figures instead of August last year.

“Almost in every case, companies did better than we anticipated,” said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for AutoTrader.com, in a call with reporters. “Even ones that were down, weren’t down as much as we thought they would be.”

Analysts said the stock market volatility does not appear to have affected new car sales. And with September sales including Labor Day sales, analysts predict September sales will be strong.

GM said its GMC brand sales increased 3.5 percent and Buick sales rose 0.6 percent. Chevrolet sales fell 1.5 percent and Cadillac sales slipped 5.5 percent.

“GM’s retail sales increase far outpaced the industry in August, and we have grown our retail share for five months in a row compared to last year,” Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. vice president of sales operations, said in a statement.

The Detroit automaker said its retail sales rose 5.9 percent last month, while fleet sales were down 24 percent. Most of that decrease stems from a 38 percent decline in rental deliveries, or about 15,000 vehicles year-over-year.

Ford sold 234,237 new cars and trucks last month for its best August sales in nine years.

“Customer demand for our newest vehicles made August a strong month for Ford,” Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service, said in a statement. “Improved availability helped make August the strongest sales month this year for F-Series.”

Ford was paced by its SUV sales, which rose 12.3 percent. Edge sales rose 35.6 percent and Explorer sales rose 22 percent.

The automaker is starting to increase supply of its popular F-150 pickup, which led to a 4.7 percent increase for its F-Series trucks last month. Ford’s inventory has risen to about 90,000 F-150s. This time last year, the automaker had an inventory of 173,000 trucks. Ford hopes to be at full supply of its profitable pickup by the end of the third quarter.

Lincoln sales increased 6 percent in August, thanks mostly to strong sales of the Navigator and MKC crossover. Lincoln’s SUV sales rose 17 percent.

The luxury brand just launched its redesigned MKX SUV, and the new vehicle is selling after an average of 18 days on dealer lots.

FCA reported its best August sales since 2002 and its Jeep brand had its best sales month ever, as sales rose 17.5 percent to 80,804. The Ram Truck brand also posted a 6.1 percent sales gain, and the Fiat brand also squeaked out a small sales gain. Dodge and Chrysler brand sales both were down compared to August 2014.

“In spite of a tough 2014 comparison and extreme stock market volatility, our dealers’ competitive spirit kicked in and propelled us to our 65th-consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases,” said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. Sales for FCA, in a statement. “Our Jeep brand turned in a double-digit increase while eight individual models, including four Jeep brand vehicles, set sales records. FCA US topped the 200,000-unit threshold in August for the second time this year.”

Kia Motors America reported best-ever August sales, up 7.7 percent from a year ago.

“Kia has outpaced the industry all year, and that trend continued in August as we set our fourth consecutive monthly sales record despite significant turbulence in the stock market and not having the benefit of Labor Day weekend sales,” said Michael Sprague, chief operating officer of Kia Motors America, in a statement.

Nissan North America Inc. said its U.S. August sales slipped 0.8 percent overall to 133,351. Nissan brand sales were down 2 percent, while Infiniti sales rose 16.1 percent.

Toyota Motor Corp. on Tuesday said sales fell 8.8 percent compared to the same time a year ago. The Toyota brand, which heavily relies on car sales, fell 10.5 percent, while its luxury Lexus brand saw sales rise 2.1 percent. Volkswagen of America also posted a 8.1 percent decrease.

American Honda Motor Co. Inc. said its sales also fell 6.9 percent in August. Honda brand sales declined 7.5 percent and Acura sales dropped 1.1 percent from August 2014.

Kelley Blue Book predicted auto sales will fall 4 percent , while TrueCar predicts a 2.9 percent drop. Typically, holiday deals over Labor Day are counted in August’s numbers, but the holiday falls later this year. There’s also one fewer selling day this year compared to August 2014.

Automakers last month reported vehicle sales of more than 1.5 million in July, a 5.3 percent increase from a year ago.


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