August Sales Portray an Auto Industry Going 'Sideways'

By AutoObserver Staff September 1, 2010

Aug '10_Big 6 graphic_550px.jpgU.S. auto sales have entered a period where treading water is the best the industry can hope for as American consumers deal with sobering economic realities and grim expectations.

August sales results underscored that trend, coming in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 11.5 million units, solidly within the narrow range of the last few months - and consistent with previous expectations for the rest of the year and 2010 as a whole.

 For the record, light vehicle sales in August came in at 997,001 units, down a thudding 21 percent from sales of 1,261,799 units in the year-ago August. But in their evaluation of the industry's direction on Wednesday, auto company executives dismissed the year-to-year comparison as irrelevant because of how sales had spiked a year ago, when the market was in the thick of the federal government's Cash for Clunkers program. 2010AugustSalesYTD.jpg   

Instead, they were focused on the trend this August from a month earlier and on the near future, and they concluded that the numbers demonstrated some weakening but not an alarming erosion in sales, shopping activity or consumer intentions.

"Most metrics for near-term vehicle sales are sideways," said Emily Kolinski-Morris, Ford's chief economist, adding that there now "is a bit less upward momentum for industry sales over the next three to six months" than before.

"There has been a moderation in the pace of recovery, but not a collapse," she said. "I don't see any reason that the sales pace would take a significant departure from the range we've been in."

Not quite as reassuring was Don Johnson, General Motors vice president of U.S. sales operations. "We're not right now panicking about the trend of the industry," he said, implicitly raising the question: Who said anything about panic?

Jim McDowell, president of BMW North America, said, "We are seeing a slowdown in the market and do not expect the second half of the year to be as strong as the first half."

"It's a stagnant sales pattern now," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com's director of U.S. industry analysis. "And until something fundamentally changes in the macroeconomic picture, we're kind of stuck there."'

 Economy Is Everything

Given everything, at this point most auto executives would probably gladly accept the status quo for the next several months. The car industry actually has been a leader in the slow but steady recovery of the U.S. economy so far this year, generally in line with full-year expectations that sales would rise 10 percent or more from last year's 10.4 million units.

"We're just about where we thought we would be," said Bob Carter, general manager of the Toyota division. "We continue to believe that the recovery is on track, but it's at a more modest pace than all of us had hoped."

But neither can the industry float for long on top of a U.S. economy that seems to be eroding again underneath. Several executives on Wednesday pointed to still-rising jobless claims, faltering consumer confidence, and a moribund housing market as basic reasons not to expect a surge in auto sales - and, implicitly, perhaps to hope that they don't worsen..

Consumers are "undertaking [purchases of] big-ticket items very carefully," Kolinski-Morris said. "The demand in the market now is largely replacement demand ... on an as-needed basis right now for consumers."

Kolinski-Morris and others did point to what she called some "underlying fundamentals supportive of an ongoing modest recovery," including rising potential for future hiring and the fact that the vehicle scrappage rate is high, so at some point consumers will have to buy new vehicles.

But it's indicative of how tentative the industry's recovery has become that the brightest economic spot noted in the industry's reports on Wednesday was recent increases in Americans' personal savings rate. If consumers are hesitant to buy new vehicles now, this logic goes, at least they're socking more funds away to buy them later.

"Households," said GM's Johnson, "are making progress in improving their balance sheets."

2010AugustSales5Year.jpgMore Trucks, Fewer Bargains

One trend tucked away in the August results actually encouraged OEMs on Wednesday: rising sales of pickup trucks and SUVs as a percentage of the market. Toyota said that these vehicles actually comprised a majority of sales last month compared with cars, the first time that has happened in a while. Because those are automakers' highest-profit vehicles, that's a good sign.

Ford, for instance, noted that its F Series line of pickups enjoyed one of its three highest sales months of the last two years in August, highlighted by strong demand for the F-150 SuperCrew model and the bigger, more powerful F Series SuperDuty. And Toyota saw strong sales of SUVs including Forerunner and Sequoia.

"The stability of fuel prices recently has taken consumers back into the SUV and pickup market at a higher rate than perhaps we and the industry forecasted," said Carter. "That will continue into the fourth quarter because the prediction is that fuel prices are to remain stable going into 2011."

One other dynamic, traditionally prevalent at this time of year, has waned lately: end-of-model-year sell-downs. The success of cash-for-clunkers rebates last summer overwhelmed any significant effects from automakers' customary switch to the new model year during the third quarter of 2009.

And this year, most OEMs have gotten their inventories sufficiently in line with the restrained pace of sales that year-end clearances aren't a major factor. Ford, for example, has achieved a near-optimum mix of 2010 and 2011 models "without relying on escalating incentives" through the quarter, said George Pipas, the company's head of U.S. industry analysis.

"August typically is fueled by very high incentive levels," he said., "But I think the industry overall has exercised good restraint and discipline in this area."

2010AugustSalesbyManufacturer.jpgGM paragraph down.jpgGM: Down, But Old Brands Almost Out

With comparisons with last August's Cash for Clunkers-sparked sales results leaving an easy out, General Motors Co. sales executives still were appropriately restrained about the company's August sales numbers, as they had to report a 24.9-percent drop.

But put C4C aside and there's another big factor: last year, the four brands GM has now jettisoned accounted for 39,661 sales. This August, the same figure was 255.

Don Johnson, vice president for U.S. sales operations called it "one of those months," and once C4C and the loss of four brands' worth of sales is accounted for, GM didn't do badly: sales at the Buick, Cadillac and GMC divisions all improved by strong double digits - and a combined 37 percent - with only Chevrolet declining, by 21.5 percent.

2010 Buick LaCrosse - 240.JPGAnd Johnson said full-size pickups continue to hold their own during a bouncy economic recovery that GM predicts will at least stay on track, although its pace will be anything but rapid. He said retail market share was 16.5 percent for the year, while GM's closely-watched fleet percentage has moved down to 27.6 percent year-to-date; for August, fleet sales accounted for 28.1 percent of GM's total sales.

Despite an August that didn't stand up well to last year, Chevrolet's got the launch of the new Cruze compact car to look forward to and a stock of just 8,000 Cobalts, the car launched in 2005 that the Cruze now replaces.

Most of Chevy's mainstream models were hammered by comparisons with last August, however: the still-surging Equinox crossover, probably the hottest model from any of GM's four divisions, had to absorb a 19.9-percent decline and the soon-to-be-replaced Aveo plunged 68.4 percent to 4,019 units. And one potential signal of worry comes from the 27.2-percent slide for the Camaro. Could the neo-retro muscle car's allure be fading already?

Cadillac essentially has two vehicles to sell, the CTS and the SRX, and the division made the most of them both: CTS sales climbed 60.8 percent in August, while the SRX improved 208.7 percent, selling 4,325 units to last year's 1,401 sales of the confused previous-generation crossover.

The long-in-the-tooth Escalade refuses to be ignored, however, with all three variants of the lux SUV posting gains, led by a 36.6-percent jump for the ESV variant. And for whatever reason (money on the hood might be one guess), the DTS sedan racked up a 127.9-percent gain, shifting 1,896 units.

Buick was up 66 percent in August, mostly on the back of the LaCrosse big midsizer, although the aged Lucerne chipped in with a 61.5-percent gain to 2,656 units. Buick's popular Enclave full-size crossover hung in for a 10.7-percent improvement. The Regal midsize sedan just is coming on stream and contributed an incremental 1,704 sales.

The GMC division's 12.3-percent improvement was the worst of the three GM divisions to increase sales in August. The whopping 787.5-pecent Hulk-like leap for the Terrain crossover - to 4,189 sales - and 84.7-percent hike for the Yukon crossover were tempered by big drops for the fading Canyon midsize pickup (-61.5 percent) and a 23.2-percent decline for the Acadia.

 GM Top Three Sellers - Aug.jpg Ford paragraph down.jpgFord:  Steady As She Goes

Ford sold 157,503 vehicles in August, down 11 percent from a year earlier, when its Ford Fusion and Ford Focus small cars were among the most popular models purchased in the government's cash-for-clunkers program.

Company executives understandably preferred to focus on the fact that Ford's year-to-date sales, at 1.28 million, were up 18 percent through August - double the growth of the industry as a whole.

Ford Fiesta - 248.JPGFord actually gained retail-market share in August over July, its 22nd month in the last 23 for such a year-over-year gain, said Pipas. "Ford appears to be the only one of the brands that did well last [August] to achieve retail market share gain on top of last year's performance," he said.

In addition to strong sales of its F Series trucks, Ford executives enthused about the initial reception for its Fiesta subcompact. The company has been holding up shipment of the Mexican-built vehicles lately because of a minor quality issue but now is shipping them again.

"It remains in very high demand," said Ken Czubay, Ford's vice president of U.S. sales. "Blogs are talking about it, and dealers are inundated with calls. We're working hard to deliver them quickly."

He said that Ford especially has targeted Fiesta at areas of the country "where we haven't done well historically with small cars," including Southern California and Florida. Among other indicators of success he said, is that Fiesta is achieving "a high conquest rate" with car buyers who had intended to buy an Asian brand and is bringing in "younger, more educated" customers.

"It's a game-changer for Ford," he said. "It's not just a small car that has the lowest prices on the lot." Customers are showing "a bias toward hatchbacks, hot colors and graphics. And they're contenting [Fiestas at levels] exceeding our expectations." Moreover, Fiesta is providing a "halo effect" that is moving some of them to the pricier Focus. "Small-car buyers are looking to Ford for small cars again."

 Ford Top 3 Sellers.jpgToyota paragraph down.jpgToyota: Still Struggling

Toyota sold 148,388 vehicles in the U.S. in August, down 34 percent from last year. And while Toyota was the brand most affected by comparisons with the huge volume of sales of its cars during cash-for-clunkers last year, the company still can't escape the damage to its reputation from this year's safety recalls.

"We still have a spring in our step but perhaps hot as pronounced as last month," Carter said. In fact, Toyota was looking for bright spots wherever it could find them. He announced that the company would be extending through September an incentive under which it offers two years of "free maintenance" on a new car, which originally was to expire this weekend. And Carter didn't rule out retaining that incentive indefinitely.

Toyota Corolla 2010 profile on the road.jpg"Consumers tell us that it's a significant reason for them to come in and look at Toyotas," he said. "It's a sound strategy from a marketing perspective."

Clearly, Toyota paid a price in August by comparison with last August because of big sales last summer of its Toyota Camry and Toyota Corolla small cars, among other models. At the same time, the company announced yet another significant safety recall last week, underscoring what could amount to long-term damage to its once-unassailable reputation and position in the U.S. market.

Nevertheless, Carter asserted that the Toyota brand is on the mend. He noted that 57 percent of Toyota division vehicles purchased in August with trade-ins were by owners of competitive makes, the highest such percentage for any month since last year, before the recall publicity. Also, he said that Toyota's research shows that Toyota owners whose vehicles have been repaired under the recall program demonstrate a higher "average level of satisfaction" than consumers who weren't exposed to recalls.

"That is one of a number of indications that the brand is recovering nicely," Carter said. "We know clearly there is a perception in the market that we've got to work on with our marketing, but we're seeing improvements - that perception is starting to moderate."

 Toyota top 3 sellers - aug. 2010.jpgHonda paragraph down.jpgHonda: Another August C4C Casualty

It was a 30-percent dip for American Honda Motor Co. Inc. in August, as sales for every Honda-badged car in the company's lineup were down by heavy double digits. Sales just couldn't hold up against the comparison with last August's Cash for Clunkers totals.

Honda Fit Sport 2010.jpgOn a daily sales rate basis, the Civic was down 45.2 percent (within the total, the Civic Hybrid gained 10.4-percent) and sales for the Accord midsize sedan dove 34.2 percent to 25,148. The Fit subcompact dropped a startling 51.3 percent, a stark indicator of how the C4C program skewed last August's sales figures. Fit sales are down a troublesome 30.4 percent for the year, though.

The Insight hybrid-electric vehicle still disappoints, with sales in August totaling just 2,030 units, a 50-percent slide from last August when the normally slow seller was an attractive C4C option. Insight's year-to-date sales remain 1.2 percent better than the same period last year, however. The newly launched CR-Z hybrid roadster contributed 694 sales to August's total. 

Honda's crossovers fared better than its cars in August, largely because they mostly weren't at play in the C4C game last year. The Pilot improved by 13.1 percent, although the best-selling CR-V was down 33.2 percent in yet another tough comparison to last August; CR-V year-to-date sales are off 1.1 percent, however, indicating the model may be aging in the eyes of consumers.

At the company's upscale Acura division, crossovers also were the gainers: the MDX was up 61.8 percent to 4,386 sales and the RDX jumped 75.1 percent. Two of Acura's cars were down, however: the TL by 0.2 percent and the TSX by 14 percent. Honda recently fought off Japan-based rumors the RL flagship was headed for junkyard, so RL sales defiantly jumped by 37.4 percent in August.

 Honda's top 3 sellers - Aug. 2010.pngParagraph_Chrysler_green graphic_50px.jpgChrysler: Advantages Shine

Chrysler turned in the best relative performance in August of all the largest automakers, selling 99,611 vehicles, a 7-percent increase over sales of 93,222 units a year earlier.

The company benefited big from two factors that, one could argue, made the August result anomalous. First, Chrysler was at a corporate nadir a year ago, just having come through bankruptcy, with a brand new owner in Fiat (along with the U.S. government), and bereft of much in the way of new product. Second, it didn't benefit much from last year's cash-for-clunkers program because Chrysler has practically no small vehicles to offer consumers but is weighted heavily toward pickup trucks and SUVs - both segments that have been strengthening this year across the industry overall.

2008 Chrysler Town & Country - 240.JPG"This was their second-best month of 2010," said Edmunds.com's Caldwell.

Another factor working in Chrysler's favor right now, she said, is that it has the highest proportion of 2010 models in its inventory among the Detroit Big Three - meaning that Chrysler is offering some of the most attractive incentive deals in the industry because it's got to clear the old models away to make room for the 2011 vehicles.

"We have beaten or matched the average industry sales increase for the fifth consecutive month this year and for the calendar year to date," crowed Fred Diaz, Chrysler's lead executive for U.S. sales.

Among Chrysler's strongest sellers were its Town & Country minivan, and several Jeep models, including Wrangler, a new version of which Chrysler began building in August. Sales of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV were climbing as consumers greeted a vehicle that Chrysler has marketed heavily. 

 Chrysler Top Three Sellers - Aug.jpgNissan paragraph down.jpgNissan: Nissan Falls, Infiniti Climbs
 
Nissan North America sold 72,827 Nissan and Infiniti brand vehicles in August, a 27-percent decline from a year ago. All of the drop came from the Nissan division, which saw sales fall 31 percent from  a year ago while Infiniti sales climbed 22 percent.

'We certainly are not disappointed considering the dynamic in place last year with Cash for Clunkers," Al Castignetti, Nissan Division vice president and general manager, told AutoObserver in an interview Wednesday. "And it is no surprise to us that the models affected by Cash for Clunkers were down the most."

2009 Nissan Rogue - 250.JPGIndeed, sales of Nissan cars -- down 43 percent from a year ago - caused the brand's overall decline, but the bulk of the falloff came from those smaller cars that did well during Cash for Clunkers: Versa, which had one of its best months ever last August, was down 60 percent from a year ago but up from a strong July level; Sentra, off 50 percent; Cube, down 82 percent to its lowest level ever; and Altima, off 31 percent.

In contrast, vehicles that didn't play in Cash for Clunkers performed better in year-to-year comparisons, especially crossovers - Rogue hit 10,000 sales in August for only the third time ever - and body-on-frame SUVs, which were up 5 percent in total.

Sales of the full-size Nissan Armada SUV were up 145 percent year-to-year. "The segment is hot and we have a real serious player in that segment with the Armada," said Castignetti. Stable gas prices are helping the segment that was hurt the worst of any in the industry in 2008 and 2009, he acknowledged.

Sales of the Murano, Titan pickup and the Xterra were up double digits.

And the Maxima bucked the Nissan car downward trend, posting a 15 percent sales gain; its up 33 percent for the year.

Infiniti sales for August were 9,428 units, up 22 percent from the 7,732 units sold in the same month a year earlier. Like the Armada, sales of the full-size luxury QX56, which was redesigned this year, set an August record and rose 105 percent from a year ago. It was the QX56s best month since December 2007. The ute got a boost from marketing initiatives like being the official car of the Emmy awards.

Sales of the M sedan rose 102 percent. The G sedan had an 18-percent hike in sales. FX and G coupe sales were down.

For the year, Nissan sales in total are 14 percent with Nissan sales up 13 percent and Infiniti sales up 25 percent.

Nissan top 3 sellers - Aug. 2010.jpgAn August Breather, But Hyundai Still Rocking

Compared with its bursting-at-the-seams performance during last August's Cash for Clunkers frenzy, Hyundai Motor America didn't stand a chance of surpassing its all-time monthly sales record - but the company's 53,603 sales for the month was a solid effort in comparison, one that left Hyundai 11 percent off the pace.

2010 Hyundai Tucson facing right - 225.JPGNumbers watchers might note the ever-increasing climb of the Sonata nameplate - the all-new 2011 model made its move in August to become the segment's No. 3 seller, behind only the Big Kahuna's, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. At 21,399 sales - an 81-percent burst over last August - the Sonata surpassed the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu and Nissan Altima.

The brand's other big mover was the new Tucson compact crossover, which found 3,343 buyers in August, a 32-percent gain. Sales for the Genesis lineup also improved by 25 percent and the Veracruz large crossover gained by 9 percent.

Sales for every other Hyundai model lost ground or were flat in August, including a whopping 62-percent plunge for the Accent subcompact and a 30-percent slide for the Elantra, which is being replaced this fall.

Despite August's setback, Hyundai year-to-date sales remain on a solid trajectory: at 363,491 units sold, the company is 17 percent ahead of last year.

Kia: Sales Down During Portfolio Remodeling

Kia Motors America reported sales 32,465 vehicles, a slide of 19 percent compared to a year ago.

2011 Kia Sorento - 300.JPGLike other automakers, Kia's decline came largely from vehicles that had done extraordinarily well during last year's Cash for Clunkers-fueled August. For instance, Rio sales plummeted 2,085 in August from 6,961 a year ago. The Spectra kicked in only 12 sales compared with 3,619 a year ago; Rondo only 94 sales versus 1,259 a year ago.

Meantime, Kia is in the midst of revamping its product portfolio, starting with the 2011 Sorento crossover, the brand's bestseller for the eighth consecutive month.

Kia said its new models - the Sorento, Soul, Forte, Forte coupe and 2011 Sportage - now represent three-quarters of the brand's volume. A new Optima and a Forte five-door go on sale in the coming months.

For the year to date, Kia sales are up 10 percent.

BMW Glides with Slim Slide

Like many luxury makers who didn't really factor into last August's Cash for Clunkers dialogue, the BMW Group in the U.S. finished August with a comparatively strong performance of 23,965 BMW and Mini brand vehicles sold. Totals included a 13.4-percent decline at its Mini small-car unit, BMW sales dropped just 1.6 percent last month.

BMW 1-Series.JPGBMW had nice success with its smallest car, the 1-Series, with an increase of 52.5 percent (to 1,394 units). And the new-ish 7-Series leapt to a 42-percent gain, while both were topped by the 119-percent hike for the Z4 roadster.

And all of BMW's crossovers were up compared with last August: the X3 by 33.1 percent, the X5 by 21.4 percent and the X6 by 27.9 percent.

But the core 3- and 5-Series cars both absorbed declines, 15.2 percent and 13.8 percent, respectively. The new 2011 5-Series just began reaching showrooms last month and the brand's notoriously aware loyalists likely were lying in wait for the new model.

At the Mini unit, which is getting less "mini" with each successive new variant, sales dropped for both the Cooper Convertible (-33.2 percent) and the Clubman (-54.7 percent). The standard Cooper line improved by 9 percent. The brand's year-to-date sales are off 3.8 percent and Mini sold just 29,704 units in the first eight months of the year.

Subaru Saddled with Rare Loss

You know it's a tough month when Subaru of America Inc. takes it on the chin. In August, Subaru sales declined 22 percent to 23,802 vehicles, the company taking pains to say that except for last August's Cash for Clunkers extravaganza, even with a 22-percent decline, last month was Subaru's second-best August on record.

2010 Subaru Outback - 250.JPGThe Outback was Subaru's only nameplate to gain in August, improving 37 percent to 8,043 sales. The Legacy variant also is up 96 percent for the year, to a solid 58,230 units.

Meanwhile, the always-strong Forester was stung with a 39-percent decline and the Impreza was off 42 percent, dragging Subaru's smallest model to a 16-percent year-to-date decline. The Tribeca crossover sold just 186 units, a 77-percent drop.

Subaru's year-to-date sales of 172,182 represent one of the industry's strongest performances so far, a 20-percent gain over the same period last year.

Volvo: Independent from Ford; Still Down

Volvo Cars of North America, sold by Ford to Chinese automaker Geely, reported sales of 4,441 units in August, down 24 percent in August from a year ago. Most Volvo models were off by significant double digit amounts; exceptions were the S80, up 31 percent; XC60, up 34 percent; and XC90, up 12 percent.

For the year to date, Volvo has sold 36,966 vehicles, down 12 percent for the same period of 2009.

The Swedish brand introduces its new S60 later this month. "We are excited for the all-new S60 to go on sale in late September," said Doug Speck, President and CEO of VCNA. "It's going to be a game changer for us and I believe it will win over more than a few driving enthusiasts."

VW: Sales Down 8%

2009 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen - 225.JPGVolkswagen of America posted August sales of 22,855 vehicles, an 8-percent decline from a year ago.

Despite the dip, the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen had its best month ever with 2,560 sold, a 125-increased from last August. The Passat had its best month since December 2008. The CC posted a 31-percent hike from a year ago. The Golf had a 70-percent increase; the GTI a 22-percent boost.

Models that saw double-digit declines included the Jetta sedan, Beetle, Eos, Touareg, Tiguan and Routan.

"We expect to see continued growth in the coming months as we introduce several new models, including the all-new Jetta and Touareg," said Mark Barnes, Interim-President, Volkswagen of America, Inc. 

So far in 2010, Volkswagen has sold 172,747 vehicles, a 21 percent increase over 2009.
 
Daimler: Same Old Story with Mercedes Up, Smart Down

Daimler AG sold 20,122 Mercedes-Benz and smart vehicles, a 7-percent increase from August 2009.  Smart continued to be a drag on the automaker while Mercedes sales were up.

Smart sales plummeted 72 percent to a mere 448 vehicles. By contrast, Mercedes sales rose 22 percent to 18,826 vehicles in addition to 848 Sprinter vans.

2010 Mercedes-Benz C-Class - 287.JPGThe Mercedes-Benz C-Class was the brand's volume leader with sales of 6,100, up 43 percent from a year ago. The newest generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class was runner-up with 5,882 vehicles sold, a 26-percent rise. The M-Class was the brand's third-best seller with sales of 2,473 sold, down 4 percent from a year ago.

Also posting gains were: the R-Class, up 390 percent and G-Class, up 62 percent.  Mercedes sold 321 units of the newly launched SLS AMG supercar.

Down significantly were sales of the CL-, CLS- and SLK-Class. Also posting drops were the S-, SL- and GL-Class.

Mercedes sold 6,448 Certified Pre-Owned vehicles, up 3 percent from a year ago; CPO sales are up 6 percent for the year.

Year to date, Daimler sold 149,046 vehicles, up 15 percent from the same period a year ago. Mercedes has sold 144,689 new vehicles, an increase of 22 percent from last year. For the year so far, Mercedes sales are up 18 percent year to date; smart sales are down 63 percent.

Audi: Best August Ever

2009 Audi Q5 - 240.JPGOn its way to a record year, Audi posted its best August ever with sales of 9,182 vehicles. August sales rose 14 percent from last August. It was Audi's best month since May.

"Audi is in a desirable position in the luxury vehicle market as we continue to post strong U.S. sales," said Audi of America President Johan de Nysschen. "All indications continue to point toward 2010 winding up as the best year Audi has ever enjoyed in the U.S. market."

August's performance was helped by higher sales of the Q5 and Q7, in particular. The Q5 set a new August sales record with 2,675 sold, a 79-percent from August 2009 and a 25-percent increase from July. Audi sold 560 Q7 models for a 42 percent increase from the year before.

A5 sales were up 55 percent; A6 sales increased 29 percent; and A3 sales rose 18 percent.

Diesel power is helping Audi's cause. The TDI version of the Q7 accounts for 66 percent of all sales; 60 percent of A3 sales are diesel, a 14-percentage point increase from July.

A4 sales were down 25 percent. Sales of the A8, being replaced by a new generation, were off 13 percent. And TT sales dropped 13 percent.

Audi says its fastest growing markets in August were Washington, Miami, the U.S. Northwest, Texas and Northern California.

For the year, Audi expects to set a new U.S. sales record, surpassing its previous record year of 2007 when it sold 93,506 vehicles.

Jaguar Land Rover: Both Brands Rise

Jaguar Land Rover North America enjoyed a sales increase of 25 percent in August  compared with a year ago for a total of 3,985 vehicles sold, thanks to new models from both brands.

Land Rover sales rose 11 percent from a year ago to 2,544 vehicles, with the LR4 being the top performer. Jaguar sales soared 62 percent to 1,414 vehicles, driven by the new XJ.

"In August, we saw continued success based on our strong product line up across both brands," said JLRNA President Gary Temple. "We look to keep this momentum as we continue to offer class-leading customer care and put forward high quality vehicles that deliver extraordinary performance, innovative technology and superior styling."

For the year to date, Jaguar Land Rover North America sales are up 19 percent to 28,581 units. 

Mitsubishi Down; Lancer Sales Rise

Mitsubishi Motors North America sold 4,293 vehicles in August, its fourth highest monthly sales total for Mitsubishi this year. Still sales were down 37 percent from last August. 

Only the Lancer and tiny-volume Lancer Evo sales rose in the month.

For the year so far, Mitsubishi sales are down 4 percent to 36,431 vehicles. Two of its volume models are up for the year; Galant sales are up 30 percent; Outlander sales rose 12 percent.

Porsche:  Cayenne Returns as Volume Leader

Porsche sold 2,032 vehicles in August, a 33-percent hike from the year-ago August, with the redesigned Cayenne returning to the luxury sports car company's volume leader.

Porsche sold 775 of the new SUVs, a 52-percent hike from a year ago. In August, only the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo were available for sale. The Cayenne and Cayenne S Hybrid arrive in the U.S. later this month.

Porsche sold 627 Panamera Gran Turismo models, which went on sale last October. Two six-cylinder versions of the Panamera went on sale in August, joining three versions of the eight-cylinder line.

Boxster and Cayman sales were up slightly to 355 units, from 344 vehicles sold a year ago. Sales of 911 fell to 375 units, from 673 a year ago.

For the year to date, Porsche has sold 15,719 new vehicles, up from 12,729.
 
Certified pre-owned sales were up in August to 609 units from 567 a year ago, pushing the year-to-date total to 5,046, up from 4,535.

Suzuki: Sales Plummet 68%

Suzuki sold a mere 1,830 vehicles in August, a 68-percent nosedive from the 5,751 sold in August a year ago. Indeed, last August's surge in sales from the government's Cash for Clunkers program played a role, Suzuki still is seeing a 52-percent decline in sales for the year so far.

Sales of every model are down by 70 percent or more. The relatively new Kizashi kicked in 478 sales in August.

Saab: Ramping Up Cars; Winding Down SUV

Saab, which only recent got back to the business of selling cars, sold 290 vehicles in August. The Swedish brand, now owned by Dutch sports-car maker Spyker Cars, sold: 277 9-3 models and 13 9-5 models.

Of the 9-5 models sold, only three were the old 2009 model; the rest were the newly revamped 2010 version.

Saab, which mothballed production facilities when GM put it up for sale, is ramping up inventory. At end of August, Saab had 3,425 copies of the 9-3 model in dealer stock; 334 9-5 models in inventory, 10 of which are the old 9-5.

Saab sold no 9-7X models, an SUV based on the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and in wind-down mode. Saab has only 5 9-7X models in dealer inventory.

Dale Buss is a contributing writer for Edmunds' AutoObserver.com. Bill Visnic is senior editor of AutoObserver.com. Michelle Krebs is Edmunds.com senior analyst and editor at large.

Edmunds.com Analyst Ivan Drury provided the manufacturer analysis for this post. Mark Holthoff, Edmunds' manager of customer support, supplied the graphics.

Photos by manufacturers

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