August Car Sales Prove Better Than Expected
August car sales came in higher than many expected, not due to beefy incentives or plumped-up fleet sales, but on ordinary Americans buying new vehicles, especially small cars and pickup trucks. August sales totaled 1,284,743 vehicles, up 20 percent from August 2011. That put the Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) of sales at 14.5 million vehicles, compared with 12.1 million last August. In fact, August 2012 marked the best August sales in terms of vehicles sold and SAAR performance since August 2007, when sales were 1.5 million for a SAAR of 16 million vehicles. August 2012 also beat the Cash-for-Clunkers inflated August 2009 in terms of sales and SAAR.
While August results exceeded industry forecasts — the industry consensus was for a 14.2-million sales month — they were in line with Edmunds.com's forecast, which was at the high end among prognosticators at 14.5 million.
Strength came from opposite ends of the spectrum: small cars and full-size pickup trucks. Indeed, as predicted, hhigher gas prices in August led to unseasonably strong small- car performance across the industry, noted Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell, echoing comments made by auto company executives in conference calls Tuesday. "As fuel prices rose again during August, we saw growing numbers of people gravitate toward our fuel-efficient vehicles," said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president of U.S. sales.
Higher pickup truck sales reported by most manufacturers are a positive sign as well as trucks enter their most active selling season of the year. Auto company executives said the recovery in the housing market, which directly correlates to truck sales, is a plus.
While many forecasters revised downward their predictions for 2012 total sales earlier in the year, automakers and Edmunds.com are sticking with their original expectations. GM said it is staying with its forecast for 14 million to 14.5 million industry sales. Ford is standing firm with its 14.5 million to 15 million sales forecast, but admits the final tally will come in at the low end. Volkswagen is expecting sales of about 14 million. Made at the beginning of the year, Edmunds.com's forecast 14.4 million vehicles sold in 2012 remains unchanged. The SAAR for the calendar year so far is about 14.3 million.
General Motors: General Motors Co. reported August sales of 240,520 vehicles, up 10 percent from a year ago. That was higher than forecasted by Edmunds.com, which pegged GM at 232,527 vehicle sales for a 6-percent rise. GM said retail sales rose 11 percent, making August its best retail month this year. Fleet sales rose 6 percent from a year ago. All four GM brands posted higher total and retail sales, the automaker said.
Volume-leading Chevrolet reported sales of 169,978 vehicles in August, up 11 percent from a year ago. August was the first full month of sales for the Spark, which posted sales of 2,630 units, up from 1,460 in July. Three Chevrolet models set new monthly sales records: the subcompact Sonic, introduced at the start of the year, hit 8,703 units, surpassing the previous record set in March 2012; Volt sales posted sales of 2,831 units, surpassing the March 2012 peak; and Cruze sales totaled 25,975 vehicles, exceeding the previous record set in April 2011 when the Cruze benefitted from the Japanese automakers' lack of inventory due to the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Alan Batey, vice president if U.S. Sales and Service, noted that Cruze sales soared with incentives that are below industry average and one of the highest average transaction prices in the segment. The Equinox also had a good month with 20,231 sold, up 22 percent. Malibu sales were down 19 percent, but GM said inventory of the previous version is almost empty while the redesigned Malibu gears up. Silverado inched out a gain, but large SUV sales declined. Launched in mid-July, the Chevrolet Confidence program, which touted a return policy and no haggle prices, resonated with consumers. Batey said the return policy built Chevy's brand reputation while it was the no-haggle prices that drove August sales.
Image-leading Cadillac posted sales of 14,704 vehicles, up 11 percent. Sales of the new flagship XTS sedan, which according to Edmunds.com data is retaining loyal Cadillac owners, hit 2,158 sales in August. SRX sales also climbed. CTS sales dropped 11 percent. The automaker said the first ATS sedan was shipped last week.
Buick sales totaled 18,000 vehicles, up 12 percent on the strength of the compact Verano, which had sales of 5,200 units in August. The LaCrosse eked out a 3-percent rise, but the other vehicles in Buick's line saw declines from a year ago.
GMC sales rose 4 percent to 37,838 vehicles, on the strength of the Acadia, up 25 percent, and the Terrain, up 16 percent. The Sierra also posted a 9 percent increase and the commercial Savana had a 73-percent rise. As with Chevy, sales of the soon-to-be-replaced large SUVs dropped.
Ford: Ford Motor Co. reported sales of 197,249 in August, a 13-percent increase compared with August, 2011, with sales of passenger cars and trucks improving almost equally at a respective 6 percent and 7 percent for the month. Ford's results were stronger than anticipated by Edmunds.com, which forecasted 191,918 sales for a 10-percent increase.
More than a quarter of Ford's sales in August — 26 percent — were attributed to fleet purchases, however, and the company's incentive spending increased by 6 percent compared with last August, to the second-highest among the Big Six automakers. At an average of $2,844 per vehicle, Ford's incentive spending for the month was exceeded only by General Motors Co.'s average of $3,174 per vehicle, according to Edmunds.com's TCI calculations.
In August, Ford was in all-out sell-down mode for the Fusion midsize sedan, for example, and the heavy incentives delivered an all-time August sales record for the Fusion nameplate at 21,690 units, a 21-percent gain. The Focus was Ford's best passenger-car gainer of the month, boosting sales 35.3 percent over a comparatively weak August, 2011 figure, to a total of 19,073. Sales for the Mustang were up 11.7 percent in August to 6,387 units and the Taurus also improved 8.6 percent to 5,421 sales. The Fiesta subcompact was the only model on the car portion of Ford's ledger to post declining sales, with sales plunging 28.4 percent to 4,176 — pulling the Fiesta's year-to-date sales down a disconcerting 25.7 percent to 39,561 units; through the first eight months of last year, Ford moved 53,258 Fiestas.
Ford was ebullient about the August performance for its two best-selling utility vehicles, the Escape compact and Explorer midsizer. With stocks of the all-new 2013 Escape up to competitive strength, the nameplate leaped to a 36.8-percent gain in August, selling 28,188 units to make it the best-ever August for Escape. The Explorer found 13,168 buyers in August, a plump 33-percent gain over last year. And the Edge midsize crossover was up 23.3 percent in August to 11,603 sales. The Flex, down 6.7 percent to 2,635 sales, was Ford's only utility vehicle to decline in August.
Sales for Ford's seminal F-Series full-size pickup lineup increased 19.3 percent in August to 58,201, with sales for the first eight months of the year staying up by double digits, 12.9 percent, to 408,665.
At the Lincoln upscale unit, total sales were 8,141 in August, a 1.7-percent improvement compared with last year. The MKZ (+42.4 percent), MKT crossover (+48 percent) and MKX crossover (+27.8 percent) all posted gains, but were offset by the wind-down of sales for the discontinued Town Car and a 32-percent drop for the MKS flagship. Lincoln's year-to-date total sales of 57,078 trail the same period last year by 1.3 percent as the brand awaits the pending launch the all-new generation of its MKZ midsize sedan, its best-selling model.
Toyota: Toyota Motor Sales reported August sales of 188,520 vehicles up 46 percent from a year ago. Toyota Division posted total August sales of 164,283 units, an increase of 48 percent; Lexus Division reported sales of 24,237 units, up 34 percent. Scion posted August sales of 7,722 units, up 112 percent.
"The auto industry continued to outperform the general economy in August," said Bill Fay, Toyota group vice president and general manager. "The driving force behind our growth continues to be strong consumer response to the new models we've launched over the past 12 months and the added value those vehicles represent." Primarily among them is the Camry, which had sales of 36,720 units, up 22 percent from a year ago. Corolla had sales of 24,311, up 48 percent. Yaris sales rose 31 percent to 1,458 units. The Prius family posted sales of 21,111 units. Of Toyota-branded cars, only the Avalon had a down month and it is in sell-down mode to clear the decks for the vastly restyled model that goes on sale in December.
On the truck side, Toyota sold 71,200 units, an increase of 48 percent. The RAV4 scored a 141-percent sales gain to 15,685 vehicles. Tacoma and Tundra pickup sales were up more than 40 percent each. All but the Venza on the truck/SUV side of the Toyota house had significant gains.
Such was not the case at Lexus. On the car side, only the revamped ES 350, which includes the first hybrid version, saw a gain — up 94 percent to 7,557 units. Lexus utilities, however, recorded gains, led by the freshened RX, which includes a hybrid, at 8,628 units sold for a 41-percent increase.
Sales of all Scion models rose in August. The tC sports coupe led the way with sales of 2,378 units, up 114 percent. The newly launched FR-S sports car reported sales of 1,913 units. The xD subcompact posted sales of 1,004 units, and the xB urban utility vehicle posted August sales of 1,879 units. The all-new iQ premium micro-subcompact posted monthly sales of 548 units.
In a month that saw rising gas prices, Toyota Motor Sales sold 28,960 hybrid vehicles, an increase of 110 percent. Toyota Division posted August sales of 25,400 hybrids, while Lexus Division reported sales of 3,560 hybrids for the month.
Chrysler: Chrysler Group reported sales of 148,472 in August, a 14-percent increase compared with August, 2011. That was slightly better the Edmund.com's forecast of a 13-percent rise. It made Chrysler's best August since 2007, as was the same for July, 2012. Sales for each of the company's five brands improved compared with the same month last year: sales for the Chrysler unit were up 25 percent, the Jeep brand was up 5 percent, the Dodge unit improved August sales by 13 percent; the Ram truck division was up 18 percent and the Fiat unit improved August sales by 34 percent.
Every vehicle at the Chrysler division increased sales compared with August, 2011. The 200 midsize sedan sold 11,997 units for a 10-percent gain. The Chrysler 300 full-size sedan was up 65 percent to 4,668 units and sales for the Town & Country minivan leapt 30 percent to 11,405 sales.
At Jeep, the soon-to-be-discontinued Compass and Patriot were off 15 percent and 1 percent, respectively, but every other Jeep nameplate posted a sales gain in August. The Liberty led the pack with a 15-percent sales gain (7,886 units), but the Wrangler was Jeep's best-seller in August, recording 13,293 sales for a 3-percent gain. Pulling in just behind was the Grand Cherokee and its 12,848 sales, a 13-percent gain.
At Dodge, the all-new Dart compact car pitched in with 3,045 sales in a month of early availability, offsetting the 90-percent plunge for the Caliber, which the Dart replaces. Save the Viper supercar, which is readying for the launch of an all-new replacement, every other Dodge model that has not been discontinued posted a sales gain in August, with the volume leader being the Caravan minivan at 16,428 sales (+35 percent as Caravan loyalists and fleet buyers may be reacting to recent news that Chrysler intends to discontinue the nameplate). Sales for the Journey compact crossover jumped 58 percent in August to 7,922 sales, the Charger was up 30 percent and the Avenger improved by 26 percent.
For the Ram unit, the Ram full-size pickup comprises nearly all of the division's sales, and August's figures were up 19 percent to 25,215 units. The Ram cargo van found 848 buyers and the discontinued Dakota went to 2 customers.
The Fiat 500 subcompact car currently is the sole model available from Chrysler's Fiat unit and it chalked up a hefty 34 percent sales gain in August to post 4,150 sales. The August performance brought year-to-date sales for the 500 to 28,566 — up 158 percent compared to the first eight months of 2011.
Honda: American Honda reported sales of 131,321 in August, a 60-percent increase compared with August, 2011, the nadir of Honda's U.S. sales plummet following the early-2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan the decimated domestic auto manufacturing for several months in that country. Honda's performance was in line with Edmunds.com's predictions. Along with the August sales catapult for Honda came an equally outsized gain for the company's Acura upscale division, where total sales jumped 72.8 percent compared with last year.
Selling out the 2012 Accord midsize sedan to make way for the new-generation 2013 model certainly was one factor propelling Honda in August: the Accord was by far the brand's best-selling model, its 34,848 sales representing an 89-percent gain and far outstripping even the Civic compact car, which typically challenges the Accord to be Honda's volume leader. In August, the Civic posted its own enormous gain, however: 106 percent to 24,897 sales, accentuating how low sales for Honda's top models had been driven by last year's inventory crisis. Honda's hybrid models continued a long swoon, however, with the Insight sedan dropping 64.5 percent to 341 sales and the CR-Z coupe off 47.4 percent to just 392 units.
Each of Honda's trucks posted a sales gain in August, with the best-selling CR-V topping the company's chart at 23,877 sales — a 44.1-percent improvement. Sales for the Odyssey minivan were up 61.3 percent to 12,750 and the Pilot large crossover was up 8 percent to 10,610 units, while the Ridgeline midsize pickup leaped to a 329-percent gain, although on just 919 sales.
At Acura, a rebound may have begun thanks to an affective redesign and critical acclaim for the re-engineered RDX compact crossover; the RDX's August sales exploded by 157 percent to 2,926 units. Combined with 1,733 new incremental sales from the ILX compact car and a whopping 77.5-percent gain for the MDX midsize crossover (to 5,549 sales) that made it the brand's best-seller, Acura had a stellar August, with the TSX entry-level car (-7.1 percent) being the only model to record a sales decline.
Nissan: Nissan North America, which includes the Nissan and Infiniti brands, reported sales of 98,515 vehicles in August, up 8 percent from a year ago. Nissan Division sales increased 6 percent to 87,360 vehicles; Infiniti sales rose 24 percent to 11,155 units.
Sales of the midsize Altima, which represents 30 percent of all Nissan sales, rose 13 percent to 25,889 units. The Nissan Rogue crossover set an August record of 12,626 units sold, up 10 percent from a year ago when it was capacity constrained by the March earthquake. Sales of the being-discontinued Frontier amounted to 2,472 units, up 18 percent as it was being sold down. Also in sell-down mode are the Sentra, which had a big month — its best since March — of 10,623 units sold, up 7 percent, and the Pathfinder SUV, which had sales up 18 percent to 2,472 units. Both the Sentra and Pathfinder are being replaced this fall, and Nissan expects both to make a bigger contribution to Nissan's overall sales to spread sales more evenly over more models.
Infiniti sales, particularly hurt last year by the earthquake, posted a 24-percent gain with the G sedan leading with 5,123 units sold and a 20-percent increase. The new JX family crossover chipped in 2,378 units of sales. Otherwise, every other model in the line saw a decline.
Hyundai: Hyundai Motor America reported sales of 61,099 in August, a 4-percent increase compared with August, 2011. It was Hyundai's best-ever August, including the Cash-for-Clunkers extravaganza that fueled a tremendous uptick in industry sales in August, 2009. Hyundai also bragged the percentage of sales attributed to fleet buyers remained at a low 7 percent in August. The Sonata midsize sedan remained as Hyundai's volume leader, though August's 19,624 sales represented a 5 percent decline compared with August, 2011. Sales for the Elantra compact car continued to blaze, August's 17,989 units being 19.5 percent ahead of the same month last year. The Veloster coupe shoveled in 3,708 incremental new sales, reducing the letdown of a 30 percent drop for the Genesis line, to 2,262 sales. At opposite ends of Hyundai's car showroom, the Accent subcompact (5,398 sales) and the Equus flagship (296 sales) both were flat compared with last year. The Tucson compact crossover posted a healthy 29 percent gain in August, moving 5,376 units and the Veracruz big crossover improved by 12 percent to 963 sales, while in anticipation of an all-new model, buyers apparently ignored the Santa Fe midsizer by almost half, as August's 4,524 sales was 49 percent in arrears of last August's mark. For the first eight months of the year, Hyundai's sales totaled 479,789, up nearly 9 percent compared with the same period last year.
Kia: Kia Motors America reported sales of 50,028 in August, a 21.5-percent increase compared with last August, as Kia said the month represented its 24th consecutive record sales month. The August performance put Kia more than 50,000 units ahead of its sales for the first eight months of 2011, a record year for the brand. Kia's passenger cars definitely carried the month, however, with utility vehicles lagging. The Optima midsize sedan was the brand's volume leader and its 13,949 sales month was a staggering 227-percent better than last August. The Rio subcompact also posted a huge gain, its 3,602 sales representing a 548-percent gain over last year. Rounding out Kia's big gainers was the Soul compact hatchback, which posted a 48-percent improvement on 10,191 sales, while the Forte compact car was up 9 percent on 7,300 sales. Kia's decliners in August were led by the Sportage compact crossover's 27-percent drop on 2,097 sales. Also lagging in August were the Sorento — off 22 percent on 10,529 sales — and the Sedona minivan, down 55 percent to 1,360 sales.
Volkswagen: Volkswagen of America had another "best since 1973" month. The 41,011 vehicles Volkswagen sold in August represented its best August since 1973 and an increase of 63-percent increase from August 2011. (Volkswagen's best sales years were 1970, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972 and 1973, in that order.)
"Delivering over 40,000 vehicles this month is another milestone for us as we continue to see customer demand grow for our products," said Jonathan Browning, President and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. "With 24 consecutive months of year-on-year growth, we are demonstrating that we are making the right investments, creating a solid infrastructure and are delivering safe, high-quality and competitive products."
Volkswagen sold 10,090 Passats in August, its best August ever. The Tiguan, with 2,746 sold, also had its best August ever for a 37-percent increase from a year ago. Sales of the Jetta sedan, including the sporty GLI model, remained Volkswagen's volume leader with sales totaling 13,377, up 6 percent from August 2011. Jetta SportWagen sales totaled 2,069, up 9 percent. The Jetta line adds a turbo hybrid model this fall. The Beetle had sales of 3,451 units. The Golf, in all of its variations, had sales of 4,268 units, up 32 percent. Touareg sales rose 77 percent to 1,030 units.
Of total Volkswagen sales 21.4 percent were equipped with turbo-diesel engines. About a quarter of all Passats were equipped with diesel engines, and company officials said they have asked its German parent for even more as inventories are tight. About 20 percent of Beetles, which only began offering a diesel in July, were sold with diesels, 54 percent of Golfs, and 88 percent of Jetta SportWagens.
Frank Trivieri, Volkswagen of America's executive vice president of sales, said in a conference call that the automaker saw strength across all of its five U.S. regions. "We're not seeing any softening," he added.
Subaru: August kept Subaru of America on track toward its trek for another record year. Subaru reported sales of 28,293 vehicles, up 36 percent from August 2011 and putting the year-to-date ahead of 2011 by 23 percent.
The newly freshened Outback remained Subaru's volume leader with 11,285 sold, up 49 percent. Forester sales were next with 6,956 sold, an 8-percent increase. Impreza posted the biggest gain of 84 percent on 4,719 sales. Legacy sales totaled 3,872, up 18 percent. The new BRZ sports car kicked in sales of 623 units. Only the Impreza WRX (681 units, down 15 percent) and Tribeca crossover (157 units sold, down 23 percent) saw lower sales. The new XV Crosstrek hits showrooms this month.
Mercedes-Benz: Mercedes-Benz USA sold 23,439 vehicles in August, a 17.9-percent gain compared with August, 2011; the figure included sales of the smart city car and 2,129 units of Mercedes' Sprinter commercial-vehicle sales. Although its 604 August sales represent low volume, the SL roadster burst to its 705.3-percent gain on the strength of an all-new 2013 model that debuted earlier this year. The brand's volume role in August was carried by the entry-level C-Class, where 6,519 sales marked a 37.9-percent gain, while the midsize E-Class was off 19.8 percent at 4,515 units and the low-volume S- and CL-Class also endured losses. Mercedes-Benz's utility vehicles were a mixed bag in August: The compact GLK had a strong month at 2,775 units and a 43.6-percent improvement and The M-Class and G-Class both were up slightly with respective 2.4-percent and 9.4-percent gains (on 2,243 and 143 units). But the full-size GL-Class was down 12 percent to 1,522 units and the R-Class found a meager 14 copies. The smart minicar division sold 753 units for an 85.9-percent hike compared with last year.
BMW: The BMW Group in the U.S. sold 22,553 combined units of its BMW and Mini vehicles in August, a 5.7-percent decline compared with August, 2011. Sales for BMW were down 19.1 percent for the month, while Mini sales, up 83.9 percent, set an August record. Except for the low-volume 6-Series, which marked a 118.8-percent gain in August, every one of BMW's passenger cars declined for the month. The brand's 3-Series lineup, its best-seller, was off 29.3 percent in August to 6,206 units and the 5-Series midsize sedan slid 60.7 percent to 1,688 sales, while the 1-Series and 7-Series both were off by double digits for the month.
BMW's crossover models fared better in August. The X5 led in volume at 3,568 sales for a 21.2-percent improvement and the X3 was up 18.8 percent to 2,829 sales. The new X1 compact crossover added 576 units of incremental sales.
For the Mini unit, total sales were 5,718 in August, with the standard Cooper hardtop leading the way with a 48.7-percent hike to 2,333 units, while the Countryman's 2,050 sales represented a 219.3-percent gain. The all-new Coupe and Roadster models added a respective 228 and 233 units, but the Cooper S and Clubman models were down slightly.
Mazda: Mazda North American Operations reported August U.S. sales of 22,234 vehicles, a 2-percent decline from a year ago. Still, the Mazda3 had sales of 11,120, up 18 percent from a year ago for its best August ever excluding the Cash for Clunkers August in 2009. The new CX-5 exceeded expectations, Mazda said, with its best-so-far sales of 4,665 units in August. The automaker said — and Edmunds.com's analysis of inventories confirm — the CX-5 is in short supply and selling quickly. Mazda is increasing production to match demand. Mazda said its vehicles equipped with fuel-saving Skyactive technology accounted for 63 percent of its August sales; 85 percent of the Mazda3 models sold had Skyactive.
Mazda2 sales plummeted 34 percent to a mere 917 units. Similarly, Mazda5 sales fell 31 percent to 922 units. Sales of the Mazda6, which will soon be replaced and built only in Japan instead of the U.S., fell 40 percent to 1,592 units. Sales of all other Mazda vehicles also declined.
Audi: Audi of America shattered another record, posting its 20th consecutive month of record sales. In August, Audi sold 11,527 vehicles, up 13 percent from the previous record set in August 2011.
Sales of what Audi calls its premium category vehicles (the A8, A7, A6 and Q7) amounted to nearly a third of Audi's August sales, for a 61-percent increase in the category from a year ago. The increase was fueled by the A6, which had a 57-percent gain to 1,677 units sold, and the Q7, with a 32-percent hike for a total of 951 sold. Sales of the A8 were flat; A7, A8 and R8 sales declined. On the non-premium side, the newly-designed A5, at 1,677 sold, had a 27-percent gain; the volume-leading A4 had a 22-percent increase to 3,187 units sold. A3 sales fell 6 percent to 715 units. Q5 sales fell 13 percent to 2,007, however, the vehicle is perennially in short supply
"Audi momentum in the U.S. continues unabated," said Mark Del Rosso, Chief Operating Officer, Audi of America. "Looking ahead, the Audi story will only improve with the introduction of the S6, S7 and S8 premium performance models."
Volvo: Volvo Cars of North America reported U.S. sales of 6,323 units, a 21-percent increase from August 2011, and the highest August monthly volume since 2007. The top seller for the month was the S60 sports sedan with 2,038 units sold, a 32-percent increase from August 2011. The XC60 crossover finished the month with 1,898 units sold, doubling sales from last August, and for the second month in a row, set a new monthly sales record. The C30 gained 6 percent to 329 units; C70 sales were up 8 percent. All other Volvo models posted declines.
Jaguar Land Rover: Jaguar Land Rover North America sold 4,756 vehicles in August, a 31-percent gain compared with August, 2011. The Jaguar unit's 1,029 sales represented a 27-percent hike compared with the same period last year and Land Rover's 3,727 units marked a 33-percent gain.
Land Rover's Range Rover Sport was the brand's top seller in August, finding 1,530 buyers for a 28 percent gain. The all-new Range Rover Evoque added 700 new incremental sales and the flagship Range Rover was off 1 percent on 658 sales.
At Jaguar, the XF midsize sedan was up 21 percent to 493 sales. The XJ flagship sold 426 copies for a 39-percent gain.
Mitsubishi: Mitsubishi Motors North America reported August sales of 4,249 vehicles, down 47 percent from August 2011. August sales totals included Mitsubishi's top-seller in the U.S., the Outlander Sport, which went into production in Normal, Ill., in July.
Suzuki: American Suzuki Motor Corporation reported August sales of 1,968 units. SX4 continues to lead sales with a 2% year to date sales increase.