GM, Ford, Toyota, Nissan and Honda notched sales declines last month. Fiat Chrysler reported a 3 percent increase compared with sales in August 2015, while Lincoln sales rose 7 percent on the strength of such products as the Lincoln MKX.
"It wasn't exactly a blockbuster month in August, so that puts extra pressure on the industry to step up its game in September, especially this coming Labor Day weekend," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com director of industry analysis. "We're at a critical time where dealers need to clear out 2016 inventory to make room for 2017s, and that's good news for shoppers who will see some great deals on outgoing models in the coming weeks."
At General Motors, sales in August were down about 5 percent year over year to 256,429 vehicles.
"Despite tighter dealer inventories, we had a solid retail performance in August led by Chevrolet, which gained retail share in eight different segments," said Kurt McNeil, GM's U.S. vice president of sales operations, in a statement.
Ford said overall U.S. sales totaled 214,482 vehicles, an 8 percent decline. However, Ford turned in record van sales, driven largely by the Ford Transit gaining 17 percent.
"Vans continue to be a bright spot for Ford — a consistent growth story for us this year," said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, in a statement.
The Jeep brand continued to turn in robust sales at Fiat Chrysler. The Cherokee posted a 41 percent sales gain, the largest percentage increase of any Jeep brand model in August, the automaker said.
Nissan announced August sales of 124,638 units, a decrease of 6.5 percent compared to a year ago.
But sales of the Rogue were up 19 percent, setting an August record and Nissan Maxima sales were up 43 percent.
American Honda Motor Co. reported August sales of 149,571 Honda and Acura vehicles, a 3.8 percent decrease over August 2015.
Sales of the CR-V set a second consecutive all-time sales record.
Toyota reported August sales of 213,125 units, a decrease of 5 percent from August 2015.
"The industry took a bit of a step back in August," said Bill Fay, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager, in a statement.
Edmunds says: SUVs and trucks continue to set the tone for the industry, a trend that is expected to continue.