U.S. auto sales fell in the third quarter, but September increases at General Motors, Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai provided fresh signs that the market continues to rebound after being battered by the coronavirus.
GM said sales improved "sequentially" each month since mid-year. In a rare disclosure of monthly results, the auto maker said September volume rose from year-earlier levels. Toyota Motor chalked up a 16 percent September gain, while Hyundai rose 5.5 percent for its second advance in three months.
September numbers were boosted, however, by the same reporting quirks that scarred August's figures. There were two more selling days last month than in the year-earlier period. And Labor Day weekend sales were counted in September this year instead of the previous month.
Still, GM pegged the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for September at 15.9 million, including medium and heavy trucks, the highest figure since the pandemic hit in March.
"Industry and GM sales rebounded significantly in September, finishing the month with year-over-year sales increases," the nation's No. 1 seller said in a statement.
Most auto makers were expected to report either monthly or quarterly figures on Thursday. Ford Motor Co. scheduled a Friday release, and Jaguar Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz will wait for later in the month.'
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Quarterly deliveries at GM dropped 9.9 percent. Volume fell 11 percent at Chevrolet, 5.7 percent at GMC, 2.9 percent at Buick and 18 percent at Cadillac. The auto maker did not provide a figure or brand breakdown for its September increase.
FCA US said third-quarter volume was down 10 percent, with strong retail sales failing to offset "ongoing softness in fleet purchases."
Sales declined 9 percent at Jeep, 2 percent at Ram, 31 percent at Dodge and 53 percent at Fiat. Only the Chrysler brand, up 8 percent, and Alfa Romeo, with an increase of 17 percent, posted gains during the quarter, FCA said. U.S. retail sales of the Ram pickup truck rose 15 percent last quarter.
"Jeep and Ram are hot, and we continue to prioritize deliveries to our dealers who are asking us to ship as many vehicles as we can build," said Jeff Kommor, head of U.S. sales for FCA US.
Third-quarter volume dropped 11 percent at Toyota Motor, with sales off 13 percent at the Toyota division but up 2 percent at Lexus. The September increase was fueled by a 14 percent advance at Toyota, aided by strong Highlander and RAV4 demand, and a 31 percent jump at Lexus.
Honda Motor, behind double-digit percentage gains at the Honda and Acura brands, said volume rose 12 percent last month, capping a quarter that saw deliveries slip 9.5 percent.
"September marks a high-water mark for Honda sales this year with double-digit gains and our first month in positive territory since the pandemic began," said Dave Gardner, executive vice president of national operations at American Honda.
At Nissan Motor Co., sales plunged 32 percent last quarter. Deliveries slumped 33 percent at the Nissan division and 30 percent at Infiniti.
Hyundai reported third-quarter U.S. sales of 170,828, a 1 percent decline from a year earlier. In September, volume rose 5 percent, behind a 21 percent gain in retail deliveries.Third-quarter retail volume tallied 161,254, a 7 percent increase over 2019, the company said..
Hyundai has countered lower fleet business with stronger retail sales driven by an expanded crossover lineup, even as it spends less on incentives. The company said fleet sales dropped 67 percent in September and represented 5 percent of overall volume.
The Volkswagen brand reported a third-quarter decline of 7.6 percent.