U.S. auto sales rise to most since May 2007

Most carmakers exceed growth estimates

Bloomberg NewsSeptember 4, 2013 

AUTOS-FLEET312

Workers in Flat Rock, Mich., assemble 2014 Ford Fusions, one of the vehicles helping to bring new life to U.S. sales.

KOWALSKY — BLOOMBERG NEWS

— The pace of the comeback in U.S. auto sales exceeded already rosy estimates in August, with a total surpassing any month in more than six years and a sales rate that was the fastest since 2007.

The superlatives rolled out throughout the day: General Motors had its best month since 2008 and Ford its best month of retail sales since 2006. Toyota deliveries surged 23 percent, while Honda and Nissan each had their best August ever. Chrysler sales rose for the 41st straight month.

U.S. car and light truck sales rose 17 percent to 1.5 million units, the most since May 2007, according to researcher Autodata Corp. “In 2007, we were achieving that sales level by giving cars away because the auto companies had too many factories,” John Casesa, senior managing director at Guggenheim Partners, said Wednesday on Bloomberg Radio. “Today, there’s real demand for that product. It’s a fundamentally different industry.”

GM, Ford and Chrysler have closed unneeded factories and rolled out better cars that are drawing demand from both retail and fleet buyers, lifting the average prices paid for new vehicles to record highs. That means today’s industry is much healthier than when automakers were last selling this many cars and trucks.

GM deliveries rose 15 percent, topping estimates for an 11-percent rise. Toyota sales increased 23 percent, compared with estimates for 15 percent. Ford deliveries gained 12 percent to beat the 10 percent average estimate. Honda deliveries soared 27 percent, exceeding analysts’ projected 20 percent increase.

GM rose 5 percent to $35.85 at the close in New York, while Ford advanced 3.5 percent to $16.91.

Deliveries for Chrysler, majority-owned by Fiat, climbed 12 percent, trailing the 13 percent average of 10 analysts’ estimates. Nissan sales surged 22 percent, exceeding seven analysts’ average estimate of 17 percent.

Ford deliveries of F-Series pickups surged 22 percent to 71,115, the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker said in its statement. The company exceeded the 70,000 mark for the second month this year, a feat it last accomplished in 2006.

“At August’s pace, we were selling one F-Series pickup every 42 seconds,” Ken Czubay, vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

Auto output has contributed more than 15 percent of the growth in gross domestic product since the second quarter of 2009, Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, Ford’s chief economist, said. The U.S. economic recovery began in 2009’s third quarter. Spending on cars and housing helped maintain “modest to moderate” economic expansion even as borrowing costs increased, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday.

Hyundai Motor Co. and affiliate Kia Motors Corp.’s combined deliveries rose 6.3 percent, trailing the 9.2 percent average estimate of seven analysts. The Seoul-based carmakers have trailed industry-wide sales growth in every month since September 2012.

Volkswagen AG posted a 3.4 percent increase in combined August sales for its VW and Audi brands, according to separate statements. The Wolfsburg, Germany-based automaker trailed the average of four analysts’ estimates for a 4.4 percent gain.

For consumers with stable employment and income, it’s a “great time to be out there buying automobiles,” Jonathan Browning, the CEO of Volkswagen’s U.S. unit, said on a conference call with reporters. “There are good vehicles in the marketplace and great offers.”

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