GM, Ford sales tumble in September; Asian brands see smaller drop
October 03, 2005 11:25 PM EDT
DETROIT - High gas prices and a summer of heavy discounting sent sales of
sport utility vehicles plummeting last month for U.S. automakers. Asian
manufacturers, who had avoided the employee-pricing lures Detroit offered,
saw their results less affected.
Several automakers reported strong car sales in their monthly reports
released Monday, but SUVs took a hit industrywide in the U.S. market as gas
prices skyrocketed following Hurricane Katrina. Sales of the GMC Envoy and
Chevrolet Tahoe fell more than 50 percent compared to last September. The
Cadillac Escalade, Mazda Tribute, Ford Explorer, Ford Expedition, Toyota
Sequoia and Nissan Armada all saw their sales fall by 18 percent or more.
Dodge Durango sales were down 11 percent.
General Motors Corp. sales were down 24 percent overall. Its SUV and truck
sales fell 30 percent while its car sales dropped 14 percent. GM's overall
sales were flat for the first nine months of the year.
GM said it knew September would be a challenge after a summer of heavily
promoted discounting. GM began letting consumers pay the employee price in
June and ended the promotion Friday.
"We're coming off the three strongest months in the history of the
industry," said Paul Ballew, GM's executive director of market and industry
Ford Motor Co. also took a hit, with sales down nearly 20 percent in
September. Ford, Lincoln and Mercury car sales rose 6 percent, but sales of
trucks and SUVs fell nearly 28 percent. The company's overall sales were
also flat for the first nine months of the year.
Ford attributed the declines to the strong summer. Ford began allowing
customers to pay the employee price in July, and the incentive helped
deplete the automaker's 2005 inventory. George Pipas, Ford's U.S. sales
analysis manager, said the company expects SUV sales will stay soft in the
Ballew cautioned that gas prices aren't the only reason for falling SUV
sales. He said an aging lineup of SUVs and more options in car-based
crossovers also are affecting the segment.
Strong pickup sales were further proof that gas prices aren't the only
factor in the SUV's decline. The Dodge Ram pickup had its best month ever
and its sales were up 5 percent, DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group said.
Toyota said sales of its Tacoma pickup rose more than 21 percent.
Chrysler bucked the trend among U.S. automakers, reporting a 4 percent
increase in September sales, led by a 26 percent jump in car sales. The
Dodge Neon, which Chrysler stopped making two weeks ago, saw a 69 percent
increase. Chrysler's truck and SUV sales were down 1.8 percent, but its
overall sales were up 7.5 percent for the year.
Asian automakers also saw weak SUV sales, but none of the payback that U.S.
automakers had to contend with. Toyota Motor Corp.'s sales were up 10
percent in September, thanks to a 22 percent increase in car sales. Toyota's
truck sales fell 4 percent. The Japanese automaker's sales were up 11
percent in the first nine months of the year, and the company said it set a
third-quarter U.S. sales record.
Sales of the hybrid Toyota Prius surged 90 percent.
Nissan Motor Co. said its sales were up 16.4 percent in September, led by a
26.5 percent increase in car sales. While sales of the Armada, its largest
SUV, were down, sales of the midsize Pathfinder SUV more than doubled, which
helped lift Nissan's truck sales by 3 percent.
Honda Motor Co.'s sales rose 11.7 percent thanks to positive response to the
redesigned 2006 Civic, which helped boost car sales by 20 percent. Honda's
truck sales were flat for the month and its overall sales were up 6.3
percent for the January-September period.
Hyundai Motor Co.'s sales were up 9 percent in September. The South Korean
automaker's overall sales were up 10 percent for the year.
Volkswagen AG was the only automaker that didn't report U.S. sales on
Monday. Spokesman Tony Fouladpour said the results would be delayed until
Tuesday because Monday was a German holiday.
There were 25 selling days in September 2005, the same number as September