August new vehicle sales beat forecast; SAAR tops 17.7 million

August new vehicle sales beat forecast; SAAR tops 17.7 million

With many observers predicting lower vehicle sales last month because Labor Day weekend sales will be in September, Augustês 17.7 million SAAR beat expectations. Low gas prices, a steadily improving job market and favorable financing terms all helped push up sales.

As has been the case for several months, trucks and utilities vehicles led U.S. sales 57.3 percent versus 42.7 percent for cars. Year to date, light truck sales are close to NADAês predicted 56 percent share, at 55.3 percent of the market. Traditionally, Washington area buyers have favored cars, but even here, trucks and utilities are moving up, as shown by the last WANADA Area Report (reported on in the August 21 Bulletin).

Truck-dominate manufacturers fared better. Fiat Chrysler, which included an 18 percent jump in Jeep sales, rose 2 percent for the month.

–In spite of a tough 2014 comparison and extreme stock market volatility, our dealersê competitive spirit kicked in and propelled us to our 65th consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases,” said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales at FCA.

Japanese automakers, more dependent on cars, didnêt fare as well. Toyota sales dropped sharply, by 8.8 percent. Honda was down nearly 7 percent and Nissan edged down almost 1 percent. Ford, driven by improving sales of its redesigned F-150, rose 5.6 percent.

–I am very, very bullish on the back half of the year,” said Fordês U.S. sales chief Mark LaNeve.

General Motors sales dropped by 0.7 percent, which the automaker attributed to its cut back on fleet sales.

Vehicle transaction prices rose nearly 3 percent from a year ago, NADA said. But in an effort to boost car sales, automakers increased incentives more than 3 percent year to date, according to Autodata particularly Asian brands.

In the pricing arena, –September will be a telling month depending on the impact of Labor Day sales and wavering financial market conditions,” said Akshay Anand, analyst for Kelley Blue Book. –Hopefully manufacturers will stay disciplined and not over-incentivize to meet sales goals if the markets continue to falter.”

Though NADA economist Steven Szakaly is concerned about the global slowdown and volatile equities markets, his forecast U.S. new vehicle for 2015 remains unchanged at 17.2 million.

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