US auto sales soar, but Volkswagen struggles – USA TODAY
U.S. automakers enjoyed a robust sales performance in September — with Volkswagen a notable exception.
Sales hit an annualized rate of 18.17 million units in September, the highest rate since July 2005, according to Autodata. Overall industry sales rose 16% compared with September 2014.
Ford reported a 23% increase, General Motors posted a 12% gain, and Fiat Chrysler extended its sales streak to 66 consecutive months of gains with a 14% rise. Toyota enjoyed a 16% increase.
Subaru’s hot streak continued as the automaker posted an impressive 28% rise.
But Volkswagen, embroiled in a scandal involving its diesel cars, reported an increase of only 1%.
Kelley Blue Book had projected Volkswagen sales would rise 8% for the full month, fueled by a strong Labor Day weekend for the industry.
The industry’s gaze is trained on the German automaker, which spent the last third of September embroiled in a scandal over manipulative software installed on diesel cars to trick the government into believing the vehicles were compliant with emissions regulations.
The scandal, which broke on Sept. 18 when the Environmental Protection Agency exposed it, affected Volkswagen sales for only the last third of the month.
A better indicator of the scandal’s effect on Volkswagen will be October. The company cannot sell its 4-cylinder diesel cars until it proves to regulators that it has removed the cheating software from the vehicles — which may not occur this month.
In the broader industry, shoppers are fleeing cars for crossovers, sport-utility vehicles and pickups, as low gasoline prices drive profits for the auto companies.
“All the domestic manufacturers have done quite well, in large part because of the strength in sport utilities, crossovers and trucks,” Kelley Blue Book analyst Alec Gutierrez said in a conference call.
Aside from Volkswagen’s troubles, the auto industry roared ahead in September:
The first to report its figures, Fiat Chrysler posted massive sales growth of 40% for the Jeep brand, reflecting consumers’ rush into SUVs. It also posted gains of 3% for Dodge and 4% for Ram. The Chrysler brand fell 5%.
If the pope’s decision to ride around in a Fiat 500L last week during his trip to the U.S. gave a boost to the struggling car brand, it hasn’t showed up yet in the company’s sales performance. Fiat brand sales rose only 1%, fueled by the new 500X crossover.
Sales of the GMC brand soared 24%, with crossovers and pickups performing well. Cadillac was up 8%, Chevrolet up 11% and Buick up 5%.
Crossovers such as the Chevrolet Equinox, up 25%, flourished for GM. But small cars cratered. The Chevy Sonic fell a bruising 55%.
GM said the average transaction price on its vehicles rose nearly $800 from August to September.
The Ford brand rocketed to a 23% gain for the month, while the Lincoln brand enjoyed a 20% increase. The Ford brand’s SUVs reached a 12-year high, rising 27%.
The F-Series pickup truck, the most popular vehicle in the U.S., recorded a 16% rise to 69,651 units.
The Japanese automaker reported a 16% increase in sales for the month. The company benefited from the rush to big vehicles, but also bucked the industry trend by pulling off a 19% increase in car sales.
Signs emerged that the company’s scandal is already a drag on sales. Sales of vehicles affected by the scandal took a hit. The Jetta sedan fell 14%. The Beetle was down 15%. The Passat fell 1%. The regular Golf was down 37%.
Subaru appeared to continue gaining market share from Volkswagen as its sales ballooned 28% in September. That included a 34% rise for the Outback crossover and a 22% increase for the Forester utility.
Nissan’s sales rose 17%, fueled in part by a 30% rise for the Infiniti luxury brand. Crossovers, trucks and SUVs rose 22%, with the Rogue crossover soaring 45% to 25,064 units.
Honda’s U.S. sales rose 13% for the month. The Japanese automaker reported a 27% increase in crossovers, trucks and SUVs, compared to a 3% increase in cars. The company’s Acura luxury brand trailed the industry with a growth rate of only 6%.
The Volkswagen luxury brand posted a 16% increase in September. One of the brand’s cars was wrapped up in the emissions scandal.
The luxury German manufacturer reported a 4% increase in sales for the month. Though the sales performance trailed the industry, the company is set to start selling its redesigned BMW 7 Series and X1 this month.
Hyundai and Kia
The sister brands both enjoyed solid months. Hyundai’s sales rose 14%, as the Tuscon SUV flourished, while Kia’s sales increased 23%.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.
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