September 2, 2015 — Defying analysts predictions of fewer sales in August, the auto industry responded to a volatile and crashing stock market with a 17.72 million (according to WardsAuto) Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) — the best month since the 17.5 million posted in July 2005. It’s the fourth straight month the SAAR has exceeded 17 million sales causing some analysts to speculate that 2015 could produce a record year for automotive sales.
The glaring trend this year is the decline of car sales as sales of cross utility vehicles and light pickup trucks explode. According to WardsAuto.com data, penetration of CUVs is nearly 40% — up 7% from 1995, while car sales have slumped 7% in the same period to about 45%.
In just about every metric — other than luxury brands — car sales are down while CUV and truck sales are up. Audi’s nearly 10% increase was due to exploding sales of its Q3 and Q5 models, both CUVs.
General Motors posted a sales decline of .07% — driven by a drop in Cadillac and Buick sales. GMC, which has no cars in its lineup, increased sales more than 10% in August. (GM also reduced sales to rental fleets by nearly 25%, another reason for its sales decline).
Stalwarts such as Toyota and Honda saw sales decline to 8.8% and 7% respectively due declining sedan and small car sales. The declines, though, are far less than what analysts predicted. But the model numbers are jarring — Accord sales are down 15% for the year (20% for August) while Civic sales are down 4% for the year.
Ford, which is seeing F-150 sales finally stabilize following the change over to its new aluminum-based truck, was up 6.5%. However, each of its car models except for Mustang saw sales drop in August.
Fiat Chrysler continued its record pace posting a 65th consecutive month of sales increases. But, the increase is being driven by Jeep whose sales are up 21% for the year, and to some extent Ram, whose sales are up 7%. Chrysler sales are up 14%, fueled by the 200, which has seen sales jump 112%. But all of the other car brands are down sgnificantly.