Strong US August auto sales

US August auto sales were surprisingly strong, at (annualized rate) 17.3 million vehicles , the highest rate since January 2006’s 17.6 million. Analysts had forecast 16.6 million.

Car manufacturers sold approximately 1.6 million vehicles in August, 3% more than in August 2013.

In the United States auto sales are an early indicator of consumer demand. About one-fifth of all retail spending comes from vehicle sales.

Strong sales were driven partly by heavy discounts. All the major car makers, with the exception of Nissan, boosted discounts. There was also a higher percentage of zero interest loans, while gas prices fell to a four-year low.

GM held onto the top spot, even though its performance was below expectations. Toyota grabbed second place, pushing Ford into third.

Pickup trucks

Low gas prices helped GM and Chrysler post double-digit growth in pickup truck sales.

Ford, which started the changeover to an all-new aluminum-bodied version of its F-Series pickup, reported declining sales.

Below is a list of automakers’ car sales in August, 2014:

  • GM: 272,423. An decline of 1.2%. Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of sales operations, said “We see a strong fall selling season ahead for GM and the industry. Car-buying fundamentals like employment and energy prices are in good shape, consumer confidence has reached a post-recession high and business investment is increasing.”
  • Toyota: 246,000. An increase of 6.3%. Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager said the industry had its best August in more than ten years. “Boosted by standout SUV sales and a record-shattering month for RAV4, Toyota was the number 1 retail manufacturer in August,” he added.
  • Ford: 222,174. A rise of 0.4%. Ford Fusion and Ford Escape sales reported the best August ever. John Felice, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service, said the F-Series maintained its lead as the best-selling pickup in America.
  • Chrysler: 198,379. A gain of 20%. The FIAT-owned company said the Labor Day weekend was “tremendous” for sales, which helped it post a 53rd successive month of year-on-year sales increases. Jeep brand sales were 49% up (best August ever). Ram pickup sales increased by 33%, the best August since 2003. The Dodge Journey crossover posted its best monthly sales every.
  • Honda & Acura: 167,038. A 0.4% increase. Honda posted its third-highest monthly sales ever. Jeff Conrad, Honda Division senior vice president and general manager, said “Our other core models, Civic, CR-V and Odyssey are also performing well and continue to drive our retail sales leadership in 2014.”
  • Nissan: 134,388. An 11.5% increase. Nissan says it posted year-over-year increase in sales for 22 successive months. The Nissan LEAF set an all-time monthly record.
  • Hyundai: 70,003. An gain of 5.9%. The car maker posted its best August ever. The Santa Fe, Tucson, Genesis Sedan and Sonata all had double digit increases.
  • Volkswagen: 35,181. A fall of 12.8%. Sales of the all-new Golf increased by 17.3% over August 2013 to 1,773 units, while the Golf GTI posted a 46.7% increase.

Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at auto shopping firm, said:

“August is a huge month for dealers who need to clear out 2014 models to make room for 2015 inventory. TV and radio airwaves are filled with these clearance deals and they’re helping to push hesitant car shoppers into ‘buy now’ mode.”

August UK car sales posted the 32nd consecutive month of growth.