New car sales for August: Winners and losers

2015 Jeep Wrangler

Ford sales rise 5.4% on F-150 and FCA keeps streak alive with 1.7% gain

Ford Motor Co.’s August U.S. sales, helped by strong F-series and crossover demand, rose 5.4 percent. Volume advanced 5.4 percent at the Ford brand and 6 percent at Lincoln.

F-150 deliveries, aided by improved availability of the redesigned truck, hit a high for the year with sales of 71,332, a gain of 4.7 percent over August 2014. Sales of utility vehicles climbed 12 percent while car volume skidded 7 percent, Ford said.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ U.S. sales, boosted by record demand for the Jeep lineup, defied forecasts and increased 1.7 percent in August, extending the company’s streak of gains to 65 months.

The winning streak had been in doubt because of a calendar quirk — the Labor Day sales weekend was not included in August this year. Analysts polled by Bloomberg, on average, expected Fiat Chrysler sales to drop 1.2 percent during the month. 

FCA said Jeep deliveries rose 18 percent to 80,804 in August, an all-time record for the brand and its 23rd consecutive monthly gain.

Volume rose 6 percent at the Ram brand and 1 percent at Fiat, but sales slipped 15 percent at Dodge and 14 percent at the Chrysler brand.

Overall, Fiat Chrysler’s car volume slipped 10 percent while light truck demand advanced 5 percent.

“In spite of a tough 2014 comparison and extreme stock market volatility, our dealers’ competitive spirit kicked in and propelled us…,” Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales for Fiat Chrysler, said in a statement.

When other automakers report sales results later today, the final tally is expected to show a decline compared with August 2014 because of the calendar quirk. Last August, Labor Day holiday volume was included and the annualized pace of sales — 17.32 million — hit the highest rate for that year. If overall U.S. sales do fall, it will be the first monthly decline in 19 months.

August 2015 deliveries across the U.S. are projected to drop 3.3 percent to about 1.53 million cars and light trucks, based on the average estimate from five analysts polled by Bloomberg. There were 26 selling days last month, one fewer than in August 2014.

Labor Day holiday volume

Sales generated during the four-day Labor Day holiday period, Friday through Monday, represented 20 percent of light-vehicle deliveries in August 2014, J.D. Power and Associates estimates. And a late-month surge produced the highest light-vehicle volume in August 2014 than any August since 2003.

Among major automakers, Toyota Motor Corp. is expected to post the biggest drop, with analysts estimating a 10 percent decline in August sales, followed by Volkswagen AG’s VW and Audi brands, which may see a combined 7.5 percent decrease, and a 7 percent projected slide at Honda Motor Co.

General Motors, which has been trimming sales to rental-car companies, is projected to post a 2.6 percent decline in August volume, and Ford Motor Co. deliveries may slide 0.2 percent, analysts predict.

The seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate for August is expected to come in at 17.3 million, flat with the August 2014 rate, based on the estimates of 12 analysts compiled by Bloomberg.

Fiat Chrysler today estimated the SAAR will come in at 17.8 million, or 17.4 million when 400,000 heavy trucks are excluded.

The SAAR has already topped 17 million four out of seven months this year, including 17.55 million in July.

Stock prices

Low gasoline prices, steady employment growth and favorable financing continued to support new-vehicle demand last month.

But while consumers largely shrugged off volatile U.S. stock prices in late August, the market turmoil may have impacted some luxury segments, analysts say.

Kelley Blue Book noted on Monday that average transaction prices in August for high-performance cars, such as the BMW 6 series and Porsche 911, fell 1.6 percent from July and 3.7 percent from August 2014.

And average transaction prices for high-end luxury cars dipped 3.4 percent last month compared with August 2014.

Dealers and automakers also ramped up discounts on remaining 2015 models, notably small and midsize cars, and large pickups.

Among the deals:

• A Buick Encore lease for $190 a month and $190 down for 24 months for current lessees of a non-GM vehicle.

• A 2015 Honda CR-V LX lease for $209 per month for 36 months and $1,999 down.

• Zero-percent financing for 72 months, and $1,000 bonus cash, on most 2015 Ford models.

• $5,000 cash back on the 2015 Ford Taurus, according to Kelley Blue Book

• In Montana, some Toyota dealers dangled $2,000 cash back on the 2015 Toyota Avalon and Venza, and $2,500 in cash off the Toyota Prius hybrid.

• In Baltimore, Fiat Chrysler’s Ram brand pitched a 2015 1500 Big Horn Crew Cab with zero-percent financing for 60 months and a $2,750 cash allowance.

• A 2015 Volkswagen Tiguan lease for 36 months with monthly payments of $179 and $2,499 down.

• Up to $3,520 off a 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth as part of the manager’s specials at Golling Fiat in Birmingham, Mich.

Brian Johnson, an analyst with Barclays, said last week big pickup incentives in August were running nearly 13 percent higher than a year ago, and nearly 5 percent higher than July.

“Competition is intensifying in the large pickup space as Ford’s F-150 inventory further normalizes,” Johnson said.

Even with a slew of clearance deals, transaction prices remain healthy.

Kelley Blue Book estimates the average transaction price for a new light vehicle sold last month was $33,543, an increase of $1,107, or 3.4 percent, from August 2014, but down $79, or 0.2 percent, from July.

“September will be a telling month depending on the impact of Labor Day sales and wavering financial markets,” said Akshay Anand, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

John Irwin contributed to this report.

The article “Fiat Chrysler keeps sales streak alive with 1.7% gain” first appeared at Automotive News.

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