It was a mixed bag for U.S. auto makers in September as Chrysler Group LLC reported Tuesday some of its best sales increases in years, while Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. posted results that were largely flat.
Foreign car makers were up across the board, with Toyota Motor Corp.’s sales surging 42% and Volkswagen AG’s jumping 34%.
Overall, sales have been “slightly better than expected,” said Jesse Toprak, analyst at Truecar.com. “The strength in the stock market has fueled consumer confidence.”
Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler, controlled by Italy’s Fiat SpA (US:FIATY)(IT:F), said that it sold 142,041 vehicles last month, a jump of 12% over 2011, with the Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram Truck and Fiat marques all posting gains.
Fiat ranked as a particular standout, rising 51% for the highest percentage increase of any Chrysler Group brand.
“Last month marked our 30th consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases and our strongest September in five years,” said Reid Bigland, president and chief executive of Dodge and head of U.S. sales.
Citing expectations for the company’s product lineup and a “stable” U.S. economy, as well as interest rates standing at record lows, Bigland added “we remain optimistic about the health of the U.S. new-vehicle sales industry and our position in it.”
The pace of sales wasn’t so brisk for Ford (US:F), whose sales were essentially unchanged at 174,976 vehicles, although retail sales rose 4% on the month.
One bright spot for the company was in small cars. Ford sold 24,628 of them in September for its best month since 2002 — a 73% increase from the same month a year ago.
“As more buyers look for new vehicles across the country, Ford is ready with our strongest lineup ever of fuel-efficient cars, utilities and full-size pickups,” said Ken Czubay, vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service for Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford.
“Fuel economy remains one of the most important features customers want most today, and Ford is answering the call with five vehicles that deliver 40 mpg or better — with another three on the way by year-end,” he added in a statement.
General Motors (US:GM) posted a 1.5% increase in vehicle sales, to 210,245 units, and thus marked its best September since the start of the financial crisis in 2008. New models helped push passenger-car sales up 29%, while truck sales lagged, slumping 20% due to a reduction in fleet sales linked to the timing of customer deliveries.
Sales of GM’s small and compact cars rose a combined 97%, the company said.
“Passenger cars have been the launch point for a broad and deep GM product offensive,” said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations for the Detroit-based company. “Auto sales will continue to be a bright spot for the U.S. economy, which is particularly good news for GM as we walk into an even stronger cadence of new products in 2013 and 2014.”