Ford and Chrysler overcame a quirk in the industry sales calendar to post surprise gains for September while others, including General Motors, slumped more than predicted.
Analysts had forecast a 2.8 percent drop in sales for Fiat SpA-controlled Chrysler, which would have been the company’s first drop in 42 months. That didn’t happen, as Chrysler deliveries climbed 0.7 percent to 143,017.
Ford said in its September report that sales of its cars and light trucks rose 5.7 percent to 184,452. In total, analysts predicted industry sales slipped 3.8 percent in September, the first drop in 27 months. Deliveries for the first two days of September, including the Labor Day holiday, don’t contribute toward automakers’ tallies because they were counted in August figures.
“That speaks to underlying strength and confidence in the consumer which is continuing to improve,” said Warren Gibbon, a Boston-based vice president for Standard Life Investments, which has $271 billion under management and holds GM shares.
Now the industry is watching warily the U.S. government shutdown, concerned that it could affect consumer confidence — and this month’s sales.
Deliveries of cars and light trucks last month probably slid to 1.14 million, the average of 10 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. The annualized industry sales rate, adjusted for seasonal trends, may climb to 15.4 million, the average of 16 estimates, from 14.8 million a year earlier. While the pace is slower than August’s 16.1 million, carmakers this year are still on track for the most U.S. deliveries since 2007.
GM sales tumbled 11 percent, Toyota’s dropped 4.3 percent and Nissan’s slid 5.5 percent. All three declined more than analysts had estimated.
GM deliveries to retail customers declined 6 percent and sales to fleet buyers plunged 27 percent as the Impala large sedan is repositioned away from rental fleets. Sales of mass-market Chevrolets fell 15 percent, while Cadillac luxury brand deliveries rose 9.9 percent.
Chrysler, which filed for an initial public offering last month, forecast a 15.7 million industry sales pace for September, including medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, which typically account for at least 200,000 deliveries per year. The Auburn Hills, Mich.-based carmaker extended its run of monthly sales gains to 3½ years. GM estimated a September sales rate of 15.3 million light vehicles.
“Chrysler’s had this incredible streak of sustained year-over-year growth, getting through several months like this,” said Alec Gutierrez, an analyst for auto-pricing website Kelley Blue Book. “If they’re able to do so again this month, it says a heck of a lot.”
Sales of Chrysler’s Dodge Dart compact surged 51 percent to 7,922. Deliveries of the Ram pickup climbed 8.4 percent to 28,145 while the Jeep Grand Cherokee sport-utility vehicle increased 19 percent to 14,906.
Sales of Ford’s Fusion family car surged 62 percent to 19,972 and deliveries of F-Series pickups rose 9.8 percent to 60,456, the Dearborn, Mich.-based carmaker said in a statement.
GM sales were predicted to decline 4.2 percent, the average of nine estimates. The Detroit-based automaker was raised to investment grade for the first time in eight years by Moody’s Investors Service on Sept. 23. The company purchased 120 million preferred shares held by the United Auto Workers retiree medical trust for about $3.2 billion. The U.S. Treasury also began selling down the rest of its 101.3 million shares.