August Car Sales Climb Sharply

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Automakers reported August sales throughout the day today, and the month was a big one for most carmakers. Based on analysts’ estimates, the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for 2013 is now forecast at 15.8 million units sold. Last year’s sales total reached 14.5 million.

Retail sales at most of the automakers rose more than total sales, indicating that fleet sales are playing a much smaller role in the carmakers’ revenues. That is good for profits because fleet sales typically occur when the company makes too many of one model and has to dump them at lower prices. Fewer fleet sales ultimately translates into higher profits.

Here are the number of total sales as reported by the carmakers so far today:

  • Chrysler Group up 12% from August 2012
  • Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) up 12% year-over-year
  • General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) up 15% from August 2012
  • Nissan up 22% from August 2012
  • Toyota Motor Co. (NYSE: TM) up 23% year-over-year

Chrysler Group’s year-over-year sales rose to 165,552 units, as every one of the company’s brands posted a gain. Ram light truck sales led the gains, up 29% for the month and up 25% for the first eight months of 2013. Chrysler’s fleet sales are believed to have dropped from 30% a year ago to around 20% this year. The company forecast total auto sales from all manufacturers at 16.1 million for 2013.

Ford’s retail sales jumped 20% compared with August 2012 sales, and small car sales rose 30%. Ford reported that 44% of total small car sales of 30,148 units came from its hybrid electric cars.

GM’s sales were forecast to rise 11%, but came out even better than expected. Retail sales improved 22% year-over-year in August, while fleet sales declined by 8%.

Hyundai/Kia has not reported sales numbers for August yet. Analysts’ estimates call for a rise of 9.2% year-over-year.

Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (NYSE: HMC) does not report sales until after markets close. Projections call for sales to be up 20% year-over-year.

Nissan’s year-over-year increase in August totaled 22%. The company claimed a record 120,498 U.S. sales last month.

Toyota has not published details on August sales yet, but the company did report an 22.8% year-over-year sales increase, well above the expected increase of 15%.

Volkswagen’s year-over-year increase is expected to be around 4.4%.

U.S. new car sales fell to 10.4 million in 2009 but have climbed back on the strength of double-digit increases in each of the past three years. The expected total sales increase in 2013 now reaches nearly 9%.