US Sales a Mixed Bag for Automakers 

Automakers’ U.S. sales in the third quarter were down compared to sales in the same period a year ago. With one exception, the declines were small.

While complete numbers aren’t fully available, September’s seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of sales rang in at 17.2 million units, according to Econoday, exceeding the consensus estimate of 16.9 million. The monthly average so far in 2019 is 17.1 million units, so the September and third-quarter data are not dragging sales down as badly as feared.

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) reported third-quarter truck sales jumped 8.8% to 309,920 units and year-to-date truck sales are up 6.9% at 854,220 units. That’s the highest third-quarter total in 14 years. F-Series pickup sales dropped 6% for the quarter and are down 2.4% for the year. The all-new Ranger midsize pickup sold 26,211 units in the quarter, which brought total sales for the F-Series and Ranger to a quarterly total of 240,387 units sold (up 5.5% year over year) and a year-to-date total of 719,087, nearly 6% higher than year-to-date sales through the third quarter of 2018.

Sport utility vehicle sales tumbled 10.5% compared to the third quarter of last year, based on a drop of 13.2% in Ford-brand SUV sales and an increase of 19.2% in Lincoln-brand SUVs. For the year to date, Ford-brand SUV sales are down 6.5% while Lincoln-brand sales are up 11.9%. Overall sales were down 4.9% year over year for the quarter and year-to-date sales are down 3.5% compared to the first nine months of 2018. The drop in SUV sales is likely the source of Wednesday’s 4% share price haircut.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) reported third-quarter sales flat year over year at 565,034 vehicles, including a 15% jump in Ram truck sales to 179,200 units and a year-over-year boost of 23% to 512,368 units. Quarterly U.S. sales of the company’s Alfa Romeo and Fiat brands dropped to 4,310 (down 27%) and 2,360 (down 38%), respectively. Why does FCA still think it’s worth the trouble to sell those cars in the United States? Year to date, sales are down 1% overall to 1.66 million units.

Jeep sales slipped 2% year over year in the third quarter and are down 6% for the year through September. The best news for FCA was a quarterly jump of 46% in Dodge Charger sales and a 21% jump in Dodge Challenger sales. FCA may be the only U.S. carmaker selling more sedans now than a year ago. The company’s two muscle cars continue to appeal to justify a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of just over $74,000 for a 717-horsepower special edition 2020 Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody. The 2019 Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye made our list of the most powerful cars with a 797-horsepower engine that generates a top speed of 187 mph.

General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) reported third-quarter sales of 738,638 vehicles, an increase of 6.3% year over year. Sales through September totaled 2.15 million, a decline of 0.8% compared to the first nine months of 2018. Third-quarter Silverado sales were up 18% year over year for the company’s LD models and up 7.1% for the HD models. For the year to date, HD sales are down 12.1% and LD sales are down 0.6%. GMC Sierra HD sales were up 9.7% for the quarter and down 5% for the year. Sierra LD sales jumped 38.2% in the quarter and rose 12.5% for the year to date. GM’s stock is also being pummeled, down around 4%, likely the result of middling truck sales.

Here are a few other year-to-date comparisons based on a report from Automotive News:

  • Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) reported sales of 1.78 million units, down 2.5% year over year.
  • Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (NYSE: HMC) posted a drop of 0.1% with sales of 1.21 million units.
  • Nissan brand sales tumbled 6.2% to 956,456 units.
  • Subaru sales rose 4.4% to 525,329 units.
  • Volkswagen brand sales rose 4.5% to 278,155 units, not including sales of Porsche, Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini brands.
  • Mercedes-Benz brand sales ticked down 0.1% to 253,057 units and BMW sales rose 0.4% to 260,180 units.

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