Auto Makers Break Skid -- WSJ
Discounting, demand following hurricane in Texas drive strong monthly performance
By Mike Colias and Adrienne Roberts
This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (October 4, 2017).
Auto sales hit their briskest monthly pace for the year, as Labor Day discounts, higher fleet sales and hurricane-related replacements restored momentum heading into the final months of the 2017.
Car companies have weathered a string of monthly declines this year, a sign demand is plateauing following seven years of increases. Sales of trucks and sport utilities remain strong amid low gasoline prices, but a weaker market for family sedans and compact cars has prompted slowdowns at certain factories.
Buyers flocked to showrooms in September, however, with vehicle sales rising 6.1% compared with the same period a year earlier, according to Autodata Corp. The tally, which benefited from one more selling day than in September 2016, represented one of the strongest September sales performances on record.
Joseph Spak, an RBC Capital Markets analyst, said the month's strength follows a pattern set in recent years in which the car market picked up in the second half of the year. WardsAuto.com on Tuesday forecast a strong October "as (more) consumers replace vehicles lost due to natural disasters and auto makers push sales to clear out excess" inventory from the prior model year.
Nearly all major auto makers posted considerable gains, sending the closely watched seasonally adjusted annual sales rate to 18.6 million, Autodata said, zipping past analysts' 17.5 million estimate and last September's rate of 17.7 million.
General Motors Co. sales rose 12% last month compared with a year earlier to 279,397 vehicles as sales to fleet buyers rose and truck demand boomed. Ford Motor Co., also reliant on higher fleet and truck deliveries, said sales rose 9% to 221,643 vehicles, while Toyota Motor Corp.'s sales surged 15% to 226,632 on higher demand for compact SUVs and its redesigned flagship Camry sedan.